The following is a reprint of an article published through the Forbes Technology Council.

As a term, Business Service Management (BSM) was first included in the 2007 version of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), where its definition was “the management of business services delivered to business customers.”

Fast-forward to February 2017, where BSM was laid to rest in the most dramatic way possible. Gartner analysts Gary Spivak and Vivek Bhalla wrote “BSM Is Dead; Use Other ITOM Tools to Convey Value and Manage Operations.” They go on to say:

“Business service management has not delivered on its promises of prioritizing, communicating and focusing [Infrastructure and operations] resources on the functions critical to business.”

It was a little harsh, to say the least.

The Very Short History of BSM

Back then, IT teams were very focused on managing the elements of IT. HR would call IT and complain that their website was down. The infrastructure and operations (I&O) team would respond that the servers were up, the network was up and nothing was blinking red, so what was HR’s problem? The problem, of course, was that these two departments were speaking different languages. IT was talking about technology, and HR was talking about business services. And the business goals were lost in translation.

The idea of building a solution to act as an interpreter between IT and the business is how BSM came into being. New tools were built to shift IT’s focus from the element to the service, and they were packaged as BSM suites, most typically from IBM (Tivoli, Netcool, Omnibus), HP (Operations Bridge, Operations Manager i), CA (Unicenter and Spectrum) and BMC (Patrol, Remedy). Each of these tools was focused on service elements, including networks, storage, logs, virtualization, servers, and operating systems. Ideally, customers would buy into the BSM vision and monolithic suites, and then switch from element-centric to service-centric management frameworks. But it wasn’t that easy.

Theory Wasn't Practice

While the premise itself was good, the execution turned out to be much more complex. Teams of consultants would meet to define the goals and parameters of the custom architecture, operating model, and tools required. The suites themselves were hosted on-premise, which meant it would take months and months to gain access to the datacenters and install them. Once installed, they required teams of specialists to run and manage correctly. All of this cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in professional services. The dreaded “scope creep” also boosted these costs, as implementations typically would extend well beyond contractual guardrails. And when a specific team wanted a custom feature? That request was lost in 18-24-month release cycles. All the while, fees for maintenance, licensing and support continued to mount. IT budgets bloated to unsustainable levels. So BSM never took hold. And Gartner eventually wrote its harsh eulogy.

It's only been 18 months since the Gartner proclamation, but it seems to me that the promise of BSM is more important than ever. Too many disconnected, “best-of-breed” tools are addressing small slices of IT operations management problems, and preventing modern digital operations from being delivered in a more service-centric fashion. What’s more, the rise of cloud and availability of public cloud infrastructure means that the role of IT is now shifting from “constructing and operating” to “consulting, monitoring and managing”. It’s clear that we need the concept of BSM, but completely reimagined.

The next logical question is: why would things be different this time? I believe there are five fundamental shifts that will accelerate the need for a new approach to what I call Service-Centric Digital Operations:

  1. The Rise of Cloud Native Architecture: With serverless computing, containers and microservices, the world of IT elements is slowly getting consolidated off premises and becoming completely ephemeral. IT departments simply aren’t managing elements as much as they used to, because bare metal is getting rarer all the time.
  2. The Rise of SaaS: Vendors everywhere are developing SaaS platforms that are purpose-built for flexibility and scalability, but in a well-governed framework. That means it’s easier than ever for a SaaS platform to scale according to the complexity of the business without the need to add yet another monitoring or management tool.
  3. The Rise of Services: Service-orientation is no longer the exception. Gartner is even advocating a Service Value Chain where the “IT operating model includes an enterprise-level service portfolio” with a common view of IT services. Service mapping, service topology and service availability dashboards are everywhere. What’s more, there is a cultural shift within many of the largest enterprises where IT has now become the service provider of the business, providing flexibility and governance, not command and control.
  4. The Rise of DevOps: Teams are changing how they work, and that means businesses are evolving along with them. A development team that has to run what they build isn’t concerned with answering a pager at 2 am that the network is down. They’re concerned with maintaining their business services, and need processes and solutions that support them.
  5. The Rise of AIOps: Automation and artificial intelligence are the killer technologies in addressing the exponential data overload that comes with modern IT operations and service management. They are the engines of how IT operations teams will play a big role in maintaining service health predictively and proactively.

Intelligent Services for Agile Digital Operations

This new form of service-orientation is both elastic to accommodate changing business needs, and governed, to maintain compliance. It’s got to be agile and adaptable for emerging technologies, but consistent through mergers and acquisitions. It needs to be highly consumable and not monolithic. And most importantly, it’s got to be easier and cheaper to deploy and maintain.

We’re at a turning point in the next generation of business service management strategies, solutions, and technologies. Maybe it was a great idea that was just ahead of its time. But the modern, cloud-native, web-scale, and AI-powered enterprise IT organization needs to focus on what matters to their internal and external customers. They know that better service to the customer is everything. And the IT team that refuses to stop looking at servers, and start looking at services, may just be the recipient of the next harsh eulogy.

Next Steps:

Service-Centric AIOps White Paper

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