CIO to CIO: Reaping the Benefits of Business Service Management

Date:   Tuesday , March 02, 2010

Can you imagine saving more than five million dollars by reusing servers and dramatically reducing lead times for asset provisioning? What if you could also reduce power consumption and the requirements for floor space by about 20 percent? The IT organization at BMC Software has achieved these and more with Business Service Management (BSM), a comprehensive and unified platform for running IT. We have been able to meet our management challenges while achieving tremendous cost savings and improvements in IT effectiveness.

Many IT organizations are focusing internally on improving process efficiency. In fact, I spend the majority of my time trying to leverage IT assets to support our global business processes. That includes leveraging all of our physical assets — such as servers, storage devices, and network switches — but probably even more important, getting the most value from people. Our IT staff supports routine business operations and R&D labs worldwide. BSM helps IT improve process efficiency and achieve our objectives by providing the capability to address multiple challenges at the same time.

In implementing BSM at BMC, we have learned several lessons along the way that may be helpful to any IT organization. Here are some of them.

Pay Attention to ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is a key metric of a CIO’s effectiveness. Many different forms of technology are available today to solve business problems, so you must prioritize investments judiciously. ROI is one of the absolute metrics that you can use for measuring the effectiveness of your organization’s investments in technology.

Look for documented, analytically objective performance indicators that demonstrate benefits. These types of metrics can help you make your own projections about how BSM can benefit your organization and to communicate those expected benefits to business leaders. Focus on metrics that address the various aspects of your IT organization, including people, processes, technology, and business partners.

Here are some examples of improvements that can be measured in terms of ROI:

* Using service automation solutions to increase the server-administrator ratio
* Leveraging virtualization to increase asset utilization and reduce asset purchase costs
* Improving change management processes to reduce unplanned outages
* Improving incident and problem management processes to improve the mean-time-to-repair and lower the overall system outage time

In many cases, the business justification for implementing BSM is specific to a particular user group that IT is supporting through the use of the business service tools. The needs of an R&D group, for example, may be very different from those of a sales group or an inventory management group. The real payoff should be articulated in business terms (i.e., number of orders satisfactorily placed or volume of standing inventory) rather than in IT terms (i.e., how many user tickets were processed in a certain amount of time). Ask yourself, “What business metrics are supported by the use of business service tools?”

Consider a Comprehensive Approach
We implemented best practices from the IT Infrastructure Library® (ITIL®) on a comprehensive basis. In many IT shops, there is reluctance to take on many changes in a short period of time. The more typical approach is to begin in one or two areas where process improvement would be beneficial. We have realized greater benefits, however, by implementing multiple processes simultaneously.

BMC began its BSM journey by implementing incident, problem, and change management in an integrated fashion, employing an enterprise-wide configuration management database (CMDB). Adherence to service level commitments is monitored continuously for individual business services and reported to BMC’s Executive Leadership Team on a quarterly basis. The CMDB has evolved into an engineering platform and plays an integral role in supporting availability and capacity management. It also contains financial data for hardware and software assets and is used to support IT’s Vendor Management Office.

In implementing integrated tools and building new processes around them, there are high-leverage points in almost every process — areas (very typically around standardization of options to users) where BSM can make IT’s job easier and more effective. Across the board, you can find certain policies that will make IT’s work more efficient. The timing of certain types of activities within an IT organization can reduce unintended impacts on customers as well. As a result, you can become much more sensitive to the principles of service delivery and keeping customers continuously online.

Availability is a key performance metric for all users of IT business applications. We employ a suite of monitoring tools to track the availability of all enterprise applications. In addition, we proactively employ synthetically generated transactions to monitor the availability of our ERP system and all externally provided Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. This combination of reactive and proactive monitoring tools has enabled us to identify system anomalies in advance of service disruptions and avoid potential outages. In addition, it has reduced our response times to outages when they do occur. Mean-time-to-resolution of service disruptions to our tier-1 business systems has improved by more than 20 percent over the past 15 months through the use of these tools.

BMC has realized numerous benefits from implementing BSM solutions. Here are just a few.

