Business Service Management: What's the problem?

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Reading through the articles on, I started to wonder: "what is the problem?". Is IT really thàt disconnected from the business? Looking around in my living room and at the office, I can harldy imagine how life would be without any Information Technology to support me. And all of this is provided to me by companies in the form of products and/or services. Would I buy and/or use them if I didn't know what value they bring to me? No, of course not. Given that IT has penetrated already so much into my life, these "IT companies" must be connected to (or better say integrated within) "my business".

Interestingly some time ago I delivered an ITIL v3 based Service Portfolio Management workshop within a large Financial Institution. In preparing for this workshop we agreed to first focus on the question: "what is a service?". So I started by presenting the ITIL v3 definition of a service: "A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.". So far, so good. Then we looked at how to define a service and -more specifically- on how to define the business value of a service. Now when I asked the question "what is the busines value of your e-mail service?" the answer I got is "The e-mail service provides message traffic and storage of e-mail and e-calendaring". Does this describe a business value? Don't think so.

Looking at this sample, one might see it as a proof point that IT is really disconnected from the business and use it to justify a Business Service Management approach. Personally I wouldn't go that far. The only thing that it shows to me in this particular case is that IT is not able to articulate the business value of a service, but that doesn't mean the service doesn't have value or is not being used. On the contrary, the e-mail service sample above is one of the most used and appreciated service in the Financial Institute with an implicit value. Nevertheless and ultimately as one of the results of the workshop we came up with the following definition:

E-mail services provide value to the business when cooperative business communications are conducted without the constraints of location, device or time-zone. Value is created when IT operates for the business a store-and-forward messaging system, so that business employees can compose, send, store and receive e-mails with peers both inside as well as outside the business and in a manner that

  • Is accessible 24 x 7 x 365 across the globe
  • Allows only one outage of max. 5 min per 3 months
  • Enables messages up to 45Mb and mailboxes up to 100Mb
  • Supports protection of business confidential information
  • Ensures data availability and archiving within business policies

Similarly and on a bigger scale, I recently met with another customer (read: a service catalog manager within IT) who asked me to review his service catalog and provide feedback. Of course I accepted this and then found myself reading through a 193 pages thick service catalog printed on paper. When the guy returned after a few days and asked me for my opinion, I said: "Imagine that you are entering a restaurant and ask for a menu card. And when the waiter returns he delivers to you the cookbook of the chef. How would you feel?". He immediately got the point that the service catalog contained way too much information for their business customers. In addition I showed him that there was also information missing in the service catalog. And you probably have guessed this one already: it contained no descriptions of business value whatsoever.

Again also in this situation the reality was that all services in the catalog already existed and were actively being used by the business customers. So why then create a service catalog? Good question. In this particular case the main driver for producing a service catalog was IT's desire to explain what they deliver, however the business didn't ask for a service catalog and also was not involved in the creation. And like Bill Keyworth rightfully stated in The Why & What of Business Service Management: "BSM success is entirely dependent upon the willingness and skill of both IT and business to have an effective two way conversation party without the other is doomed to failure.".

Reading through my samples above and several articles on, I see a number of very specific issues and symptoms, but am still not sure what the main problem or need is for which we are trying to find a solution under the name of Business Service Management. When we define BSM as "the discipline that aligns the deliverables of IT to the enterprise's business goals" then I wonder what's the value in doing this? And isn't this already happening implicitly ? Is it really possible to define the package of whatever it takes to deliver the expected service to the business community a way that they can understand and appreciate that delivery? To me this sounds a little bit similar like designing the perfect organizational structure, while we all know that this does not exist (otherwise everybody would have it by now...).

I realize that my statements are provocative, however I believe that a good understanding of and interactive discussion around the fundamental problem we are trying to solve should be the starting point for (m)any article(s) on BSM( So let's first address the question: "Business Service Management: what's the problem?".

Looking forward to your comments.

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From my perspective, BSM is trying to solve the understated issue that has something to do with the danger of IT being marginalized in the business rush for Cloud Computing, Virtualization, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and the genuine willingness to outsource elements of IT. Your observations dealt with services that IT provided (…primarily in a reactive mode) as the business moved forward with technology initiatives. The long term requirement is for IT to be proactive in recommending ways for IT to “service” the “business” with technology options …in a way that the business will recognize the source and intent of that contribution.

