IT and Business Alignment: Has APM Evolved to Fulfill the Promise of BSM? Part 1
March 25, 2014

Sridhar Iyengar

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Over the years, IT systems management has evolved dramatically. What started as monitoring just the network infrastructure via ping/telnet/SNMP has transformed into monitoring and managing multi-tier, geographically distributed IT infrastructures and applications deployed on physical and virtual environments as well as private, public and hybrid cloud environments.

Around a decade ago, Application Performance Management (APM) emerged as an independent category within systems management. APM enables one to measure and eventually ensure availability, response time, and integrity of critical application services used by the business, i.e., the consumers of the IT application services. A couple of years later, another IT management technology called Business Service Management (BSM) emerged to align IT with business objectives.

Now, interest in BSM is resurging as companies strive to make their IT departments more responsive to their business needs. Simultaneously, APM has also emerged stronger in the last few years to encompass a broader scope in IT management. This two-article series looks at the evolution of BSM and APM, the key drivers for both technologies, and how we're seeing them converge to fulfill the promise of aligning IT with business.

Enter BSM

In the last decade, IT teams were often left in the dark whenever a problem in the IT infrastructure led to the unavailability or poor responsiveness of an IT application service used by the organization's business process. The problem? The lack of mature IT processes and tools meant IT teams rarely had any insight into the impact of the problem on the business.

As a result, IT was often criticized for being not aligned with the needs of the business. This led to the coining of the term "business service" which was different from an IT service. A business service was defined as an IT service that was provided by the IT team to the business and that had an intrinsic financial value associated with it.

Any impact to a business service always had a financial implication, and it was all the C-level executives cared about. This led to the pursuit of the lofty goal of identifying, measuring and ensuring availability and response time of business services, aka Business Service Management (BSM).

BSM dynamically linked business-focused IT services to the underlying IT infrastructure. It was what the CIOs and IT heads of the time wanted to hear, and the marketeers served up BSM to them as the holy grail of IT.

BSM promised:

- Alignment of IT and business: BSM was typically sold to the C-level executives as "The Tool" - a magic pill that could automatically help them align IT with business. Numerous productivity numbers and terms such as "time to gather business insights" were thrown up to justify BSM purchases.

- Faster time to resolve problems: BSM users were touted to be an order of magnitude faster in isolating and diagnosing problems compared to those not using it.

- Easier implementation: Not only could BSM improve IT productivity and business profitability, it was also supposed to be a breeze to set up and automatically configure.

- Better TCO and ROI: IT operations would be able to reactively and proactively determine where they should be spending their time to best impact the business. The cost savings in faster troubleshooting and increased business profitability would justify the investment in BSM.

- Power and control for business owners: Business owners were promised visibility and control into what was happening and how it could be fixed.

BSM Oversold and Under Delivered

As organizations started gradually buying and using BSM products, they realized that those products required a lot of manual effort and complex procedures to work. It was not the plug-and-play solution that was originally promoted.

BSM was a term coined to fill the gap between businesses' needs and IT capabilities. When business failed to see the value in BSM, the BSM promises fell flat.

So why didn't BSM live up to expectations? Probably because:

- BSM did not truly reflect the financial impact of IT on business.

- BSM did not have automated, real-time updates to reflect the current status of IT. As IT changed, BSM systems would either have older data or require manual update of the status.

- There was no easy and automated way to capture all the dependencies of a business process on the underlying IT components. Capturing such details was complex and often inaccurate, and it required a lot of effort.

- BSM was probably ahead of its time. BSM-required technologies such as automated discovery and dependency mapping and end-user monitoring were not sufficiently matured at that time.

As originally brought to market, BSM solutions failed to deliver the coveted alignment of IT and business. However, the initial failure did little to discourage organizations from pursuing their goal.

In the second article of this two-part series, we will take a look at the rising popularity of APM and the resurgence of BSM as companies continue to seek alignment.

Read Part 2 of this article: IT and Business Alignment: Has APM Evolved to Fulfill the Promise of BSM? Part 2

Sridhar Iyengar is VP, Product Management, at ManageEngine
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