Good planning, long term savings
In today's competitive marketplace, companies are constantly searching for ways to improve efficiencies and transform their IT organizations into a source of competitive advantage. Companies can no longer view IT departments as cost centers and overhead but must begin to run IT as a business that is measured on how effectively they support the business objectives and drive profitability.
So how can companies turn the corner and transform their IT organization into an effective business partner? Business service management (BSM), a method of linking critical business services to the supporting IT services and infrastructure. Once implemented, an effective BSM solution provides business level views that simplify problem detection, problem resolution and capacity planning activities. An effective BSM solution also enables proactive management of the technology that the services depend on and ensures business service availability and optimization.
Although implementing an effective solution is not simple, the key to a successful BSM implementation is simple: careful planning. Planning is the most important part of any project and is critical to developing and deploying an effective BSM solution. What business services drive company profits? What underlying IT components support each business service? What are the indicators of poor performance? What is the best strategy to monitor the health of the key performance indicators? These are a few questions that must be answered before implementing a BSM solution.
One step at a time
Implementing a BSM solution is a major undertaking and should not be started until you have complete support from the line of business and IT managers. Start with a manageable project and don't try to implement a solution that tackles all your business services at once. Focus on a single critical business service and develop a framework that can be used repeatedly as you deploy future solutions.
Develop a thorough understanding of the business service and the processes that support it. For example, in the banking industry, loan applications can be initiated through various means including mail, Web, phone and in-person. Each of these methods must be examined to understand how the loans are processed and if there are different technologies that support each type of loan application. Each method should be completely understood to ensure all the underlying IT services and infrastructure are identified.
Build a graphical map that represents all the IT components and their interactions. This provides a clear vision for developing a monitoring and testing architecture that ensures your business service is consistently available and provides acceptable response time. This type of planning will also decrease the probability of missing devices or developing an incorrect monitoring strategy.
Business services are comprised of three key components including systems, applications and the underlying network. If any of these IT components are unavailable, your business service is unavailable. Implementing tests of all pertinent business service components guarantee users will have access to your business service when they need it.
Place test stations throughout your infrastructure to actively check that network devices and systems, which support your business service, are available and responding within pre-defined time limits. Test stations should be placed at strategic locations to ensure any path that users can travel is actively tested.
Test application availability by monitoring the processes that comprise the application. This can include application, database or any other process that support your business service. Each process should be examined to ensure that they are active and not consuming excessive amounts of resources such as CPU, memory or disk.
Business services that are available but provide poor response time will result in unhappy customers and lost revenue. This can be avoided by implementing an architecture that supports both passive monitoring and active testing. This combination is important as it represents a complete picture of the health of your business service.
Passive monitoring is used to gather statistics about the end users experience and usually requires some type of agent technology to be installed on the end users PC. Passive monitoring is valuable but is not a complete solution since provides data only when users are active. Passive monitoring should be supplemented with some level of active testing.
Active tests require simulations of key business service transactions. Active tests are valuable since they provide continuous data. However, active tests don't provide the true end user experience and simulating tests in certain business services may not be possible due to internal or regulatory issues. For example, simulating updates of an account in a banking application is prohibited.
Besides the tests previously mentioned, you should monitor key performance indicators of those systems, applications and network devices that support your business service. This includes variables such as CPU utilization, traffic levels and transaction counts. Capturing this information is important, to help identify the root cause when performance degradation occurs.
Once you have designed and implemented the monitoring and testing architecture, you must plan business level monitoring and reporting views that satisfy the requirements of the various audiences within the organization. The level of detail that the CIO requires is vastly different from the view that an IT manager, Business line manager and help desk staff needs. Up front planning will ensure everyone gets the information they need to identify and resolve problems, plan future capacity requirements and plan budgets.
Implementing a complete BSM solution has tremendous benefits to your organization that will result in improved customer satisfaction, competitive advantages and increased profitability.
Your support staff will be better positioned to provide more reliable business support. Clear business level views will allow them to quickly identify fault or performance issues that directly affect your business service.
With complete views of resources that support the business service, capacity-planning activities will be more effective. Business Level reports can identify the components that are heavily utilized or under utilized. Allocating appropriate budget to the right infrastructure components and identifying under utilized resources that could potentially be consolidated can save you money.
An effective BSM solution will also arm you with the information needed to target changes within your environment without adversely affecting your critical business service. A BSM solution will provide you with a clearer view of the current IT capability
Implementing a BSM solution has significant benefits that directly translate into increased end-user satisfaction and profits. A successful BSM implementation will produce an environment that is easy to understand, monitor, manage and troubleshoot.
Remember, the time you spend planning will result in fewer surprises, accelerate the return on investment and result in a more effective BSM strategy.
About the author:
Mark Hounslow is Director of Professional Services at Concord Communications, a global provider of Business Service Management (BSM) software solutions. Concord provides an integrated solution that enables companies to map their IT services to business needs, measure their actual end-user experience, and manage their applications, systems and networks.
For more information please visit http://www.concord.com