Shared Services + BSM = Business Value

by Bill Emmett and Atwell Williams of BMC Software

How do you increase the value your IT organization while also maintaining or reducing IT spending? Consider adopting a shared services provisioning model that eliminates wasteful redundancies.

Shared service programs can provide consistent service quality and delivery to multiple business departments across the enterprise at a reasonable cost, as opposed to each department providing its own iteration of the same service. Examples of redundant services include help desks, email, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

For example, consider the case where an enterprise has multiple ERP systems across the organization. Most likely, each business unit experiences a different level of service depending on how much money it had to spend. Further, exchanging data between the systems for consolidation and reporting purposes can be time consuming and potentially error prone. Finally, the aggregate cost of running multiple systems is generally higher than the combined business value delivered. Consolidating these systems into a single, shared service leverages economies of scale while providing a consistent level of service. Sound good? If so, where do you begin?

Know your services – Begin by getting a clear understanding of the services your business customers rely to run the business. Think about them from the perspective of business outcome, not underlying technology. Otherwise, you may miss out on opportunities for consolidation.

For example, consider an enterprise with a single instance each of Exchange, Lotus Notes, and Google Mail. They are all providing the same business services: communication and collaboration. These become the shared services to be consolidated.

Modernize your delivery platform – A critical element to delivering shared services is to deliver them as efficiently as possible. You can accomplish this goal by standardizing your delivery platform and then looking for opportunities to modernize it.

Identify the various delivery environments in place for your target services and evaluate them against your strategic platform architecture. Your target architecture should enable you to deliver a consistent quality of service while also adjusting to accommodate differing levels of service across the enterprise.

Technologies such as virtualization and private/public clouds can be leveraged to achieve this objective. Hardware vendors are providing integrated network, system, and storage platforms. Cisco, for example, delivered its Unified Computing System (UCS) that provides a “one cable in, one cable out” experience for administrators. This allows system engineers to build the private cloud and virtualized environments that facilitate the efficient delivery of shared services.

Applications should be architected for multi-tenancy. This allows core or supporting functions of a service to run as a single instance, while multiple application instances can run with the processes, customizations, and data being isolated and secured from each other.

Ensure comprehensive management – In addition to the appropriate technology, you need ongoing comprehensive management of that technology and the associated processes. Consider the following:

  • Service catalog management – The service catalog describes to your customers the services available and the service level agreements (SLAs) and shared services should be in the service catalog.
  • Self-service request management – An effective service request management process supported by a self-service portal enables consumers to request the service that they want, when they want it, with minimal interaction with the service desk.
  • Configuration management – Ongoing configuration management, supported with a well-maintained configuration management database (CMDB), provides the centralized “system of record” necessary to sustaining the shared services.
  • Event management – IT must proactively manage service events to prevent them from negatively affecting service availability. Proactive monitoring enables the IT-operations function to identify early indicators of performance or availability issues and initiate corrective action before the service is adversely affected.

Shared services programs must provide consistent service quality to multiple business departments so they can deliver business-critical services cost effectively.

These objectives form the underlying principle of BSM, a comprehensive approach and unified platform that simultaneously optimizes IT costs, demonstrates transparency, increases business value, controls risk, and assures quality of service.

BSM simplifies, standardizes, and automates IT processes, so you can efficiently manage business services throughout their lifecycle — across distributed, mainframe, virtual, and cloud-based resources. BSM helps to provide a clear understanding of the services offered while also promoting increased simplification, standardization, and automation.

Effective shared service delivery requires process standardization. A framework, such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), is a good starting point for achieving process consistency. Look for opportunities to automate as many as those processes as possible. Leverage technology solutions that support your standardized processes and enable the areas of automation you’ve identified.

Atwell Williams is a solutions architect within BMC Software’s office of the CTO, where he focuses on BSM and its adoption, as well as other best-practice frameworks for improving IT processes. He consults with customers on how to derive value from their technology investments and works with the development organization to ensure that BMC solutions continue to solve real-world customer problems. Williams brings a unique combination of IT people and process expertise having served both as an ITIL instructor and as director of Service Management prior to joining the CTO’s office.

Bill Emmett is senior manager of Solutions Marketing for BMC Software. He has been a practitioner, innovator, and marketing leader in the IT management software industry for over 15 years. He is responsible for developing and articulating BMC’s overall message around BSM to the market. He holds an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computing information systems, both from Colorado State University.