Bridging the Gap Between Promise and Reality: Achieving SLA and the Return of BSM

“We’ve deployed several solutions to track our technology assets, manage SLA, and align IT with Business, but our efforts went very poorly. We receive very little return for our investment”.

To properly support corporate objectives, IT professionals need to align service levels (SLAs) with business objectives. Although achieving this alignment can be difficult, when properly implemented the resulting solution (called Business Service Management – BSM) is critically important for technology-driven businesses. An effective BSM solution delivers a consolidated view of every technology asset and how each one affects SLA, providing the insights needed to reduce operations costs and improve uptime. Unfortunately, traditional approaches for developing BSM solutions have repeatedly failed, causing Gartner to claim that “BSM Is Dead”. This blog will start the important process of disputing Gartner’s claim because the truth is, BSM is not dead. In fact, only a stand-alone BSM solution can consistently align technology and business objectives. From our perspective it would have been better for Gartner to say, “Traditional BSM is dead but a fresh approach can bring a new BSM generation.”

Traditionally, IT departments and system integrators develop custom BSM solutions based on one of many different technologies: a configuration management database (CMDB); a fault management console; application performance management (APM); data analytics, etc. Using a CMDB (inventory-based) or fault management (alert-based) system as the foundation for BSM is a challenge because neither of these systems is designed to evaluate service levels or optimize business value. Data analytics and APM also struggle to deliver the promise of BSM as they fail to recognize cause-effect and relationships that exist within (and across) business services. Finally, because traditional BSM solutions are tailor-made they tend to be “fragile”, requiring constant attention to support the frequent changes, revisions and updates that occur in a typical IT environment (i.e., new applications, deployments, devices, and configurations that get implemented over time).

A lot of companies that pursue a custom-built BSM solution, find that making/ maintaining integrations across multiple systems (that often change) is only a fraction of the cost. The biggest risk for traditional BSM projects is scope-creep, where different departments suggest additional “required” functionality. Each of these new capabilities has time, cost, and quality implications, and most companies struggle to agree on urgent, important, and nice-to-have features. The result is a never-ending BSM development cycle that fails to deliver the promised business results. This experience has convinced IT departments that building a BSM solution is difficult and costly (in terms of both budget and reputation) and instead they fall back on service desk metrics to approximate SLA measurements.

Building a true BSM solution is challenging because it is difficult to define and model dependencies and relationships across multiple technology layers and business processes, and because it is difficult to maintain a custom-built system over time. The result is that IT departments have largely given up trying to deliver true BSM solutions because they don’t deliver much value to IT (aside from faster troubleshooting and fewer false positives). However, the primary objective of BSM solutions is not to improve IT, it is to improve the overall business while making IT better. Traditional approach solutions (such as Fault Management) fail to deliver value at the service level, struggle to properly correlate events with root causes, and lack comprehensive monitoring and analysis. Because so many companies pursued custom-built solutions they failed to realize the promises of Service Management and have been forced to bridge the gap by throwing more IT analysts and administrators at the problem. If this is the case, what’s the resolution?

With so much noise around IT performance analytics, we will have a future blog that goes deeper into the challenges of delivering a true BSM/SLA solution. Until then I invite you to contact us to learn how Centerity improves the cost, time, and quality of your business operations, including full-stack BSM and performance analytics. We would be happy to share how our customers benefit from a single-pane-of-glass that allows decision makers to measure end-to-end performance and correlate it to SLA, bringing a whole new meaning to the term Business Service Management. Gartner’s obituary was a bit premature because BSM isn’t dead, it’s just getting started.