Use business service management to optimize application performance

Henry Svendblad, Nemertes Research, Principal Research Analyst

As optimizing application performance becomes more essential to businesses, many organizations have turned to the business service management (BSM) approach to manage IT services aligned with their business needs  to increase the value IT can deliver to the company.

BSM implementations often entail a cultural shift away from a narrowly focused, technology-oriented approach to a much broader service-centric model. "Business service management" is often used interchangeably with "IT service management" and is considered a best-practice approach in the popular ITIL framework. As a methodology used by IT to describe how to organize, operate and manage IT services, BSM is focused on identifying, managing and deriving business value from the services delivered by IT to both internal (among IT groups) and external customers, and for quantifying the cost of service delivery and improvement.

Unfortunately, BSM implementations have proven so complex that most of the organizations that take on these initiatives either fail to complete them or fail to meet their project objectives. The issue is not a lack of tools. Vendors such as BMC, CA Technologies, Compuware, HP, IBM, Neebula and many others have tools -- and in some cases entire portfolios of IT service delivery tools -- specifically designed to help organizations accelerate their adoption of BSM.

Business Service Management failure is often the result of the fast pace of change in IT environments, the complexity of mapping business services to complex IT infrastructures, and the large investment required in both software and personnel.

Application performance management (APM) tools, also available from the same vendors, can help address some of the gaps by enabling an organization to gain visibility into the user's perspective and manage response times. APM tools, however, are only a small part of the larger BSM picture.

Use a strategic framework and keep the big picture in mind

Another challenge is that BSM can't be implemented in a vacuum. To be effective, it needs to be implemented as part of a larger framework. The ITIL BSM framework is composed of five distinct process areas: service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement. Within each area, IT should focus on key subprocesses to increase their maturity and achieve their desired service management goals. The key to success is to focus on each process independently and iteratively without losing sight of how it fits into the overall framework.

Business service management operation processes

service operation processes ITIL

Figure 1. Service operation processes ITIL (Source: ITIL Wiki)

IT organizations often launch their BSM initiatives by focusing on some of the key service operation processes (see Figure 1). This approach can be effective because these processes usually represent the lowest-hanging fruit for IT departments. Processes you should consider tackling first include request fulfillment, access management, event management and incident management. The exact order in which you address the processes can vary, depending on readiness and need. You should leverage a single, common BSM tool to streamline these processes if you can, but avoid the common mistake of confusing the purchase and deployment of a BSM tool as an equivalent to achieving the desired end goal. (Note: It doesn't help that many of these vendors market their tools this way.)

Use BSM tools to reach the Holy Grail of automation

Once you've successfully implemented some of your key service operation processes using a BSM-oriented approach and tool set, many tasks can then be automated, such as repetitive actions including adding a user, editing a configuration file, changing permissions on a folder and restarting a service. Each of these is individually small, but together, they take up a significant proportion of the IT staff's time with frustrating tasks that interrupt more strategic work. This automation ultimately results in reducing costs, eliminating human error and ultimately improving the performance of services being delivered.

About the author
Henry Svenblad is principal research analyst for network communications and services at Nemertes Research.

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