“BizOps” has been a hot topic for at least a couple of years now, and like all hot topics, it’s met with a healthy amount of skepticism. Understandable. We work in an industry with a lot of bandwagons.
But BizOps isn’t a new concept. It’s a relatively new label for a concept that’s been around for several years: the intersection of IT metrics with business metrics, and the alignment of tech-related tactics with business goals.
Whether you call it BizOps or something else, I’ve been researching and writing about it since 2009. In this post, I’m going to clarify some terms and answer some FAQs that I encounter quite often.
What is BizOps?
No surprise – there are a lot of definitions floating around out there. This is mine:
BizOps is a decision-support mechanism that connects IT with the rest of the business, from sales and marketing to C-suite.
Historically, a lot of businesses have been guided by extroverts with big ideas who think with their gut and shoot from the hip. Add a dose of groupthink and you’ve got the recipe for a financial meltdown.
BizOps is the opposite of that ego- and intuition-driven approach. Now that companies have access to unprecedented amounts of data from every aspect of their business, they can harness that data and use it to create a decision-support mechanism that lets them optimize day-to-day operations and answer important strategic questions.
BizOps isn’t just about harnessing data. It’s about harnessing it quickly – as close to realtime as possible – so you can run a more agile shop. When you’re learning faster, you can develop and iterate faster – not just on the development side, but also in terms of business strategy, marketing campaigns, and every other area of your business.
Is BizOps a philosophy or a strategy?
BizOps is a philosophy you adopt before creating a digital performance management (DPM) strategy.
So where does digital performance management (DPM) fit in?
Digital performance management is a process and set of best practices that lets everyone in your organization be an active member of a culture of performance – using tools that speak to each other, adopting a shared performance vocabulary, and having visibility into how the metrics they care about affect the rest of the business.
When done right – such as by companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Lowe’s – DPM lets organizations understand the interconnectedness of metrics that have previously been siloed:
- Business metrics such as conversion rates, cart abandonment rates, and average order value for organizations with growing ecommerce and omnichannel strategies
- User experience metrics such as pages per visit, visit paths, click-through rates, and other metrics that indicate successful customer interactions.
- IT metrics such as site availability, page load times, third-party service level agreement (SLA) compliance, and other technical metrics that verify how technology supports the business
DPM is a data-centric approach in which web and mobile applications are continuously measured, optimized, and tested to deliver the best possible user experience – and ultimately, business outcome – in as close to realtime as possible.
Who does best with BizOps?
As I mentioned above, you can’t adopt DPM if you haven’t embraced BizOps. When we talk about DPM and BizOps, it’s not enough to have tools or processes in place if you don’t also have a culture in place. The companies that are most successful are those that have broken down the walls between the business side and IT.
On an individual basis, the people who do well with BizOps are IT people who get business metrics and business people who get IT.
- If you’re on the business side, you need to always be asking your team “Which IT metrics align with the specific business outcomes we care about most? What’s the best way to monitor and measure those metrics and get reporting and alerts that give us clear, actionable intelligence we can use to make decisions?”
- As an IT person you have to know – and be passionate about – how your work helps the business. You have to be able to tie performance improvements to business results.
And it goes without saying that all these people should be comfortable prioritizing data over opinions. BizOps helps people throughout the enterprise make decisions that are driven by data, not emotions or questionable instincts. If you’ve ever been frustrated by the loudest voice in the boardroom driving poor decision-making in your company, then BizOps is for you.
What are some real-world BizOps use cases?
On the business side of performance, people often ask for magic numbers – unicorn metrics – to measure the success of the business. It’s tempting to say the goal of BizOps is to give you those magic numbers, but the truth is there’s no such thing as a unicorn metric. That’s because businesses, customers, and tools are always evolving, which means that the metrics that are most relevant to you today may not be as relevant to you next year, next month, or even later today.
What DPM-enabled BizOps can tell you is which metrics – out of the hundreds or thousands you may be tracking – are most relevant to you right now. And then it works from there. It does this by learning from your historical data, making connections between data from different sources, and predicting the future.
DPM gives you situational awareness of what’s happening right now on your site or app, as well as highly accurate predictive modeling of what will happen on your site and apps, based on past user behavior.
