December 2010 Archives

BSM Definition

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A friend of mine just pointed me at this Wikipedia definition of BSM. Whilst I like some of the entry, I must admit that I'm not keen on the first couple of paragraphs, which seems to imply that BSM is a bunch of management tools you buy from one or more vendors.

As one of the people, who can actually claim to have been involved in the very early formulation of BSM (at BMC), can I please explain what we were trying to achieve and what I think BSM really is? It has grown and developed since then, but I think a few key points are getting lost in the plethora of tools.  

  • BSM is not a bunch of tools. You cannot buy it.
BSM is actually a mindset. Everything you do has to be from a business point of view. This is absolutely key. Once you get this, everything else flows on from here. Tools are pointless if you don't have the mindset and processes to exploit them.

For instance if I walk into a motor manufacturer IT department and ask an employee what he/she does, the correct answer is I sell cars - not I monitor Oracle.

Once you have this, then you look at things like ITIL and CoBIT to help you achieve your goals.

  • You don't need all of ITIL - choose the bits you need
My big hang-up with ITIL is that it demands you learn its grammar and syntax and vocabulary. Sorry, I know why I need a CAB, but I couldn't care less what the initials actually stand for. Use ITIL as a means to achieve the first bullet, not as a gospel that has to be followed blindly. 

  • BSM is two-way
Everyone loves to talk about the business impact of a failed router or whatever, but  that is only a small part of the story and an example of IT impact on the business. 

What most people forget or ignore is the other way - the impact of business on IT.  One of the definitions cited in the Wikipedia entry says that BSM is a 

"strategy and an approach for linking key IT components to the goals of the business. It enables you to understand and predict how technology impacts the business and how business impacts the IT infrastructure." 

I would actually say services rather than components, but I see too many people getting bogged down in the first half and forgetting the second. Actually you have to get the second half right before you can do the first. There is no way you can design an IT infrastructure if the business hasn't told you what their goals / budgets etc. are. I can design you a sub-second 24x7 system, but do you need it and can you afford it? It may be right for some business services , but not all etc. 

  • IT and business need to be co-joined.
If IT does not have a place on the board with equal or greater importance than other departments like manufacturing, sales etc. then get another job. BSM has no chance in a place like this, as IT will always play second fiddle. 

However, this also means that IT people have to learn to not  talk IT when they meet anyone from outside their department, and that business people have to say what they need rather than what they want.

  • Don't run stuff in-house that should be outsourced
BSM is not about protecting IT - it's about running IT in the most efficient and effective manner possible for the business. For example, if you know nothing about networks, get someone else to run them for you.

  • Make your contracts business based, not component
Any contracts you have with service providers, or you have with someone outside your organisation should be based on the delivery of that service, not on the availability of server no. 843, which is meaningless.

This raises some very interesting questions on who measure the service and reports on it and with what regularity? Are they measuring it from your point of view or theirs? I don't care if the service provider uses carrier pigeons if the service meets my requirements. I have no interest in how they do it, I just need to know that it will work and how they will respond when it breaks? 

  • Don't run something just because someone else does or you read it somewhere
Every business is different. Your company goals are different. Your strategy is different. (If not, then merge and save some money). Ergo, your IT will be different.

There are many more examples I could quote, but I hope you agree that everything flows from the first bullet. If not, or you think I'm totally wrong, please let me know.
In the Chief Executive.net CEO Briefing article, "WikiLeaks' Next Target: CEOs", it seems to me that Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange will make good on his vow to go after big business and to release confidential information concerning the nation's largest private companies.  The most severe threat to any organization whether it is the State Department, Department of Defense, or a large U.S. Bank or other major publicly traded company is the insider threat.

I spoke with Chrisan Herrod, our security expert, to get her view on how this will impact security policy in global enterprises. This is what Chrisan had to say:

"Wikileaks has made it completely obvious that information security breaches represent a significant risk to the enterprise and that an air tight cyber security strategy is not an option, it is a must. The question then becomes how best to counter the threat without damaging the mission of your business.

  1. CEO's should take notice now of what is happening within the US government and take extraordinary measures to protect their corporate information.  IT and the Business should focus on the principles of alignment offered by Business Service Management. Business leaders and Information Security personnel have much that they can do, and should do to be as proactive as possible.
  2. First and foremost make Information Security a top priority for your company.  If you do not have a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) hire one and place the individual outside of IT in a role that is visibly important to the entire company. 
  3. Stand firmly behind your Corporate policies and enforce them through the best education, training, and awareness that you can afford for your employees.
  4. Adopt a culture of risk management and form an IT Risk Management group that reports to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors. 
  5. Do not buy technologies to solve your problem, rather adopt technology that will enable your company to do a better job of ensuring who has access to information and systems and require business units to monthly validate an individual's need for access. 
  6. Finally, use technology in conjunction with improved access management processes, compliance to corporate policies and increased awareness of the risks to your company should information be leaked that could be damaging to you personally or your company as a whole.
I agree with the government's increased emphasis on improving access management and my reasoning is supported by survey data released earlier this year by the Ponemon Institute.  In their survey, sponsored by CA, they revealed that rank-and-file employees were much more likely than executives to see the necessity of certain enabling technologies to reduce or mitigate security risks within their organizations, and the technology with the widest difference: identity and access management systems.
 
If Identity and access management systems and processes are not in place, it places the corporation in a higher risk category.  And even if they are in place, they must be continuously monitored.  That is why it is so important not to invest in technology alone, but to invest in sound processes based on enforceable and monitored policies.

So by all means take to heart the issue of access management and address it first and foremost, but also ensure that you are taking Information Security and Risk Management seriously as part of your Business Service Management strategy in a high threat environment."

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