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Next Practices in Business Service Management



Are You Already Implementing Business Service Management?
by Bill Keyworth

Even though the concept of “Business Service Management” (BSM) has been debated, advocated, debased and promoted for years, the immaturity in articulating the mechanisms is somewhat pervasive. Yet IT has been, is and will continue to be hammered for being disconnected from the business needs of the customer that IT serves unless something fundamentally changes within IT.  Fortunately, we are witnessing a growing number of IT managers who are actually delivering meaningful value …even though they’re struggling to achieve recognition for that business benefit.

Sometimes the IT organization is adequately connected to the business entity, with the value simply unrecognized.  More often, IT is guilty of diversionary focus on technology silos that business doesn’t care about.  BSM is the discipline that aligns the deliverables of IT to the enterprise’s business goals (1).  That discipline comes in the forms of activities, technologies, tools, metrics, processes, best practices and people.  BSM creates a laser focus on those deliverables generated by IT into something that is “meaningful to the business community.”

Unfortunately, we’re heading in the wrong direction as IT organizations become more and more marginalized by their business customers even while IT is getting better and better at achieving their IT operational goals. For example, while not the sole issue driving the acceleration of cloud services, faster IT provisioning is certainly a symptom of this widening IT-business gap. 

Achieving Immediate BSM Success

Most successful IT executives grasp the minimal appeal of business alignment metrics focused on application downtime, system uptime/availability, speed of endpoint provisioning, mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) and other measurements essential in tracking the efficiency of IT Operations.  That isn’t new doctrine.  What might be new is the “business” language required to relate IT deliverables to the end user’s business objectives.  If the IT deliverable is of no importance to the business function, then IT should eliminate or repackage it into a service that carries appropriate business value. 

For many IT executives, there is hesitation to engage in BSM initiatives due to previous, over-budget and over-time realities of past ITSM (IT Service Management) or ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) projects.  Rather than tackle BSM objectives through massive project implementations, a “Theory of Constraints (2)” approach is recommended where a prioritized impediment (..constraint) to IT-Business alignment is successfully identified, analyzed and resolved thereby empowering subsequent energy and action on a second IT-Business alignment constraint. As developed by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldrattis in the 1980’s, the premise of goal achievement (…BSM) is limited by at least one constraining (…IT) process. Only by increasing flow through that constraint can overall throughput (…improved IT-Business alignment) be increased.

The following five options present multiple IT examples of how certain IT managers are succeeding in isolating and resolving BSM constraints, thereby creating short-term alignment in the minds of their business clientele:

  • Prioritize IT training on business operational tasks:

Aligning the behavior of IT Operations with the business requires comprehension by IT support staff of the business problems faced by that executive or manager.   What’s the value in an IT-Business relationship where the IT service desk understands the risks to the “guest experience” at a ski resort resulting from a technology malfunction at the hotel, restaurant, ski slopes, retail outlet, reservation center, property management group or transportation hub?  What is the IT-Business value when second level application support embraces the timing sensitivity for downtime within the contract acquisition or financial loan application processes?  What is the business value of an IT network group that grasps the impact of unavailable network resources between design departments and supply chain resources during the introduction of a new line of clothing? 

Yet how often is IT so mired in the reactive elements of IT support that they can’t gain exposure to the company’s strategic business functions or be trained in business operational tasks?  Where does the “fault” lie in such all-to-typical constraints?  A frequently recommended best practice for immediate BSM benefits is the pairing of some type of client-service delivery manager from IT with a business liaison manager from the business entity enabling a defined partnership whose purpose is to ensure effective dialogue regarding the use of IT for business goals.  IT contributors with application development backgrounds frequently shorten the time-to-effectiveness in bootstrapping such partnerships.

  • Automate service workflows with ITSM toolset:

As referenced earlier, IT shops are getting better and better at achieving their operational goals, frequently through successful implementations of service process workflows.  Valuable experience in automating process is gained when capturing the workflow required in tracking, administering and monitoring change within the IT infrastructure.  Equally worthwhile is the process expertise captured in leveraging software tools that identify, analyze and remediate technology problems/issues.  Getting tools and processes to discover, document and alter IT assets is a repeatable skill set that can be leveraged for business purposes.  Service desk workflow for problem incident, problem resolution and problem management can be replicated for use within non-IT departments across the corporation or government agency.

After successful implementation of software platforms oriented for ITSM purposes (3), some IT shops are getting requests to reuse those platforms to assist Human Resource (HR) departments in documenting and processing personnel incidents or in automating new employee initiation tasks; or in capturing workflow and metrics for customer support functions; or in accommodating scheduling and equipment options offered by the facilities department.    Translating IT process automation expertise for the benefit of business end-users is an immediate boost to the perception of IT’s contribution to business functions. 

