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The confusing state of the IT service management landscape

Jan 23, 20064 mins
Data Center

* Clearing up the confusing acronyms and mixed definitions of the IT services market

Managing IT from a services perspective is clearly on the rise. In a recent newsletter, I wrote a summary of the results of EMA’s service-level management acceptance survey of 46 IT professionals, which was completed late in 2005. One of the statistics that I did not quote in that column was the indication of the importance of SLM to executives and business line managers. This is a key data element to consider and the results were very high: 94% feel that SLM is either important or critical to their business (61% responded that SLM is important and 33% feel that SLM is critical). Interest in IT services management (ITSM) is certainly not waning at all. In fact, interest is growing with the very population that needs to champion the effort in the enterprise.

Demand is high and yet the market is a confusing place for IT and business professionals to navigate. It boils down to a lack of common terminology and understanding around what service management means. There are general terms and acronyms that are used to define the market space ranging from the general to the specific. SLM and business services management (BSM) are the two that are the most troublesome. During the summer of 2005, EMA conducted a study interviewing 100 enterprises that are using ITSM. The research, called “BSM and SLM: Concepts in Transition”, found that enterprises generally do not distinguish clearly between the two terms. Many of the respondents would place the same functionality in both categories. Vendors in this market also have varying definitions of this space causing additional confusion.

Both SLM and BSM are used to create a process for defining service quality in terms of metrics (supported in some way by IT), measuring the quality of those services, and reporting on them in a way that is meaningful to the audience. Functionality to accomplish this often overlaps. In EMA’s opinion, the dividing line is the context of the service and reporting requirements. SLM measures a technically-oriented service whereas BSM measures a service more meaningful to business managers. For example, SLM might measure the responsiveness of a group of application or network services or perhaps even e-mail services. BSM, on the other hand would be used to measure success factors for key business services such as the number of successful online transactions, insurance claims, or customer billing.

Many of the same product capabilities are needed for both SLM and BSM and a sampling of those capabilities are shown below. Of course, this is not a definitive list, but rather meant to illustrate that there is clear overlap in the requirements for SLM and BSM.

* Service Quality Definition: The ability to define an SLA or metric that can be used to measure service performance.

* Alarming: Alarming and alerting when services are trending toward a breach.

* Reporting: Reporting capabilities that are both ad hoc and periodic showing the results of service performance.

* Integration: Integration of metrics from multiple data sources.

* Dashboards: Dashboards and/or scorecards providing service performance visualization for executives – both IT and business executives.

This discussion is not only limited to SLM and BSM. Confusing nomenclature also exists in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), ITSM, and more generically service management. Many would think that ITIL adoption would solve this problem since its best practices guides were written from the point of view that IT must be managed and operated in the context that IT is a service organization to the business as a whole. The problem is that ITIL covers many IT functions far and away beyond SLM and it does not address BSM specifically as a function area, but rather spreads the concepts between functions such as financial management for IT services and capacity management (which includes demand management).

Service management and ITSM are two more generic terms that are being used to capture SLM and BSM. They are appealing as they are more general. However, to some IT professionals ITSM immediately brings the help desk and service desk to mind. This is not a bad thing since there are SLM capabilities in many service desk products. However, it works to further confuse the market.

Service management continues to evolve. Many questions remain. Will BSM and SLM once again merge together and become one market or will the differences and capabilities become clear enough to be separate? One question is to consider whether or not SLM is a requirement for BSM and therefore included in the BSM market? EMA’s online buyer’s guide for SLM and BSM solutions is one resource that can help. It can be found at EMA’s Web site. Please check it out and let us know what you think.