10 Tips for Maximizing Your BSM Investments

Last month, I wrote about why business service management (BSM), should be seen as more than a set of processes and mindset. How it needs to be viewed a broader architectural model for making technology investments. This month, I’m going to explore what that architectural model should include:

Breadth of domain support: Breadth of domain support for monitoring, trending and analysis is key for BSM. BSM is focused on services with lots of dependencies across a whole host of infrastructure and software investments. This includes areas like network, systems, database, storage, application, transaction, security, voice and wireless as potential areas of attention. But this doesn’t mean that your solution needs to do it all from the same brand. That would be a skewed argument for platforms that may or may not be right for your lead BSM position.

Assimilation and reconciliation of multiple sources: And so this brings up another, maybe less obvious concern the capability to assimilate and reconcile solutions from various brands. In other words, look for a BSM investment that can optimize your existing monitoring, discovery, analytical and other investments. While having a CMDB is an added advantage, for BSM what’s most critical is accessing and reconciling information not necessarily replicating data.

This can be done ideally at the data level, which is in effect a configuration management system (CMS) or CMS-like approach. A parallel set of reconciliation and correlation should occur at the event level, which is, of course, a more established approach. Portal-based integration is a good first step, but if that’s all there is, you’re still looking at fragmented information only without having to strain your neck, or maybe even sprain your ankle, running between different screens.

Support for capturing service interdependencies: Capturing multiple sets of interdependencies can help to you to automate insight into where and how a service is impacted by infrastructure or application components. It can also support superior service level management (SLM) requirements by creating visibility into how to create a more effective tiered SLA strategy, in which interdependencies are discovered, visualized and understood in terms of business outcomes. Some of the interdependencies to consider are:

  • Infrastructure-to-infrastructure

  • Application-to-infrastructure

  • Application-to-application (application ecosystem)

  • Application component-to-application component (Web 2.0 application ecosystem)

Contractual financial analysis: The ability to link contractual commitments with service performance information directly through software is business optimization. You’re going to want to know how costly your service performance violations are, and some solutions do this with a lot more automation than others.

Other business impact support: As you know, IT services can have a financial or business impact far beyond those immediately captured in SLAs, and of course this is very much at the heart of more leading-edge BSM solutions. Some solutions can help you automate linkages between revenue and performance metrics. Others offer modeling capabilities to link IT services with business processes. My favorite example here is shipping a package from, say, Detroit to Moscow, and having automated windows that flag issues from inventory applications that might highlight, for instance, staffing issues in your Detroit warehouse, or transportation issues with your delivery fleet in Moscow.

Support for user experience management: This is one thing that you may not think of directly in terms of BSM but, if you didn’t, then think again. If you’re not capturing the actual impact on your user/customer/consumer you’re flying blind with technical metrics that may not matter all that much. This usually requires a mix of synthetic or active transactions, and observed or passive transaction analysis to evaluate application responsiveness. It can also include more subtle behavior from a technical perspective, like abandonment rates on critical business web sites.

Breadth of reporting, role-based visualization, ease of use: More than many other niche market areas, service impact solutions supporting BSM initiatives should ideally support a wide variety of roles across operations and the service desk, application development, financial and portfolio planning, as well as IT and line of business executives. This, of course, should ideally include you, your direct reports, and your business and customer constituencies along with the more technical constituencies within IT. It might also support your dialog with partners, service providers, and others in that “ecosystem community” I wrote about earlier in the fall.

Under-the-cover analytic capabilities: Since BSM requires assimilating and correlating a lot of different information from various sources, effective analytic technologies are key in optimizing the transformation from “data” to “information” to “wisdom.” This could include everything from cross-domain correlation, to anomaly detection, to trending, data mining and OLAP.

Automation-centric integration: It’s one thing to diagnose a problem and quite another to remediate and ensure that proper procedures are followed. In BSM, this probably means proven integration within or across multiple brands.

An understanding what BSM is: BSM seeks to redefine and refocus IT in terms of business alignment versus more technically niche components. And it is this shift to support business values that is sparking many changes across IT organizations globally, especially as business services and IT services become more and more intertwined.

Beyond this, BSM highlights IT’s evolving role and suggests, for instance, that the “utilities” model, which became a popular topic for dialog in the IT industry about five years ago, is far from the whole story. The need to assign and manage according to the value of IT services suggests that far beyond simply cutting costs, the more forward-thinking IT organizations will realign towards business-enablement across uniquely verticalized or business-centric models.

Recent history argues strongly that if anyone thinks we’re at the end of a long list of innovations that continue to add context to the intersection of IT and the larger society of businesses and consumers they are willfully deluding themselves.

Dennis Drogseth is VP of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can be reached at [email protected].