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New Year’s Resolution: Let’s Retake Performance

This article was originally published at PerfPlanet.

Enough is enough!

For too long, the DevOps community has been hamstrung by the demands of the business departments with whom we work. The obvious goal of any DevOps team is to make the sites for which we’re responsible as fast and reliable as possible. And yet at the same time, we’re constantly being undermined by the business side of the company who can’t resist overloading the pages with third party tags; sometimes they even forgot why they put a tag in the first place!

It’s no secret among performance professionals that third party content can torpedo a site’s performance, but the problem is that this message has not yet been delivered en masse to the people who ultimately control what gets placed on the pages and what doesn’t. Even something as simple as fonts can wreak havoc with performance. Why would you need ten different fonts on each page?

In this sense, the DevOps and Marketing departments are often seen at odds with each other – marketing wants to place ads, tracking tags, and other third party content on the site that they believe will increase visibility of the page and thus bring in more revenue. Even when it’s pointed out that these things diminish a site’s performance, the best case scenario is usually to just find a happy medium, or in the worst case, the DevOps team is told to just do the best they can with whatever gets forced upon them.

However, this is at odds with the entire purpose of performance, which is to serve as a business differentiator. In that sense, web perf MUST be an integral part of the marketing agenda. You may have heard of the four Ps that comprise the marketing mix – Product, Price, Promotion, and Place – but Performance is now the fifth P. The problem is that it’s treated like a fifth wheel instead.

So let’s all make a New Year’s resolution that 2015 is the year in which we take back performance from those who either don’t understand or don’t care about its impact on the business’s bottom line. There doesn’t have to be an incompatibility between marketing and performance, but we have to do a better job of making its impact clear to those who don’t work in the industry.

In short, it’s time to take off our nerd hats and put on our business hats.

The most effective way to get this message across is to frame performance in metrics which are not only easier to understand, but also speak directly to the area which matters most to everyone not in the IT department: dollars and cents.

It makes sense to talk about things like DNS response time, CDN availability, and document complete rate when you’re conferring with fellow DevOps pros. But we’ve all tried to have these conversations with people outside the department and seen their eyes glaze over as they start wondering what an appropriate time would be to pull out their phone and check their email during the conversation.

Even the units that we use to measure those metrics seem inconsequential to the layman. When you try to tell the VP of Business Development that the response times were delayed by 1,750 milliseconds due to a problem with your ad server network, all he or she is going to come back with is how much revenue those ads bring in.

There are clear studies which show the impact that slow load times have on web traffic, bounce rates, and eCommerce transactions. So instead of going into a statistics lecture, don’t even mention the response times; do the calculations on your own and go straight to the business impact when making your case.

What sounds like the better argument: “This ad slowed our response times by 1,750 milliseconds,” or “This ad cost us $3,000 in lost transactions”?

The importance of web perf and DevOps teams has been swept aside for too long. It’s frustrating, but we’re partially to blame as well because by and large, we haven’t properly demonstrated its significance. Let’s change that in 2015, and re-take control of performance.

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