I believe that if IT continues this fundamental and recognized disconnect with their business counterparts, the pace to replace IT will only accelerate. Too often, the business community see IT as “technical” police who do things normal people don’t understand. Consequently, business people don’t understand the ramifications on IT management, control, maintenance, performance, compliance, security, whatever …when large portions of the computing environment are placed outside the walls of the company. This is already happening …why? It has a lot to do with how IT has failed to satisfy the business objectives of their customers …and not getting credit when they do satisfy these demands. To me, that is the problem that BSM is trying to solve. My 2 cents...


Interesting. You are basically right - there should be no need for BSM, as it should be blindingly obvious. Unfortunately in real life it isn't!

Some comments:

"Would I buy and/or use them if I didn't know what value they bring to me? No, of course not."

Lucky you - many people don't apply this rule, they go for the "Is it sexy?" "Will it impress my friends?" "Will I get more action if I buy this?" closely followed by the "I have no idea what this does, but I am sure I should have one, as everyone else has."

I am sorry but your business value example of email does NOT actually show any business value to me at all. Based on that description I would turn it off. Or put another way, if it broke why should I recover it and how long do I have, and how much data can I lose when I do the recovery?

Service catalog - spot on and an absolute classic example of why we need BSM - cut out the BS (the rude meaning) and get down to what really matters is actually why we need BSM. In fact, you could use BSM as an acronym for BS (rude) management and be pretty accurate.

Yes, systems should only exist if they are needed; yes people should know why those systems are there and which are the most important - see; yes, the business should be telling IT what the systems are worth / what they cost to be offline; yes, incidents should be handled in the business priority order; yes, capacity/applications should be added according to business priority etc. etc.


It is a fact that far to much of IT spending is focused on maintaining infrastructure. And much of this infrastructure is delivering little business value. Why? In my experience, it is because IT is busy protecting budget empires rather than focusing on the all important question: what does my customer need to compete?

Because far too few IT executives understand how their companies create and deliver value, they focus on the technical side - on managing datacenters, on uptime, on help tickets, on enterprise apps. The focus must be on value creation. What value-creating business processes can IT support? Where can we get ahead of the competition? How can we support emerging business models? These are questions IT doesn't ask under normal circumstances.

So to answer your question - Yes, IT is disconnected from the business. And BSM provides a link back to value. Admittedly, the link is not always understood by IT, but the sooner IT correlates its work to business value or innovation, we'll start seeing that BSM is a core-competence for the future of IT.

David & Peter nailed it ...and said it quite eloquently. Yes, we shouldn't need BSM as the value of IT to the business should be obvious ...but it isn't. David highlighted the cause of the current disconnect in that typical IT executives don't package/promote their deliverables in a context that can be understood by the business community. My question is how long will IT be able to continue "not" packaging their value in this disconnected way before the role of IT is permanently altered and marginalized? If I was head of the manufacturing line and didn't figure out how to trim waste from the production line, or if I was head of marketing and didn't figure out how to package my contribution to sales revenue, or if I was the procurement executive and didn't figure out how to optimize my supply chain ...I'd be gone. What prevents the same thing happening to the IT guy not figuring out how to deliver IT in a way that aligns to the business' revenue-generating customers? When will BSM move form a nice to have to a must have or you're out type of thing?

Why the assumption that Infrastructure providers are not going to require "service management" disciplines for their "business" customers? I would offer that BSM is as needed by external parties/cloud services as it is by internal IT organizations ...if not more so. The current rush to IaaS, PaaS, SaaS offerings and the hype around the business benefit of faster/cheaper deployment is a train wreck waiting to happen as service management initiatives are postponed to some point in the future. The debacle of Google about a year ago for business email is one small example of the potential fall out.

Why the assumption that external providers are going to be better understood by their business customers? Once the bloom of faster deployment wears off and the stench of unmanaged deliverables rises from the trenches ...why are cloud service providers going to be spared the same disconnect that business now heaps on IT. The BSM issue is that the culture of IT (be it internally or externally provided) has built in obstacles and communication deficiencies that inhibit effective connection to business objectives.

BSM is the recognition that both business and IT have to improve their ability to translate use/management of technology for business purposes. Unfortunately, there are many cases where IT is doing an outstanding job and continue to get nailed for not packaging that value appropriately. That's almost tragic.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jeroen Bronkhorst published on May 13, 2010 3:46 AM.

IBM's Strategy for Business-Oriented Service Management was the previous entry in this blog.

The Three Perceptions of Implementation is the next entry in this blog.

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