  • Leverage ITSM projects to advance reliable IT:

Paramount to the IT-Business alignment is a shared understanding of how important a secure and reliable IT infrastructure has become to almost all aspects of today’s business environment.  BSM success is entirely dependent upon the willingness and skill of both IT and business to have an effective two way conversation …one party without the other is doomed to failure.  IT organizations are innately focused on ensuring appropriate systems uptime, availability, performance, application response time and time-to-delivery. 

Too frequently, they are ineffective in communicating the IT operational metrics which resolve that business dependency.   Business managers are adept at articulating the business impact of application downtime, but have historically lacked the operational perspective which ensures adequate budget for IT investments. 
Best-in-class IT departments are often successful in leveraging their project management efforts to gain buy-in to the business impact of IT service management …thereby initiating a business service management mentality within the enterprise. At almost every ITSM vendor user conference,  project managers of that customer’s incident, change or service desk solution share their success in getting the end user’s buy-in to the project’s goals and subsequent process modifications. In the course of gaining the buy-in, IT not only advances the indoctrination of the IT infrastructure’s close attachment to business functions, but more importantly forces the IT staff to learn the business repercussions of IT malfunction and the business contribution of IT components.

  • Improve business focus for existing ITSM processes:

Existing ITSM applications and processes can be readily enhanced to strengthen the IT-Business alignment. 

  • Service Level Management monitors metrics that can establish business expectations and assess the impact of change within IT regarding commitments made to business end users 
  • Application Performance Management detects, analyzes, fixes and reports on performance issues that inhibit achievement of the user’s expectations of his/her business application
  • IT Asset Management allows tracking, assessing and managing IT inventory to lower IT cost to business, redeploying IT resources to more critical business needs, and reducing the risk of lost/misplaced assets or software non-compliance
  • Governance, Risk and Compliance identifies financial and legal implications of regulatory mandates such as improved automation controls, policy distribution, content preservation, remediation, exception management and IT risk evaluation
  • Information Security protects confidential business information (such as customer lists, corporate finances or product specifications) from falling into the wrong hands in order to prevent lost revenue, law suits and business failure
  • Enhance revenue thru the end-customer relationship:

In the last fifteen years, the business benefits of automating the customer relationship for sales and marketing organizations is undisputed.  Enterprises with 5 to 1000 salespersons now readily invest in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software and processes.  The business recognition of revenue gains resulting from an improved relationship with both prospective and existing customers is universal (4).  IT has the opportunity of extending their CRM contribution beyond the installation and maintenance of the CRM software tools to participation in the actual customer relationship. 

One example is Vail Resorts Inc. which created a laser focus on their “guest experience” and included IT in the enhancement of that customer relationship.  The guest experience was defined as every physical touch point with a guest; such as the shuttle driver, ticket sales person, lift operator, ski rental clerk, restaurant personnel – as well as every digital touch point, including the website, entertainment systems, network access, videos and images.  Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts CIO highlighted IT’s successful customer contribution as “recognizing where technology is causing roadblocks in the business as well as seeing where it can be used as an enabler to a better process or experience. (5)

IT should also take advantage of the capability of managing the relationships of their own business customers so that there is accountability regarding how often each end user is touched by IT, tracking of potential technology opportunities desired by each business entity, and categorization of leads/opportunities for prioritizing IT deliverables.

Different businesses are organized and function at different, yet appropriate levels of response to IT.  There is no single solution or project that will ever deliver “business service management.”  However, there are a myriad of short term activities which can be initiated to remove at least one “constraint” for a more effective alignment between IT and the business communities.  The goal is not to “become” BSM compliant …but rather to be one step closer to IT-Business alignment than you were last month by removing the most obvious “constraint” in your business orientation of IT. 

1 Rosemann, Michael, and Erwin Fielt, Thomas Kohlborn, Axel Korthaus. “Business Service Management. CRC Smart Services, Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres, 29 June 2009, pp. 3-4.
2 Cox, Jeff and Goldratt, Eliyahu M. (1986). The goal: a process of ongoing improvement. [Croton-on-Hudson, NY]: North River Press.
3 Multiple Customer Case Studies from BMC, Service-now.com, Cherwell and other ITSM vendors.
4 Carlson, Lauren. “Will Google Enter the CRM Market?” Software Advice Blog, 9 February 2011.
5 Berzle, Rick. “CIO Interview: Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts Inc. - Vail Resorts uses Business Service Management Best Practices for Competitive Advantage.” BSMreview.com, May 2011.
































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