Q&A Part One: Gartner Talks About Business Value Dashboards
September 26, 2013
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In Part One of APMdigest's exclusive interview, Colin Fletcher, Research Director, IT Operations Management for Gartner, talks about the emergence of the Business Value Dashboard (BVD).

APM: What areas do you cover for Gartner?

CF: I primarily cover IT event correlation and analysis and business service management for Gartner. Currently I also jointly cover a number of areas of monitoring in general, most recently adding network performance monitoring and diagnostics coverage. I also jointly cover IT operations analytics technologies; DevOps, in particular Application Release Automation; and of course Business Value Dashboards, and executive dashboards, with a basis in Business Service Management.

APM: Is “Business Value Dashboard” a Gartner term?

CF: It has been used in a couple of places but it is primarily a Gartner market definition.

APM: Can you describe the concept of Business Value Dashboards?

CF: Business Value Dashboards (BVD) uses a subjective and metrics-driven approach to demonstrate the direct impact of I&O (Infrastructure and Operations) as it relates to business performance and objectives. BVDs, and their underlying business value metrics, are about starting with identifying business performance measures and data, and then linking those measures to the line of business stakeholder's key specific I&O measures that drive those results that the business cares about.

APM: You mentioned BSM earlier. That is the first point I thought of when I heard the term Business Value Dashboards. It seems like BVD is the interface between the business and BSM.

CF: That is a good way to describe it. A Business Value Dashboard would be a line-of-business or role-specific view of a Business Service Management set of information. Although there is an important distinction: traditionally the Gartner definition of BSM is heavily steeped in the assumption of a number of levels of technical and logical groupings of IT elements and their associated service-level agreements, and building out those logical relationships as a foundation. To the contrary, Business Value Dashboards start from the other end, and while they will be informed from BSM-level relationships and interdependencies and service definitions, BVDs are not necessarily directly dependent on those relationships and that data. Ideally they are, but they do not presume the availability of that context.

APM: What do you see as the main distinction between a Business Value Dashboard and a traditional executive dashboard?

CF: BVDs tend to be more specific to lines of business specific metrics as they define their own performance and objectives. Executive dashboards tend to be focused at very high levels and also tend to be set up under the assumption of that Business Service Management style construct, well-defined logical groupings of infrastructure and applications and assorted guarantees with performance also measured and defined in very specific ways but still typically from a technical standpoint.

In the traditional executive dashboard it is still up to the user (typically not an IT practitioner) to decide at what level they want to establish importance or impact to their business performancemeasures. It is not to say that they cannot be used for Business Value Dashboards but they tend to make a lot of assumptions as to what is important to that particular business priority. Business Value Dashboard is different and simpler in many ways. It is about literally working through how existing lines of business outside of IT define their own performance – which is often very different using their own sets of data as well as reporting mechanisms and frequency – across multiple different tools and/or data sources in a way that ultimately makes sense to them whether or not it makes sense to the ultimate executive management.

So a sales organization in a particular region, for example, will have very specific goals, some of it may be about expense mitigation, growth, buyer retention. These are the types of points that rarely make it into traditional executive dashboards that are delivered by I&O organizations. And yet that is exactly the perspective that the lines of business care about, and that is precisely what Business Value Dashboards and business value metrics are designed to address.

The executive dashboard tends to be skewed by leaning towards the data we already have in hand, and that is easy to gather. It's human nature to do so. What is the relatively easy data to gather and report on? Basic things like uptime, Mean Time To Repair. These types of element categorization or domain technology categorization or asset information. These metrics are important, but I would argue that they are more often important to running the business of IT, which is different and independent of demonstrating impact of I&O on business performance. It is answering a different question for a different audience.

The Business Value Dashboard audience, much as defined for Business Service Management, is people outside of IT. It has to be something that they care about, that they want to use, and ultimately that is the measure of whether or not a dashboard is successful or not.

APM: Do you find confusion in the industry, when you talk to executives about BVDs. Do they say: I already have an executive dashboard?

CF: Absolutely. That is the response 90% of the time. If you follow up with a second question after that, which is: Have you polled your executives to see how frequently they interact with the dashboard? That tends to reveal an interesting insight, that executive dashboards are typically underutilized, if utilized at all, simply because they are often designed to answer questions that no one outside of IT is asking.

APM: Let's talk about that audience. Can you describe the profile of the Business Value Dashboard user?

CF: They tends to be IT-business liaisons. Line of business managers is the intended audience, with IT leaders and/or managers being the secondary audience. The purpose is to jointly understand what you are doing and why, and ultimately, how are you doing?

APM: Can users be on the level of CFO or CEO?

CF: They certainly can, and quite frankly that is often the target to find budget mandate, but ideally Business Value Dashboards start at a lower level, and ultimately feed higher-level BVDs for the topline executives.

There is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done. In I&O, we tend to focus on what we need, and for visibility, what the top executives need, but the most important people that we need to convince and win over are the ones in the middle. Because they are within lines of business where shadow IT continues to emerge and grow with increasing frequency. One of the reasons why is because they don't understand simply how precisely you are helping them accomplish their goals, much less agree with that. I think the biggest opportunity with BVDs is to get everybody involved as much possible.

Q&A Part Two: Gartner Talks About Business Value Dashboards

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