Using Application Intelligence Like Pirates

Citizens expect a lot more from their government today, and federal agencies are increasingly reliant on applications to meet that citizen demand. However, this increased use of applications has led to more complex IT environments as agencies adopt cloud, mobile, and virtual technologies. The complexity means that managing and optimizing application performance is more important than ever and more challenging than ever.

What agencies need is more visibility into their applications, and application intelligence can help with that. It provides agencies with deep-level visibility into how end users are interacting with the application and offers a more powerful approach to delivering optimized application performance.

Thursday’s webinar, Why Application Intelligence Matters to Government, brought together Jacob Parcell, Manager of Mobile Programs in GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, and Josh Beard, Director of Federal AppDynamics, to discuss how agencies can benefit from app intelligence.

Parcell took app intelligence to the high seas in his discussion of “pirate metrics,” a framework of actionable metrics to help agencies learn about and improve their digital products. The framework includes acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral, creating the pirate-like acronym, AARRR. He noted that while he primarily focused on mobile applications in his presentation, the metrics were applicable for any digital product.

Before he dove into the metrics, he recommended that agencies think about their applications in terms of “mobile moments.” These occur when someone has a problem, uses mobile to try to solve it, and then moves onto something else when their problem is solved. By understanding these moments and what users want and need from the app, agencies can target their resources to improve the most popular features.

Parcell used TSA as an example. Previously, the agency had a static website with a short list of items about what people can and cannot bring on planes. However, they realized that people still had a lot of questions, so they expanded the page to include over 3,800 items. This expansion reduced the number of calls TSA received on the topic, reducing costs and increasing efficiency at airports.

That example shows the importance of “mobile moments” and application intelligence. By understanding the acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral metrics of an application, agencies gain greater visibility into their products and can improve them in effective ways.

The first metric is acquisition. This means understanding how people are finding your product and what tools you are using to spread information about your product. Social media tools and email campaigns are popular methods. Being able to track what methods are successful is also important.

The second metric is activation. This metric addresses how citizens make the jump from “browser” to “user.” Having people know about your product is important, but what really matters is having them use it. This step should be smoothly integrated into the user experience by making any actions easy to use and understand.

The third metric is retention. How do you keep people engaged? How many users who downloaded your app are still using it a week later or a month later? Checking error reports and the most and least frequently used features can help you understand what is working and what is not.

The fourth metric is revenue. This metric reflects the framework’s private sector origins, because it is easier to understand value in monetary terms. However in the public sector, value comes from achieving mission goals and making a difference. Parcell recommends viewing the success of your app in terms of whether they are changing behaviors or having a transformative impact on your mission.

The fifth metric is referral. Are your users sharing your product with their friends? Who are your super users and what are they saying on social media? How can you capitalize on existing word-of-mouth and drive new communication? One way of achieving greater referrals is by partnering with organizations and networks that are proponents of your work.

These metrics provide a useful framework for understanding your digital products from the user perspective, but just focusing on the front-end ignores all the work that goes on behind the scenes. Beard moved the discussion to an application-wide, top-down approach that encompasses the back-end pieces that make up the application.

With this holistic view, agencies can understand how all the application levels work together to create the end product, making it easier to identify, target, and solve specific problems. This reduces the resources needed to maintain and optimize applications as well as improves the user experience. Beard noted that this perspective can help agencies improve production operations, devops, and even cloud migration.

For examples of how agencies implement the pirate metrics, what tools you can use to increase application visibility, and a top-down holistic view can improve app intelligence, check out the full webinar here.


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