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A lot of my blog articles this year have focused on how digital companies have failed to meet peak demands placed on them by their digital customers.


For my last post of 2014, I thought I would discuss how digital companies could manage such demands.



Tesco’s website crashes on Black Friday traffic

Firstly, companies should employ joined-up-thinking. Are we doing a marketing push, a new product launch, is legislation coming into force, etc… Various parts of the business should know the answer to these questions, and ideally they should be part of the business’ rolling plan. This information should be shared with the IT Capacity and Demand Management functions so that the demand on the IT infrastructure can be assessed.

Ideally there should be a Performance Assurance Model in place; this will take input from live production performance stats and trends, and previous performance tests, allowing the impact of the expected demand to be modeled.

Sainsbury's cancels Christmas - meet peak demand

Sainsbury’s cancels Christmas

If the peak is extreme and hasn’t been tested before, then Performance Testing should be employed to ascertain two key things:

  • What level of load does it support
  • What happens when it reaches that limit

With this knowledge the business can look to engineer a solution to the scalability requirements, and the elasticity of the cloud can be very helpful here.

In the ideal world, digital companies should be able to fulfill every peak that is placed upon them, and this will give them the edge in competitive situations – shopping cart abandonment is a major issue to digital retail, and customers will soon defect to rival sites that perform better. However, the extreme peaks that are seen may not always be considered business-as-usual and digital companies may not have the same ‘defection’ problem.

Meet Peak Demand - IT Performance DVLA Tweet

Eye popping DVLA Tweet

Take the DVLA and Glastonbury for example. Both of these do not have ‘rivals’; you can only get your car tax from the DVLA and you can only get its festival tickets from the Glastonbury site. So in these cases, poor performance merely results in customer dissatisfaction and frustration. I also offer ‘Black Friday’ as another example of outside of Business As Usual trading. The demand for the perceived bargains means that digital shoppers will not be put off by sites failing, they will try, try and try again.

So what should the smart digital business do in these cases. The solution is simple, find a way to ‘queue’ the customers when demand is high. If people want or need something they will wait patiently in line. A ‘you are in a queue’ message will be welcomed more than a ‘there is a problem with our site’ message. This may also encourage flighty customers to stay on your site rather than defect to a competitor.

As a final thought, let’s go back to the joined-up-thinking across the digital business. It is all very well meeting the extreme peaks in demand in your digital presence, but business must also consider how its downstream systems and logistics will manage with these extremes. One unanticipated consequence of Black Friday was the impact that the number of packages that needed to be sent would have on the logistical chain. Not only did this mean people waiting a long time for their Black Friday ‘bargains’, but also for subsequent orders that got caught in the backlog.

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StarBase – HP Gold Partner

Alan Moulsdale, Technical Director, StarBase

Posted by:alan
Technical Director, StarBase
Alan has worked for StarBase since 1997. He now has responsibility for identifying and formulating new products, services and solutions; and for evangelising StarBase’s solutions to existing and prospective clients. Alan architected StarBase’s Performance Testing Methodology. In addition to this being the foundation of many successful StarBase client projects, elements have also been adopted by blue chip organisations including companies in the financial sector and leading system integration specialists.

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