Here are just a few use cases where a BizOps approach can help manage and optimize web performance – and measurably affect the business:
Use case #1: Identify and optimize web performance on the pages that matter
Problem: Historically, if you’re a developer and wanted to make your site faster, you’d tackle the slowest pages first. The problem with this approach is that the slowest pages on your site might not be pages where performance has an impact on engagement or conversions. So you may not see any improvement in those metrics even if you make those pages blazing fast. To go through all of that work only to find that it doesn’t have any impact on the business can be really demoralizing. This makes it harder to invest on improving performance in the future.
How BizOps helps: With DPM, you can look at all of your site traffic, at the render times for all the pages visited, and see how this correlates to conversions or session lengths. You can learn which pages matter, in terms of their speed and their impact on conversions and engagement, and you can focus your limited optimization resources on those pages. And then you can measure the resulting uptick in conversions, pageviews, and revenue.
Use case #2: Manage and optimize marketing campaigns in realtime
Problem: Here’s a simplified breakdown of how a marketing campaign runs: marketing decides to take out an ad or launch an email campaign. To track the success of whatever promotion they’re running, they create a custom landing page. They launch the campaign on Thursday or Friday to take advantage of the typical weekend shopping spike, and then move along to the myriad other items on their to-do list. One week later, they tally up success metrics – usually page views and conversions – do a quick post-mortem (maybe), and move on.
As I said that’s a greatly simplified timeline of events. Many top retailers run hundreds of campaigns each week. Amazon runs thousands. It’s a virtual Wild West of online marketing, and the wildness shows in the results. I’ve lost count of how many promotional campaigns I’ve monitored out of curiosity, where landing pages took 30 seconds or more to load – or didn’t load at all. The culprits ranged from third-party script defects, bloated images, back-end issues.
How BizOps helps: If something is going to go wrong with a landing page campaign, odds are it’s going to go wrong within the first couple of minutes after it launches. That’s when you want to monitor performance, find and fix defects, optimize the page or the offer, and track how the campaign is meeting your conversion targets – in realtime, not one week later, when the campaign is over. With DPM tools and processes in place, you can do this.
Read > Case study: How Nordstrom found and fixed performance defects in realtime during its biggest online event of the year
Use case #3: Predict the future
Problem: Historically, it’s been a challenge to understand how technical decisions you make today can affect business outcomes. Calculating ROI on performance optimization.
How BizOps helps: By looking at all of your customer experience, business, and IT data, you can predict with an extremely high degree of accuracy. For example, you can calculate what the outcome of making your pages 100 milliseconds faster or slower will be in terms of revenue, shopping cart size or other metrics.
With DPM-enabled machine learning, you can take all your past data and figure out acceptable tolerances for campaign performance and the impact of poor performance on the business. You can then use this data to set parameters for realtime monitoring. There’s no excuse for poor campaign performance any more.
Real users don’t behave in predictable ways. Your real user monitoring (RUM) data shows you actual session paths, bounce rates per page, think times between clicks, and geographically where your users are browsing from (along with dozens of other user-side metrics). When you collect and keep all your RUM data, you can run analysis on it for previous critical periods, months, and even years in the past. You can aggregate all these critical datasets into a prediction of what you need to performance test for, so that you can create complete, statistically accurate test plans for your web applications or sites.
Businesses have always struggled with the challenge of making decisions based on incomplete, isolated, non-correlated datasets. This struggle isn’t new. Neither is the idea that we need to develop a set of tools and best practices – and an overarching philosophy – that marry these datasets.
What is relatively new is the name – BizOps – that we’ve given this philosophy. And what’s constantly evolving is the toolset and methodologies – digital performance management – that we continue to develop to break down the walls between IT and the rest of the business.
About the Author
Tammy has spent the past two decades obsessed with the many factors that go into creating the best possible user experience. As senior researcher and evangelist at SOASTA, she explores the intersection between web performance, UX, and business metrics. Tammy is a frequent speaker at events including IRCE, Shop.org Summit, Velocity, and Smashing Conference. She is the author of 'Time Is Money: The Business Value of Web Performance' (O'Reilly, 2016).