Reclaiming BSM from the Tools Vendors
February 18, 2011

Matthew Burrows

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Many people think BSM is a set of tools/applications provided by a number of software tools vendors. In many cases, people can be forgiven for taking this view because the tools vendors sometimes do make it sound like you will get great business benefits purely by buying their tools. If you look at the available definitions of BSM, you might also find this view further reinforced – which I think is misleading and a real shame as the tools are only a part of the solution.

When I look at organisations who are continuing to struggle to achieve the business benefits and outcomes contained within their business cases, I often find very similar issues which are leading to this outcome. With BSM projects or programs, and the very fashionable (everyone seems to have one) “Transformation” program, many organisations rely too much on proposal slides from a tools vendor to provide the content for their business case. These slides are often generalised and highlight many areas in which savings could be achieved which leads to two problems. Firstly every organisation is starting from a different level of service management maturity and it is therefore not possible for all organisations to achieve the same level of improvement in every area. Secondly, where figures are concerned, analyst industry average data is typically presented which is not specific to the individual organisation trying to make the business case.

The business case then starts off as unachievable from day one just because no-one has worked out exactly what is achievable, what unique dependencies and characteristics your organisation has which will make your benefit profile different from other companies. The data from the analysts and tools vendors is useful, but only as an input – you have to do something with it, and incorporate other data, to make a competent business case for your organisation.

My view is that BSM is an approach to delivering services which always considers the business (and we really mean our ‘customers’ with the word ‘business’) requirements, hopefully expressed in non-IT terms so that we focus on what’s really important. Typically, the most important aspects for most organisations are their external customers, the products and services they deliver to the customers, the revenue and hopefully the profitability of the organisation. If we can see BSM as an approach which always puts what we do, and how we do it, in this context, then I believe we’re getting closer to the original spirit of BSM.

One of my friends, Peter Armstrong, was part of the team who originally conceived BSM when he was at BMC Software. I sent him a link to the Wikipedia definition of Business Service Management because I didn’t think it aligned with the original intent of BSM – he agrees, and we have a plan to develop what we believe is a better definition.

Tools can definitely be an important element to support a BSM approach; they may enable capability and provide functionality which is essential for an organisation to improve the way they deliver services. However, in my experience, you generally have to look at changes to the way you define or approach the Business Services, and you have to make some organisation changes – maybe roles and responsibilities definition, organisation structure, and the way people think about what they do (cultural transformation). If you implement new tools but fail to address the cultural change aspect you run the risk of simply driving IT silos better and losing sight of the targeted business outcomes. If this happens you may very soon find your business case being used as a stick with which to beat you.

We have to remember that the tools are only there to support processes, and enable people to execute the processes to deliver services which support the needs of their customers and business functions. IT only exists to support the business in this context, never for its own sake – therefore don’t expect that buying tools alone will deliver the outcomes you require.

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