A Higher Degree of Performance - Reflecting on 1 year as a Dynatrace Performance Guardian

Originally posted on Dynatrace's Corporate Blog

“Your own personal Superhero”

If somebody told me years ago that this would be my job description and professional role as a Guardian, I’d probably just walk away from that conversation shaking my head.

But fast forward, and here I am—a confident Dynatrace Guardian, ridding the world of the pure evil that is low performance, and arming my clients with the arsenal of relevant digital metrics.

So, how did this happen?

Every superhero has a cool origin story, and Guardians are no different. Guardians are a select few, recruited from many different walks of life. We have one thing in common, a pledge of service and a clear methodology – which is the notion of 212. Our trainers use the motto: “Hire character. Train skill.” They also have a story to tell us:

“At 211º, water is hot. At 212º, it boils. With boiling water comes steam. Steam can power a locomotive. The one extra degree makes the difference. This analogy reflects the ultimate definition of excellence. The one extra degree of effort, in business and life, can separate the good from the great.”

Like my colleagues and former training classmates, I was recruited for having a hard-working nature and drive to succeed with a mixture of technical and business experience. All Guardians are put through a rigorous six-month training schedule, called the Professional Development Program (PDP). Here we learn the ins and outs of the Dynatrace toolset, best-practice APM methodologies and how to successfully traverse the business landscape. Most importantly, we learn how to build customer success in ways that can be measured by both business and enterprise stakeholders.

Practice and Theory

At the end of my rigorous PDP training I was a nascent subject matter expert in digital performance management. But this was just another beginning. At this stage, I was sent to different sites worldwide to learn how to navigate enterprise warzones. I discovered how significantly some horizontals—from finance to insurance to telecommunications and more—differ from each other, as well as what features they have in common. This training combines best-practice theory with what really works. Ultimately, I was sent off to my first client to lead digital performance excellence.

So now that you know how a Guardian is born, it’s important to understand how they work. Typically, a Guardian has three main jobs, all of which contribute to the “superhero” idea.

  1. Fortune Teller – Before a problem occurs that might cause a possible outage, the Guardian needs to be able to provide fair warning and work to prevent such a thing from happening.
  2. Heimdallr the Gatekeeper – As with the character from the old Norse legend, our job is to watch everything that moves across “the bridge”-(by monitoring with the Dynatrace APM suite to “Asgard” – (our customer’s enterprise environment)) and make sure no possible threats or degradations are present. If such a threat exists, we’ve got to “squash” it – (through root cause analysis and intelligent metrics) before it becomes an issue.
  3. Time Traveler – After an outage/issue/slowdown occurs, it’s the Guardian’s job to look at all the existing data and see how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Where a Guardian Fits

Where in an org does a Guardian do all of this? With the evolution of the new digital age, applications have been bumped up the list of priorities within organizations; whether in a large enterprise or a small start-up. Regardless of size, most organizations share a similar IT lifecycle: 1.) Plan (Development), 2) Deliver (Delivery), and 3.) Operation (Operations)

A Guardian occupies a hybrid role that bridges the worlds of both delivery and operations. In that blended position, we also help bring business stakeholders into the equation, bridging understanding across IT and lines of business. This is critical to the business—as the Guardian ensures a seamless flow between the lifecycle and effectively communicates how business objectives are connected with technology infrastructure.

Within delivery, a Guardian has the responsibility of creating adequate processes, delivering a full solution and making sure best practices are followed from the get-go. As maturity grows, this evolves into automation, continuous delivery and rigorous, repeatable processes.

Within operations, the Guardian must watch all applications; making sure response times don’t stray from accepted norms. If something does go wrong, we’ve got to combat that issue with the correct tools and arsenal so that clients don’t lose money and time. This evolves into automated reactions, failsafes and prescribed pathways that any mere mortal can follow to success.

Jumpstart Agility

You can see that a Guardian’s primary role is to build agility into our clients’ enterprises. For the insight required, Guardians use the Dynatrace APM Suite. The first step is to understand the current state in detail. Then we’ll need to know how changes in the future will, or could, affect it. A Guardian should always know whether changes made now would make a website faster or slower. If you are missing that critical piece of information, how can you ever really know if you’re improving experiences for your end-users?

Finally, a Guardian is not a consultant whose goal is to stay at a single client for an extended period of time. Instead, our objective is to provide an ongoing ecosystem that clients can use to achieve success on their own far into the future. Guardians are there to give an organization the steam it needs to move forward and overtake the competition—that extra degree of performance. Once a self-sustaining digital performance platform is in place, the Guardian moves on. This relationship is one of Guardians’ crucially unique elements. The fact is, a Guardian will effectively work themselves out of a job. I think that’s the best customer success plan yet.