Can You Buy Business Service Management?

Business service management (BSM) is one of the more significant but also one of the most confused areas in the management marketplace. There are a lot of reasons for this. Chief among them (like many terms directed at IT management) BSM means different things to different people. Even within EMA, BSM has required some rather heated debates from two camps: those who view BSM as a discrete market segment that evolved from SLM, and those who view BSM as a model—virtually a level of maturity—for managing services in dynamic support of business requirements.

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The truth is BSM is best understood as a bit of both. There is clearly a market context for assessing BSM technologies with their own unique and distinctive features. But there is also a need to approach BSM as a state of organizational evolution and awareness. Moreover, this seemingly semantic debate about the meaning of the words “BSM” is also quite relevant to understanding how to succeed realistically with a BSM initiative in the real world.

To cut to the chase and answer my initial question, no, you can’t buy BSM. What you can do, though, is adopt appropriate BSM technology to support a broader initiative that can enable a far more dynamic alignment between your IT organization and the business it serves.

So, What is BSM?

Given that BSM has a history of being vendor-defined and, as such, tailored to whatever package a given vendor has to offer, I used to underscore the chaos by Googling BSM to see what the acronym most popularly meant. Up until last year, the first entry was the British School of Motoring, followed by other rather intriguing entries such as Bay State Milling, the Biblical Society of Moldava, and Britain’s Strongest Man (an annual contest apparently). However, in recent months, business service management has crept to the fore, which itself makes a statement about the growing relevance, interest and market acceptance of the importance of aligning IT to business objectives more effectively.

BSM as Model

Let’s look first at what BSM can and should mean as a model for managing IT services in support of business objectives. The first place to start in our opinion is to assess what the parameters are for business alignment, what does it even mean?

Quality – Many in IT have begun to realize that the best possible quality really means the most appropriate level of quality to support business objectives. And that level of quality may vary dynamically on an hour-by-hour or even minute-by-minute basis.

The most obvious examples are response time as related to Web-based applications involving transactions or even just site access triggered by marketing initiatives (as in several infamous Super Bowl examples). The demand on IT resources and associated component-response and performance criteria were woefully under resourced.

But, by contrast, I know of one IT executive who, when he heard that his data center was delivering sub-second response and his WAN was creating five-second delays, complained that his data center was “over-provisioned.” In other words, appropriate means consistent but fluid, and not over invested.

Cost – Understanding the costs of services means understanding all the associated infrastructure and operational costs affiliated with their delivery. This is no mean feat and management technologies are just now beginning to deliver some of the analytics and effective data collection to support these requirements.

Relevance – If IT is a business, then like any other business it must understand, and understand in-depth, the relevance of its services to business value. Right now, this is a wild West world filled with lawlessness and little precedent. “Relevance” has been either ignored, or assumed, or discounted, but it is the ultimate frontier for BSM, especially as IT services are not only extending the reach of businesses to new consumers, new partners, and new markets, but actually enabling entirely new business models and new ways of working.