Learn more about the latest ThousandEyes innovations at Cisco Live! | June 2-6, 2024


What Is Digital Experience Monitoring?

By Alex Henthorn-Iwane
| | 12 min read


What is Digital Experience Monitoring

Gartner recently published its Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) in September 2019 (Note: Gartner subscription required). Gartner is well known for its Magic Quadrant 4-quadrant vendor matrix that highlights vendor positioning for a wide range of product categories from broad categories such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to more specific ones such as application performance monitoring. While skeptics may roll their eyes at “another analyst report” that introduces yet another acronym into the IT lexicon, there is good reason to read this report. Gartner reflects the reality of where many mainstream enterprises are at, so I believe DEM’s introduction is significant. Furthermore, the Market Guide is, in my opinion, a well-written and thoughtful analysis that has helpful insight and applicability. So, let’s explore the what, why, and how of DEM.

What Is DEM?

Gartner defines DEM as a “performance analysis discipline that supports the optimization of the operational experience and behavior of a digital agent, human or machine, with the application and service portfolio of enterprises. These users, human or digital, can be a mix of external users outside the firewall and inside it. This discipline also seeks to observe and model the behavior of users as a flow of interactions in the form of a customer journey.”1

All IT teams today need to recognize that the digital experiences and user actions of customers, employee experiences, and employee productivity is paramount to successful business outcomes, that you need data to manage. This data, now more than ever, is oriented towards business transactions, with the transactions from the users’ point of view; and user behavior, as opposed to the intrinsic performance of application code.

This underscores the fact that not only do human experiences (ultimately) matter but also that, in the highly distributed nature of constructing application experiences through APIs, the “experiences” of machines (microservices, etc.) in interacting with other backend apps and services are critical tributaries to the human experience. Simply put, if your machines can’t talk, humans can’t get what they need.

Needless to say, it is no longer enough to understand individual experiences. The only way to truly judge whether enterprise application and service portfolios are delivering successfully is to see commonalities.

Why DEM Is Important: SaaS Demands A New Approach

Gartner predicts that “by 2023, 60% of digital business initiatives will require I&O to report on users’ digital experience, up from less than 15% today.”2 But why is it important?

From my perspective, aside from the importance of digital experience itself, the key reason is that enterprise monitoring portfolios have developed critical visibility gaps because of cloud migration and adoption. When you move to web applications in the cloud, you no longer own or control much of the application software, infrastructure, and network connectivity, where outages are unpredictable.

As the report notes:

“As businesses adopt commercial cloud stacks to run applications, I&O leaders are becoming blindsided because of the lack of control and visibility this creates. This is especially the case with SaaS applications, where monitoring teams have no visibility into the infrastructure layer and cannot instrument the application.”3

Speaking of SaaS, “Gartner forecasts show that, in 2019, 44% of cloud spend will be on SaaS creating visibility challenges for I&O teams that can impact customer experience, revenue, and brand reputation.”4 So, it seems from my interpretation, part of the reason why DEM solutions are important is that enterprises are much more inclined to consume applications than build them. Enterprises are not just going “cloud-first,” but also they’re taking the stance that they will “build last” in terms of trying to roll their own applications. Reports from organizations like Netskope have indicated that the average enterprise has roughly a thousand deployed SaaS apps. Our experience is that a large enterprise now has dozens of business-critical SaaS apps that require the DEM approach i.e taking a user vantage point-based approach to visibility. As a result, DEM is relevant not just to IT organizations, and their DevOps and AIOps teams, but also line of business (LoB) teams that rent critical SaaS apps, like Salesforce. A traditional ‘find and fix’ IT Ops monitoring model that leverages help desk resources just doesn’t work with these kinds of services.

The How Is Diverse

The kinds of technologies, monitoring tools, and data that are part of Gartner’s DEM taxonomy is diverse. I believe that it both allows for organizations to take advantage of monitoring technologies they may already have in place and begin to understand what augmentations might be needed for modern cloud deployments. These additions might include:

  • Application-Layer synthetic transactions and synthetic monitoring
  • Layer 3 active network monitoring (including Internet visibility)
  • End user experience monitoring
  • APM RUM code injection
  • Packet capture and deep packet inspection

That’s a lot of different technologies, so a key question is: where should you invest going forward? We’ll address that in detail in a follow-on blog post, but to drop a hint, it is unlikely to be a smart strategy to count on your business moving slowly into the future. The rapid uptake of SaaS is a clear indication that digital transformation is unfolding at dizzying speeds for most companies. Monitoring strategies using a disjoint set of monitoring tools that collect diverse performance data needs to rapidly change to keep up.

Internet Visibility Is Core To A Successful DEM Strategy

Another positive aspect of the Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring is that Gartner appears to be (for the first time) addressing the Internet as a key domain for visibility within a high-level taxonomy. The report highlights the need to look into Internet network paths, DNS, and BGP routing. This is entirely appropriate for DEM real user monitoring since it focuses on understanding a use case where the user’s vantage point sits across the Internet from where an application or service is located. In a cloud-first world, this situation applies to the majority of the scenarios we see today.

You cannot understand and deliver digital experience without deeply understanding how the Internet works, so it’s great to see this trend.

Monitoring for An IT World You No Longer Own

The arrival of DEM forces you to accept the brutal truth that as an IT leader or practitioner, you no longer own or control most of what your users rely on. But you are still responsible or accountable for the outcome.

Delivering outstanding digital experiences is an expectation now and you need to know not just when they are failing, but the underlying reasons why. In a digital world, the Internet becomes the ‘IT environment’ which houses the IT services that we rent. The thousands of networks that make up the Internet become the new enterprise WAN—one without end-to-end SLAs. So isolating performance issues at endpoints, such as page load response times, can be challenging for experience monitoring solutions that evolve from a centralized monitoring architecture. Uptime metrics are interesting but do not get to the root cause. At ThousandEyes, this is what we’ve been focusing on, transaction monitoring and user experience metrics from the start. So, it’s encouraging to see the DEM market guide articulate so many of the themes that we’ve been observing, and so many of the problems we’ve been solving for a large and growing portion of the Fortune 500, Global 2000 – and the top SaaS companies.

We’re excited about the arrival of DEM functionality because it’s forcing the monitoring industry to have a more honest and mature appraisal of the ascendancy of the Internet – and just how much enterprises rely on it. For digital businesses, the consistent smooth delivery of services online really is an existential challenge – so this discussion is long overdue! Happily, we can help with this as we can uniquely deliver real-time visibility into customer and employee digital experiences across any network and the Internet.

If you’re ready to move on DEM, request a demo and you’ll see why so many of your peers are choosing ThousandEyes to help them deliver customer and employee-facing digital experiences.


1Gartner, Page 2 - Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring, September 2019
2Gartner, Page 2 - Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring, September 2019
3Gartner, Page 4 - Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring, September 2019
4Gartner, Page 2 - Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring, September 2019

Subscribe to the ThousandEyes Blog

Stay connected with blog updates and outage reports delivered while they're still fresh.

Upgrade your browser to view our website properly.

Please download the latest version of Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

More detail