hagebau, *bofrost, Bader, heine, Otto – Martin knows them all. Not only does he know the companies, but also their pain points. Together with his team, he has been taking care of successful e-commerce projects, mainly based on SAP Commerce, for almost 15 (!) years. Now he and Erik, our cloud services team lead, have developed a solution that helps to avoid sources of danger at an early stage.
In the sixth part of our Handelskraft Tech-telmechtel interview series, we show you which sources of danger exist in e-commerce and why business monitoring is a better – no, the best – answer instead of would have, could have, should have.
Tech Talk with Martin
Martin, what’s business monitoring? Keep it short and simple.
Making sure that a system is doing what it’s supposed to do. In other words, for example when dealing with an e-commerce system: are there any orders coming in?
Or is the whole thing a platform where I can make quote requests? Do I get enquiries? Are there any customers logging in? And so on. You can come up with similar questions for any kind of system.
Alright. Is it a tool? How does it work?
It’s not really a tool per se, but … well, it’s complicated. Basically, the operation of a system always involves two points, comprising the following questions:
- 1. Does the hardware work? Does the server work? Is there enough memory space? etc.
- 2. Does the application work correctly? Is the server up and running? Is the server accessible so that the application can be used?
This is generally well covered by various tools. However, there’s always one point that comes up short, namely:
- 3. Do my individual processes on the platform, processes that I may have incorporated, work?
This shows that business monitoring is not a tool per se, but a third important point that you should keep an eye on – and we now have a solution for it.
So business monitoring is a definition of done – an additional process in my development process?
Not in my development process, but in my operational process. If I operate the platform, it’s an additional building block.
Who decides to make use of business monitoring?
The decision usually always follows a negative experience. There’s a problem somewhere, you don’t know where and you only notice it two days later. It then takes an enormous amount of effort to get things back on track – and the problem may already have had significant influence on your business, for example two days without an order.
That’s where the idea – or the need – manifests itself: we have to observe this process more closely. This is exactly where we start.
Who? In e-commerce, for example, it’s all the online shop managers who constantly want to know whether the process on their platform is working.
Can you give me an example?
Let’s say you’re an online shop manager. At midday, you get a message from the warehouse: there are no more orders coming in, we don’t have anything to do. Absolutely typical.
Then you ask yourself: what’s going on? The application is up and running.
At some point, it turns out that the orders were not transmitted to the ERP system via the interface. That’s when you say to yourself: »I would’ve loved to have known that three hours earlier.«
Yes, three hours in which you can lose orders but also customer trust. So business monitoring is a way to proactively avoid sources of danger?
Yes, exactly – avoiding them as they arise. It’s about being able to act even faster/earlier.
BI tools also give you all the information, but only based on historical data. By that point, however, it’s already too late. This is exactly what we want to avoid.
However, data science and BI are by no means obsolete: business monitoring collects data for the active operation of a platform, while BI provides you with data for analyses, forecasts and business decisions.
How has the situation developed? Has business monitoring replaced something else? Was there even another possibility to react early or in time?
Theoretically, there was and still is the possibility to work with log files. They display all error messages. However, these messages usually get lost there – in other words: you don’t see them quickly enough. You also need a developer to look through the log files.
Via business monitoring, we process the information in such a way that it can also hang in the office of an online shop manager.
So business monitoring even helps coding amateurs to see that something isn’t working?
If it’s set up properly, then yes. The advantage: developers can make use of business monitoring, but it’s also possible for online shop managers and operations teams to look at it and react quickly.
How easy/difficult is it to add business monitoring to my e-commerce system?
In theory, if you operate an online shop, you should – hopefully – already have a monitoring tool.
Business monitoring then extends this tool.
And what if I don’t have a monitoring tool?
If you don’t have a monitoring tool, you have a completely different problem. Then you don’t even know what state your system is in. In that case, you should start by setting up monitoring from scratch.