BSM Defined: What It Is and Should Never Be

Business service management (BSM) is a relatively new term in the IT management community. Over the last few years it has become a sort of buzzword – many vendors are adopting the term and using it to market their products and services. The average executive is now inundated with vendors and products all claiming to deliver BSM, whatever that means.

The purpose of this article is to explain what BSM is and what it isn’t. This article describes BSM benefits, where the term comes from, why you need to know about it, which types of IT organization can benefit from using it and how to get started.

What BSM Is and Isn’t

First of all, BSM is not a product or a technology. You cannot buy BSM, and it does not come out of any box. One of the original developers of the term likes to say that BSM is a “mindset, not a product set.” Of course, that hasn’t stopped many vendors from jumping on the BSM product bandwagon. One vendor proudly proclaims, “BSM is software that essentially forms a dynamic link between business-oriented IT services and the IT infrastructure components that support those services.” Really?

It also hasn’t stopped lots of analyst firms from weighing in either. In fact, one notable firm thinks BSM is IT management “understanding the metrics their business users employ to decide if IT is providing value, and linking these metrics and associated business services to IT infrastructure components.”

There we have it then. BSM isn’t software after all – it’s metrics and components. But wait doesn’t that require software? CMDB software right?

BSM has even found its way into the new ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library version 3), which defines BSM as “An approach to the management of IT Services that considers the business processes supported and the business value provided.” Note the focus on understanding the reason for business needs, meaning BSM is how to properly and effectively implement ITIL.

So, which is it?

If you are confused, you are not alone. Since arising a number of years ago at BMC Software the term has taken on life of its own. So much so in fact that BSM is quickly approaching the term CMDB in terms of uselessness, ambiguity and confusion. It’s unfortunate too, since BSM is something that is absolutely critical to the success of IT.

In the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the Monster addresses his creator Dr. Frankenstein and says, “You are my creator, but I am your master.” – indicating that sometimes the creations of smart people turn into things outside of their control. Such is exactly what happened with CMDB over the last five years or so, and also precisely what is happening to BSM.

BSM has today reached a point where vendors can no longer make claims about what it “really means” or why their software implementation is “better BSM” than a competitor’s. As described in ITIL v3, BSM refers to managing IT based on end-to-end services. It means understanding the marketing place for enterprise products, considering the work employees carry out in support of those enterprise products and managing IT resources in ways that best support that work.