A Better Definition for BSM?
September 25, 2011

Matthew Burrows

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In a previous blog I commented that I didn't like the Wikipedia entry for Business Service Management (BSM), and having checked with people involved in the original creation of the term, they seemed to agree with me.

The problem seemed to be larger than this particular definition, as there was a common view amongst those I spoke to that the term had been used and abused by many parties for different purposes. This included the various tool vendors who appeared content to allow potential customers to believe that BSM was primarily about the tools, or that you could achieve BSM by implementing their tools.

I also saw some variation in the comments from various analyst organisations, including some who had originally talked about BSM as a philosophy or an approach to the management of IT. Some seemed to be moving more towards the tools-based view, and focusing on the use of monitoring and event management tools in the creation of service views in order to better understand the service and customer/user impact of technology issues. Whilst this is absolutely an important step in the maturity of the way we approach the management of IT, and is definitely much better than the old technically-blinkered perspective, it only represents a part of BSM as it was originally intended - maybe only 50% in the view of some.

As anyone who knows me well will be aware, my style is not to sit on the side-lines and criticize. I try to be proactive and get involved in improving things. You can see this from my work in the organisations that I give my time to - I don't get involved because they are perfect, I get involved to drive improvements and help deliver additional value.

So, having stated the problem, I also said that I intended to improve the definition, and to consult my friend Peter Armstrong, who was one of those involved in creating the term BSM some years ago when he was at BMC Software. That was when I met Peter, as I had been involved on the customer side of several projects which introduced and derived benefit from a BSM approach. I developed some published case studies and articles, and was invited to deliver several presentations in various parts of the world - demonstrating that you could get significant and tangible benefits from a BSM approach.

Well, I've just completed this task, and gained the approval of Peter that he believes it is an improvement. Is it perfect? No, but then nothing ever is. I did have to compromise slightly and acknowledge that there are other views. I decided to add to the existing content and put it in context, rather than deleting it. I don't believe that I have the right to declare the existing content wrong, and I think it represented some very valid views and perspectives, but could be improved.

Have a look at the end result and see what you think. You don't have to agree with it, but I hope that it adds something to the definition and represents some more of the aspects of the original concept. I also hope that it helps to demonstrate why I think BSM is important and how it can help many people and organisations.


The link above provides access to the full entry for BSM on Wikipedia. Obviously I can't guarantee that others haven't edited it by the time you read it, which is the nature of this resource, so below I've included some of the content that I created.

"Business service management (BSM) is an approach used to manage business-aligned IT services. A BSM philosophy promotes a customer-centric and business-focused approach to Service Management, aligning business objectives and priorities with IT or ICT from strategy through to operations and continual improvement.

A BSM approach is most commonly applied in an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) environment, positioned above IT Service Management (ITSM) (which is often exercised according to guidance such as ITIL). BSM is distinctive in ensuring that business and customer objectives provide an input which is considered when defining the IT Service Management approach and the business services to be offered by the IT Service Provider (whether an internal IT department or an external service provider).

According to the 2011 edition of ITIL, business service management is "the management of business services delivered to business customers. Business service management is performed by business units."

ITIL, according to the ITIL books themselves, is "a set of best-practice publications for IT service management". ITIL does not, therefore, give guidance on Business Service Management or Service Management outside of the IT domain.
A BSM approach can be used to understand the impact of business needs on IT Services and infrastructure, helping in the process of planning to ensure the portfolio of Business Services and IT Services aim to support these changing needs and objectives. This approach also helps to understand how technology, including incidents, changes and new developments, impact the business and customers. BSM can provide a dynamic method for linking key service components and capabilities to the goals of the business. It can help prioritize the activity and response of IT staff and service providers based on business priorities, and identify the impact and cost of service outages.

Advocates of BSM often use it to support a cultural change from one which is very technology-focused to a position which understands and focuses on business objectives and benefits. Rather than supporting an internalized technology view, there is a shift to recognize and support customer needs and the delivery of value to business stakeholders including shareholders. A BSM initiative often underpins a shift in maturity for an IT department or service provider towards a more proactive and predictive operating model rather than the reactive and fire-fighting behavior which has been common in many IT operations. IT departments and Service Providers who reach this level of maturity often report improved relationships with their customers and business colleagues, being recognized as 'Trusted Business Partners' and 'Competent Suppliers' who deliver added business value rather than being considered a commodity or 'Necessary Evil'.

The benefits of adopting a BSM approach will vary for different organisations, but typically include: improved relationships with customers, suppliers and colleagues; service quality improvements; cost reductions through improved efficiency; and a reduction in service outages and the impact of outage.

Based on industry best/good practice, standards, guidance and methodologies such as ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000, a BSM approach can ensure ICT departments and Service Providers operate in a more efficient and effective manner to underpin business objectives."

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