Reaching For The Future with BSM:
Keyworth’s (Editor) Note: BSMreview welcomes Troy DuMoulin, currently AVP of Product Strategy at Pink Elephant to our panel of experts. In his first article, Troy identifies the broad usage of the term Business Service Management among other corporate disciplines beyond IT and the need for a “business-oriented service management” approach for IT initiatives.
I had a very interesting discussion this week with Bill Keyworth (Editor-In-Chief) of BSMReview.com about the concept of Business Service Management (BSM) and how there seems to be many conflicting definitions around this popular term.
From my perspective: At a high-level BSM refers to the strategy, manufacturing and management processes/capabilities a Business Organization uses to deliver products and or services to an external consumer base. In this macro definition of BSM, the IT function works in partnership as one of many internal/external business support groups providing required and valued services to achieve the overall mission of the organization.
In essence Service Management as a general term is a customer-focused approach to defining and delivering service a customer wants without asking them to worry about the details of how it is achieved. Sound familiar?
“A service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.” (ITIL V3)
Unfortunately the confusion around the term Business Service Management often stems from one of the following incorrect assumptions:
While both of IT Service Management and ITSM Suites support the goal of BSM they are enablers as opposed to the goal itself.
Consider that while IT is certainly a service provider the same can be said of other business functions such as Facilities, Plant Maintenance, Fleet Management, Human Resources, Finance, etc. Being a Service Provider does not make IT unique in a business context but it does focus the IT function on the value and purpose of the products and services it provides.
For Example: A Bank has a business service called “Branch Banking” which is supported by Several IT Services related to telephony, desktop automation, application services, Internet connectivity, etc. At the same time the business unit within the bank responsible for delivering Branch Banking also subscribes to services supplied by Facilities Management, Marketing, Human Resources and Finance. Not to mention that there will need to be an external call center to take customer calls related to service disruption, complaints and requests.
Every business function has strategic processes for defining requirements and portfolio, processes related to design and build, processes related to moving new products and services to a live state, and finally processes for supporting the ongoing management / maintenance of the products and services it provides to its consumers.
A key principle related to the general concept of BSM is the realization that all service providers deliver products and services according to a lifecycle and require processes that relate to strategy, design, build, transition and ongoing operations. IT Service Management as documented in ITIL version 3 highlights the concept of IT as a service organization and provides guidance around good practice related to the processes required to define and deliver IT Services. In this context the only thing unique about the ITIL library specific to the IT function are the examples and case studies used in describing the processes from an IT context.
Coincidentally many of the tools developed for use for IT Service Management are used by other business functions to support what are in essence the same processes in a different context. What is a company webpage other than a Service Catalog?
The challenge that IT has historically faced in this discussion is the self held belief that it is somehow separate and distinct from the business it serves rather than being an integral part of the business context as one of many peer service partners.
A Cultural Perception Of Separation
Much has been written on the concept of “Business and IT Alignment” or “Running IT As A Business.” However, the primary challenge with both of these mindsets is that it leads to an inaccurate IT worldview that presents the business and IT relationship as somehow separate as opposed to inter-dependant. We see this perception reinforced by both business and IT executives. The business will discuss divesting itself of its non-core competency without considering its very lifeblood for manufacturing and delivering value to its customers relies on digital automation. In turn the IT Executive will focus on running IT as a business to the point that they see themselves as an internal / outsourcer and end up getting treated that way.
To put this in perspective, it is important to first understand that information technology is only the latest of a series of technological advancements that have pushed business and commerce to new levels of automation and efficiency. The introduction of electricity, the advent of mass transportation systems and the more recent adoption of hydraulic based manufacturing technology have all gone through a similar model of adoption and integration with business processes. When these earlier technologies were introduced, they were seen as supplemental but separate from the business processes of their day and adopted in increasingly innovative ways until they became so intrinsic to the way business was done that separation was no longer possible. In the early phases of these technology adoptions, specialized management groups were often created alongside the business organization to manage and maintain these technologies. At one point the plant had a power generation department. (Concepts from Nicolas Carr’s “The Big Switch”)
Business planning at the boardroom level for a manufacturing organization would not occur without the inclusion of ‘business roles’ responsible for assembly line technology. However, this same organization – which is reliant on applications, networks and IT infrastructure to support these older technologies – would not even pause to consider the CIO as an appropriate participant in these planning sessions. This lack of consideration is because neither the business nor IT have yet realized that IT is now as much ‘the line’ as the older and more mature manufacturing technology.
So perhaps it is more appropriate to refer to the adoption of IT Service Management principles as a move towards Business Oriented Service Management. A focus on BSM elevates the role of the IT function from one that considers itself simply as a cost center managing information technology in mythical isolation from the business to one that understands its role as a critical partner in the business value chain.
Perhaps IT should refer to any function in the business context as a “Partner” and reserve the term “Customer” for the external consumer of the organization it serves. (Despite what ITIL says!)
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