Forrester Touts BSM as the Future of IT Management

By Drew Robb

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Evelyn Hubbert, an analyst with Forrester Research, believes he has seen the future of IT management. And it is Business Service Management (BSM).

“We only reach a state of maturity if we approach IT in a holistic way,” she said. “BSM (the concept of dynamically linking business-focused IT services to the underlying IT infrastructure) provides a holistic approach to the management of IT with regards to the business and its priorities.”

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Forrester numbers reveal that less than 20% of U.S. enterprises currently implement BSM. However, this is expected to surge to almost 50% within two years. The underlying driver is an effort to make IT processes effective and efficient.

Hubbert urges IT to harness this trend to become more involved in the decision-making process. But that means gaining a seat at the table of top executive.

“Competition is no longer a matter of technology but a matter of service availability and performance,” said Hubbert. “IT operations now must enable enterprise business functions, not just keep the lights on.”

The wrong way to proceed is to throw people at the problems of runaway technology growth. Yet that is exactly what is happening in many organizations. Forrester studies show a widening gap between the cost of IT salary/benefits and software/hardware.

“IT salaries have soared from $100 billion to almost $250 billion annually in North America,” said Hubbert. “Unfortunately, much of that increase is due to adding more people, not due to raises.”

The problem is compounded by growing complexity. This results in various challenges. Unanticipated infrastructure effects, for example, are being experienced due to consolidation initiatives and the addition of new applications. Further, unplanned infrastructure changes frequently result in downtime.

BSM and the Road Ahead

The road ahead, she said, is via BSM. Instead of isolated silos of information which is managed at a device level, she sees IT processes being aligned to the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) concept of the configuration management database (CMDB). The goal is to align IT products with processes in a rules-based framework and to automate many routine functions and support decision making.

Hubbert lays out a BSM maturity curve showing the way companies tend to evolve as they move toward a BSM design. Initially, they begin with IT asset management before implementing some basic ITIL functionality.

With this in place, they can then upgrade to service level management followed by auto-discovery and mapping, the addition of a CMDB to enable the deployment of all ITIL processes, and then end-to-end business process mapping.

By traversing this path, the company can finally institute true BSM and become an integrated IT environment in the fullest sense of the words. “All ITIL processes need to be implemented before BSM can be reached. The introduction of the CMDB is the catalyst for change.”

For those who would hesitate before moving forward on this path, Hubbert suggests they ask themselves four questions:

  • Does your structure support service levels?
  • Can you track costs to explain, manage and improve them?
  • Can you handle application and infrastructure change while maintaining stability?
  • Do your customers know how to work with you?

    Hubbert believes that ITIL gives hope to those that struggle to answer those questions positively. It improves processes and eases the administrative burden by automating many functions. It's surging popularity, she said, is a major step in the evolution of growing IT maturity.

  • “Everybody knows about ITIL these days,” said Hubbert. “ITIL is shaping IT and IT management. Its effects are being shown in the fact that connections across information silos are happening more and more.”

    As ITIL takes hold, organizations move northward from managing individual elements of the infrastructure. Instead of watching server availability, CPU utilization and disk space, they grade up into an ITSM structure where they measure service availability, incident closure rates and monitor changes.

    But that isn’t the end of the line. By moving into the realm of BSM, IT gains the ability to better serve the different lines of business as to their computing needs. They move further up the scale into managing the time it takes for processes to complete, eliminating backlogs, speeding transaction rates and facilitating better business performance.

    “As you go up the scale, you talk about different things,” said Hubbert. “The higher you move, the less involved you become in the nuts and bolts of IT operations.”

    CMDB Craziness

    The new framework evolving is service driven rather than technology driven. Instead of trying to manage each system or silo, everything should be monitored centrally. The key to making all this work is the CMDB. The CMDB is held in common by many ITIL-related functions such as event management, performance management, service level management, capacity management, and of course, BSM.

    “Once IT organizations have a fully trustworthy CMDB, dynamically updated of who does what, when and where, it will make it much easier to understand business impact, do planning and move from a reactive to a predictive IT enabling the business model,” said Hubbert.

    By adopting this approach, IT is provided with an easy-to-manage dashboard from which they can implement virtualization, dynamic resource allocation, process automation, updates/changes, resource provisioning and job scheduling. Rules and policies, therefore, can be set at a high level which can then take effect throughout the enterprise.

    This all depends upon the CMDB. But the very importance of CMDB, warns Hubbert, could also drive management to execute it improperly. Massive efforts have already been undertaken by companies expressing abundant faith in the glories of the CMDB. Yet without proper planning, this can turn into a never-ending nightmare.

    “Implementing CMDB for its own sake is pointless,” said Hubbert. “Its overall purpose is to facilitate business service management.”

    To make her point, she described an unnamed, large financial services player. This company assigned 120 dedicated people to compile a CMDB in a big-bang approach. After four years, they are only half way completed.

    She suggests that companies begin CMDB by picking a couple of vital applications or services. By introducing this focus, it is possible to dynamically map these applications along with their related services, other applications and their underlying components.

    “Do a CMDB a step at a time,” said Hubbert. “Chose two or three smaller elements and complete that part of the CMDB.”