Making E-Commerce Work

By Bob Violino Print this article Print

The venerable retailer has been doing some shopping of its own as Internet sales take off.

With the manual process, it would have taken at least 24 to 48 hours to resolve the issue, by which time significant damage might have been done. McCaffery says that if the system error hadn’t been identified quickly, it would have taken the Macys.com site down, which would have resulted not only in dollar losses but in negative impact to the brand.

“Our goal is to make our Websites the center point of contact for our customers who use the Internet—or even to drive traffic into the stores,” McCaffery says. “If your site goes down, you alienate some of your most important customers and that impacts the brand.”

The faster time to resolving issues is critical for a business that relies on repeat customers and providing top-notch service.

“Now we can identify issues much more rapidly” and address them before they have an impact on customers, McCaffery says. “It has allowed us to be more proactive when we see issues happening in the environment or a slow down in response time with a Web server or an application server. We’re able to see that trending up before it starts to impact users.”

One of the key benefits of the Splunk product is that it enables Macy’s to make available a variety of data points that dozens of executives and data analysts can use to run queries and analyze trends in how the Websites are being used.

“During the last year and a half, we started using Splunk to provide dashboards for various IT people as well as business people to [access] live information about how well the systems are doing, and whether we’re seeing different types of traffic than we’re used to seeing,” McCaffery says.

While the software is useful throughout the year, at no time is it more valuable than during the Christmas shopping season, when the control rooms that monitor Macy’s online operations are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “The technicians in that room use dashboards built mainly off of Splunk,” McCaffery says.

Performance Management

Macy’s has implemented other technology tools to help keep its online operations running well. One is an application performance management product from DynaTrace Software. The software enables the retailer to make “deep dives” into various e-commerce applications to resolve issues that can affect application performance.

The retailer is using the DynaTrace software to monitor Java application performance and capacity in development, performance testing and production for any new applications Macy’s deploys. “It has been useful in identifying performance bottlenecks in test environments before going live in production,” McCaffery says. “We are also using it to monitor production performance and alert our support teams of any degradation.”

Macy’s is also using an application from Coradiant called TrueSight. The software, which the company began using in 2010, integrates with the DynaTrace software and provides a glimpse of application performance from the perspective of users.

The software provides real-time visibility into performance and availability of Web applications by capturing and measuring information on user transactions as they happen. TrueSight collects detailed information on every aspect of each user's online visit by passively recording the application flow, providing an in-depth view of actual performance experienced by users.

“TrueSight has helped us identify user problems that were not being reported to our customer service department,” McCaffery says. For example, during the most recent holiday season, the product helped Macy’s find and quantify a sign-in issue during its checkout process that could have potentially had a major impact.

The software “has given us a new level of overview of the user experience, and that’s always very important to us,” McCaffery says.

This article was originally published on 2011-01-27
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