Achieve a New Customer Focus
A big value that BSM provides to our customers is in bringing the IT organization to the frontlines as opposed to the back office. BSM has been a unifying concept for IT staff because it re-establishes the line of sight with the users in the business. IT shops are often broken up into several, very technically oriented support teams. Each one understands only what is happening on the network, the desktop, and so on. BSM, however, looks at the needs of the business users — the actual customers. Then BSM looks at the convergence of IT capabilities, which include the equipment, internal resources, or capabilities that are required to address the needs of the business. In fact, the broader the implementation of BSM, the closer you are to connecting with the business.

Our conversations in IT have shifted from ‘talking less about projects on an individual basis’ or ‘about assets as a stand-alone initiative’ to focusing more on ‘delivering services’ to the business. These services can be related to order management, financial systems support, R&D lab support, and other areas. We also have an increased focus on using the tools in combination with processes to address business needs.

Take a Global Perspective
Another big payoff of using BSM in our organization has been in global operations support. Our internal emphasis on BSM and its implementation at BMC began years ago, and BMC has become increasingly more global through acquisitions over time.

As the company became more global, that unifying approach to IT operations has enabled us expand our IT support groups. We now support our global business processes out of Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, and India as well as North America. Our functional teams operate under a cohesive BSM framework with all teams playing the roles that they need to play in the different service areas.

Keep an Eye on Spending
Another benefit of BSM for us in the current economy has been in helping us to hold down spending within the IT organization. Given the limitations on capital expenditures, we are no longer at liberty to go out and buy new hardware every time someone has a new project. BSM solutions help us monitor our existing resources closely and find ways to better utilize them.

We now have higher levels of hardware utilization, which in itself is significant. But looking at the broader picture, this has also allowed us to shrink our datacenter footprint, so that we now need less incremental hardware to meet rising business demand. We successfully avoided a planned $10 million datacenter expansion by managing IT more effectively with BSM. Taking this a step further, we even reduced datacenter power consumption by 23 percent and eliminated 900,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year. Looking at the outcomes in these terms provides much more insight than a simple statement of ‘better hardware utilization’.

A down economy also translates to hiring constraints, and BSM has helped our organization cope with the resulting limitations on staffing. We have been able to automate certain forms of work, expanding the output of our staff by using them in new and more valuable ways.

Automated procedures have been developed for server rebooting within our production environments and server provisioning within our R&D labs. Servers can now be restored in a matter of seconds, instead of minutes or hours, and can be provisioned within hours instead of days. The use of scripting tools to automate the building and booting of servers has eliminated several years of full-time employee labor within our operations teams.

BSM provides a framework to take people out of roles that are primarily or exclusively technical and give them a more direct view of what is happening in the business. One of the key ways that is accomplished is by automating certain repetitive processes, allowing staff to focus on a richer nature of activities to support on a day-to-day basis.

Support Virtualization
Virtualization is helping many companies today to save money by using existing assets and to manage power in the datacenter, as well as to address a number of other strategic objectives. BSM has supported virtualization in our large server environments. Through better server utilization, we’ve eliminated 4,000 servers and all the associated operating costs.

Managing pools of servers requires the engineers and operators that oversee that activity to better understand the immediate needs of their user group. They are basically doling out portions of the pool of servers and pulling them back in on an as-needed basis. When you are operating in that fashion, as opposed to just purchasing equipment and dedicating them on a static basis to users, you get a lot of feedback from your users, and you really feel that you are part of the business.

Closing Thoughts
As a result of our commitment to BSM — through improved processes and service management solutions — our IT organization has achieved a significant boost in R&D productivity and reduced costs. We’ve also cut in half the time to provision a server, enabling us to provide business services that much faster. If a server fails, the time to get it back online has improved by 30 percent. The first-call resolution rate on the service desk has increased from 70 percent to 90 percent, vastly improving customer satisfaction and reducing the costs associated with each incident.

Business Service Management is more of a journey than a destination. BMC’s IT department is continuously becoming more effective and efficient. We use BMC’s products internally and are finding multiple ways to use them in combination to make the day-to-day work inside of IT more effective and efficient. Of course, every organization is different and has unique requirements. Implementing BSM within your shop, with your staff and your unique business processes, is where the real challenge lies as you begin, or continue, your BSM journey.

For more information about BSM, visit

The author is Mark Settle, Chief Information Officer, BMC Software