Editorial: An Interview with Concord’s Jack Blaeser

Tired of my rantings and ravings? Of course not. My mom says I’m a "brilliant pontificator and an outstanding orator." Well, maybe not brilliant, but based on the response from some of you for my O’Farrells recommendation, I can sure pick a pub. My mom’s opinions notwithstanding, this month, we pick the brain of Jack Blaeser, President and CEO of Concord Communications, on the subject of e-business management. Blaeser’s career spans a number of senior financial management positions with various technology-oriented companies.

In fact, Blaeser helped define the reporting and analysis market when he assumed his current position with Concord in 1995. And, by 1997, he had transformed Concord from an aging hardware to an all-software company with a market-leading network reporting and analysis software. Today, Concord is a leader in e-business performance management with more than 1,600 customers.

Much of Blaeser’s success in his career and in his turnaround of Concord Communications has been due to his application of business knowledge to technology.

ESJ: What is your definition of "e-business?"

Blaeser: Simply put, e-business is the use of Internet technology as an integral part of the day-to-day functioning of an organization, including commerce, marketing, supply chain management, enterprise resource planning and more. In the 21st century, all corporations will succeed or die, based on how they execute their e-business initiatives.

ESJ: What are the most critical IT issues surrounding e-business?

Blaeser: The necessity to deliver constant availability and rapid response for all applications and transactions – all the time – whether they originate from customers, partners or employees. Smart companies already realize that IT is a strategic weapon of choice – not a cost center. But, for companies that have not reached that stage, convincing top management of that fact should be a top priority. And lastly, businesses are evolving and growing at a rapid rate. Implementing solutions with easy expandability should also be a top concern.

ESJ: Define "performance management."

Blaeser: Performance management is the ability to measure, document and optimize the experience an organization’s customers – internal or external – have when they interact with the company, whether it’s sending an e-mail, clicking a button to order a product, or getting onto a Web site.

True performance management optimizes the entire transaction, from the end user’s perspective, through the network cloud and infrastructure, to the host site, the Web server, the application or database server, the application, and finally, all the way back to the end user. In addition, performance management should provide historical analysis for proactive management, realtime monitoring for on-the-spot problem resolution and self-healing capabilities to reduce the burden on skilled IT resources for time-consuming and routine administration.

ESJ: What’s the difference between performance management and capacity planning?

Blaeser: Capacity planning is really a subset, although an important one, of performance management. Having adequate – or more than adequate – resources is a critical part of ensuring optimal performance. Without effective planning, the bigger picture of performance management becomes a nightmare.

ESJ: What’s the advantage of ASPs for today’s IT manager?

Blaeser: The first advantage is the ability to purchase a turnkey solution from a vendor whose entire livelihood is dependent on delivering services at the lowest cost. However, it also carries risk. The services critical to your business may not be as important to your outsourcer as they are to you, and you give up a degree of control when you outsource. But, recruiting, training and retaining skilled IT people is tough, and outsourcing can be a very effective alternative, especially when you need to rapidly deploy new technologies.

ESJ: How does adding Web-hosting responsibilities impact the IT shop?

Blaeser: Web hosting adds a level of complexity, while high user expectations are raising the bar for IT. Today’s Web-savvy users demand rapid response, an intuitive interface and constant availability from Web sites and applications. In addition, Web technology is developing at a tremendous pace, compounding the challenge for IT.

ESJ: Can IT leverage performance management to increase its role as a profit center, versus overhead?

Blaeser: Any company that wants to survive, let alone flourish, in the 21st century economy must view IT as a strategic weapon of choice. Corporations must ensure that the service customers, partners and employees depend on are always available and responsive. Only by investing in IT personnel and resources can organizations make this a reality. The company that does not view IT as a competitive tool will eventually fail.

ESJ: What functions should an IT manager expect from a performance management tool?

Blaeser: They should expect it to measure, document and help optimize the end user experience when interacting with their e-business. They should also expect the solution to provide insight into the end user perspective, as well as bring those measurement, documentation and optimization capabilities to bear on the entire service delivery chain. Only by managing the process end-to-end can IT ensure that applications and services are always available and adequately responsive.

ESJ: What advantages do third-party vendor partnerships bring for the IT manager?

Blaeser: Third-party vendor partnerships provide greater access to the IT manager in terms of the level and quantity of technology available to their organization. Organizations today cannot hire and retain enough people to cover the level and diversity of technical skills they need. Partnerships also allow the IT organization to give direction to the development of new technologies.

ESJ: What’s the most common network management problem facing IT managers moving to e-business?

Blaeser: In addition to the obvious issue of recruiting and retaining required IT talent, the next most difficult issue facing IT is how to identify if you are giving your customers, partners and employees the level of service required to maintain a good relationship with them. If not, the next step is to pinpoint and resolve the issue, so you can get service back to an acceptable level.

ESJ: What are some of the more important criteria that companies base their management strategies on?

Blaeser: The most important question for strategic management is, how can I ensure that my end users – customers, partners and employees – are receiving 100 percent service availability, with adequate to above adequate response time from all of the applications critical to my business? And how can I accomplish this, taking into account personnel, budget and capacity constraints?