Top Right Group
“We had invested heavily in people, technology and processes, and wanted to ensure that after doing so, the users had the best experience possible.”
Group IT Director
Company: Top Right Group
Top Right Group’s technology team is a dedicated resource providing operational support to the group’s portfolio of operating companies, including: i2i Events Group, Lions Festivals, WGSN, 4C Group and EMAP. While the technology applications used by the different operating companies are developed by their individual teams, they all operate using the same infrastructure, maintenance and support, which was outsourced to third parties prior to the formation of Top Right Group in March 2012.
Given the digital nature and global reach of the businesses Top Right Group owns, ensuring the delivery of a reliable and consistent IT service worldwide is paramount to success. In 2012, Top Right Group embarked on a project to secure a greater level of control through the creation of its own IT services department. This department supports the independent Group companies and their global operations. A decision was made to bring all previously outsourced services back in-house. As part of a transformation program, the company invested in all-new hardware and software and deployed a new global team to provide a 24/7 support structure. To better manage the new systems and enable the team to quickly identify and correct any problems, the company invested in tools to help oversee performance.
“We had invested heavily in people, technology and processes, and wanted to ensure that after doing so, the users had the best experience possible. In order to do this, our teams needed enterprise tools at their disposal,” says Sean Harley, Group IT Director, Top Right Group.
“Our first priority was to ensure we had visibility into our new data center, so we could make sure the lights were always on, but we also wanted to gain a picture of the user experience. We therefore issued an RFP to scour the market for the provider that could best deliver on these requirements.”
"We had invested heavily in people, technology and processes, and wanted to ensure that after doing so, the users had the best experience possible."
Top Right Group received responses from all of the leading providers, but the information it gained from Dynatrace completely changed its perception of the business challenge it needed to address. Originally, Top Right Group had planned to adopt a two-phased approach, beginning with the implementation of infrastructure monitoring and synthetic user experience monitoring, and later extending this to include more extensive application performance monitoring. However, after speaking with Dynatrace, it became evident that having visibility into the application layer was equally important to identifying the root cause of IT performance problems.
While the company had invested in a new infrastructure, including servers, operating system (OS), databases, and so on, the applications that sat on top of this infrastructure were not new. Furthermore, the company came to realize that infrastructure layer monitoring could easily be achieved with a low-cost commodity solution. It therefore decided to pursue a dual vendor solution, with Application Performance Monitoring becoming part of its phase one strategy.
Top Right Group was immediately convinced of the value Dynatrace could deliver after completing a Proof of Concept (POC) using its next generation Application Performance Management (APM) solution. “We had been having trouble with an application, and there was a lot of toing and froing with the vendor over the source of the problem,” Harley continues. “Using Dynatrace we were able to instantly identify that the application was single threaded, not multi-threaded, which was causing the bottleneck in user requests. Ultimately, the application was not fit for purpose. We were able to put this data in front of the vendor and prove that it was not a problem with our infrastructure. Without Dynatrace, we could have spent months going round in circles. This really showed us the value of using APM in production for troubleshooting and diagnostics.”
"Using Dynatrace we were able to instantly identify that the application was single threaded, not multi-threaded, which was causing the bottleneck in user requests."
Dynatrace was installed within days, and rolled out across all of Top Right Group’s applications in less than three months. Since its deployment, Dynatrace has enabled Top Right Group to identify the root cause of a number of ongoing performance problems, demonstrating that many of these problems were not due to the underlying infrastructure as it initially thought, but came as a result of inefficiencies within the applications. This has allowed Top Right Group to make a number of changes and dramatically improve the user experience. Dynatrace started to provide value right from the outset. “Having been initially unsure of the value that APM could bring to our business, I’m happy to say I was wrong,” Harley explains. “Dynatrace has proved itself to be invaluable right from the start. For example, in October 2013 we were able to identify the reason for a high level of traffic going to one of our websites, helping to reduce the site’s traffic from 350GB to around 5GB. On another occasion, we used the tool to spot customers who were breaching their license agreement and put a stop to it. Without Dynatrace we would have spent two to three days troubleshooting issues like these, or worse, we may never have noticed them.”
"Without Dynatrace we would have spent two to three days troubleshooting issues like these, or worse, we may never have noticed them.”
Dynatrace has also worked with Top Right Group to develop dashboards for its respective businesses. They can now look at the data collected from their website and identify how their applications are performing. This enables the separate business teams to identify any potential issues and rectify them before they develop into problems that impact on end-users’ experience. This in turn helps to reduce the pressure on Top Right Group’s support team.
Dynatrace has impacted the way in which operations teams interact with development teams across the group of companies. This has helped the company move towards the adoption of a DevOps culture by enabling greater collaboration. As a result, the group is now considering plans to extend the use of Dynatrace from production into the test and development stages of the application lifecycle. In this way, it aims to build performance into its applications from the very beginning, enabling it to significantly improve the experience for end-users.
“Dynatrace is one of the best solutions on the market, because it does exactly what it says on the tin!” Harley concludes. “We would recommend Dynatrace not only for the tool itself, but for the support and ongoing advice we receive from them. We have a really good relationship with our account team; they listen and we see a lot of value in that relationship. It’s been great to partner with an understanding company, who are really driven to helping us achieve our goals.”