Performance engineering far too often has been an afterthought to maintainability, scalability, and cost: not considered until it becomes a problem – and then it is owned by no one. Often the first attempt to address performance issues is assigned to traditional QA – who have neither the skills nor the “line-of-sight” to be effective. Throw in new challenges caused by the shift to microservices, edge computing, IoT and AI/ML: now the skill sets required to manage performance engineering successfully have become even more specialized and hard to build in-house – and the orchestration of those skills more challenging.

One of the main reasons performance engineering often causes issues is that many companies don’t have a team or function dedicated to it. After all, performance engineering requires an incredibly specialized skill set and capability — from needing to be able to perform business mapping to examining market trends to testing against predictive features and functionality. But in today’s fast-paced digital landscape, maintaining optimal performance of applications cannot be an afterthought. Rather, it needs to be a critical business imperative.

Oftentimes, warning signs crop up early and clearly, indicating that performance engineering is starting to falter. Here are a few to be particularly aware of…


Angry Customers, All the Time

The need for performance engineering capability is often punted or downplayed but one thing that will stop companies in their tracks — all the time — is the minute angry customers start to get louder and louder. Support tickets surge, higher bounce rates become the norm, users abandon your application, negative online reviews… the list goes on when it comes to the behaviors customers display to indicate their ire.

This is often the first sign that performance engineering is the culprit, as the user is responding to diminished user experience, slow load times, sluggish responses, and unresponsiveness during peak usage. I’ll never forget a call from one of the most prestigious colleges when their faculty couldn’t use their system during core business hours because the student body activity was overwhelming the app. Performance engineering was the issue here!

Data can play a critical role here in giving you the quantifiable evidence that something is wrong, particularly when tracking metrics like session duration, page views per session, and conversion rates – these can reveal performance issues. Degradation — particularly sharp and sudden declines — in these KPIs often indicate that users are being driven away. Monitoring and addressing this feedback (along with proactively seeking user input) can provide valuable insights into performance-related problems.


Operational and Infrastructure Strain

Another sign of performance engineering problems is consistent overuse of resources. When applications require more CPU, memory, or bandwidth than expected, the impact can be a strain on infrastructure and an increase in operational costs — all of which often indicates code or architecture inefficiencies. Resource overuse can lead to higher expenses due to over-provisioning hardware or cloud resources. It also impacts operational efficiency. Monitoring resource usage and conducting regular performance audits can help identify and address inefficiencies.

What’s more, applications being down or out (particularly for long stretches of time) can indicate performance capabilities already have been exceeded. The cost of downtime has always been steep, with market research suggesting that the cost per minute for small businesses lands around $427, whereas for larger businesses it is closer to $9,000.

Ensuring high availability and reliability requires robust performance engineering practices like stress testing, load balancing, and capacity planning to mitigate bottlenecks and provide a stable user experience. What’s more, it’s important to account for application scalability, ensuring that as the user base grows, performance strategies, architecture and code efficiency evolve.


Development and Deployment Challenges

Suffering from longer time-to-market for new features and updates? Delayed development and release cycles? An increase in performance-related bug reports from users and internal testing teams? Each of these symptoms can indicate a performance engineering issue.

Without adequate performance testing, your development and deployment processes can encounter significant challenges. For instance, undetected performance bottlenecks can lead to slow application response times, causing user frustration and potential revenue loss. One of our recent customers had been “managing” these problems by adjusting their work times and response expectations to accommodate these bottlenecks. Furthermore, the absence of continuous performance monitoring can result in the late discovery of critical issues, necessitating costly and time-consuming fixes late in the development cycle.

By adopting a proactive performance engineering practice — one rooted in a continuously monitoring mindset — development and deployment challenges can be rectified before productivity-reducing “user fixes” become commonplace. The goal is to embrace an approach that helps to anticipate and mitigate potential issues before they affect users, thereby ensuring a smoother and more reliable application experience. What’s critical here is to conduct regular performance assessments, integrate performance considerations into every stage of the development lifecycle, and implement comprehensive testing strategies (including load, stress, and endurance testing) and continuous performance monitoring.


Recognizing the signs of performance engineering problems is the first step; the next step is to commit to a strategic and proactive approach that can be embedded into the DNA of an organization. Stay tuned for my next blog when I dive into how to build a best-in-class performance engineering approach!

Interested in learning about our Performance Engineering as a Service offering or teams who need to tackle the acute pain of today, while delivering higher performance tomorrow? Click here to grab some time directly with our Technical Leadership team.