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Why BSM Fails to Provide Timely Business Insight


Business Service Management (BSM) projects have always had a reputation for over promising and under delivering. Most people know BSM as the alleged “manager of managers,” or “single source of truth.” According to the latest ITIL definition, BSM is described as:  ”The management of business services delivered to business customers.” Like much of ITIL this description is rather ambiguous.

Wikipedia however, currently describes BSM’s purpose as facilitating a “cultural change from one which is very technology-focused to a position which understands and focuses on business objectives and benefits.” Nearly every organization I talk to highlights being technology-focussed as one of their biggest challenges, as well as having a desire for greater alignment to business goals. BSM should therefore be the answer everyone is looking for… it’s just a shame BSM has always been such a challenge to deliver.

Some years ago I worked as a consultant for a small startup which provided BSM software and services. I got to work with many large organizations who all had one common goal: “to make sense of how well IT was supporting their business.” It was a tremendous learning experience for me where I frequently witnessed just how little most organizations really understand the impact major IT events had on their business. For example, I remember working with a major European telco who would have an exec review meeting on the 15th calendar day in the month, to review the previous months’ IT performance. The meeting was held on this date because it was taking 4 people 2 weeks to collate all the information and crunch them into a “mega-spreadsheet.” That’s 40 man days effort to report on the previous 30 day period!

As organizations continue to collect an increasing amount of data from a growing list of data sources, more and more organizations I talk to are looking for solutions to manage this type of “information-fogginess,” but are skeptical about undertaking large scale BSM projects due to the implementation timescale and overall cost.

Implementing BSM:

I’m sure the person who first coined the term “scope creep” must have been involved in implementing BSM, as most BSM projects have a nasty habit of growing arms and legs during the implementation phase. I dread to think how many BSM projects have actually provided a return on their substantial investments.

BSM has always been a heavily services-led undertaking as it is attempting to uniquely model and report on an organization. No two organisations are structured in quite the same way; each having its own unique IT architecture, operating model, tools, challenges and business goals. This is why BSM projects almost always begin with a team of consultants conducting lots of interviews.

Let’s look at cost of implementation for a typical deployment such as the European Telco example I described earlier. This type of project could easily expect 100 – 200 man days of professional services in order to deliver. Factoring in software license costs, training, support & maintenance costs, the project needs to deliver a pretty substantial return in order to justify the spend:

Cost of BSM implementation:

Professional services

(100-200 days @ $1800 per day)

$180,000 – $360,000

Software license

$200,000 -$500,000

Annual support and maintenance

$40,000  - $100,000




$445k – $985k

Now if we compare to the pre-existing cost of manually producing the monthly analysis:

Existing manual process costs:

Days per month creating reports


Number of people


Total man days effort per year

480 days

Average annual salary


Total working days per year


Annual cost to generate reports


Even with our most conservative estimates it would take almost 5 years before this organization would see a return on their investment by which time things will probably have changed sufficiently to require a bunch of additional service days in order to update the BSM implementation. This high cost of implementation is one reason why there is such a reluctance to take the leap of faith needed to implement such technologies.

The most successful BSM implementations I am aware of have typically been the smaller projects, which are primarily focused around data visualization; but with powerful open-source reporting tools such as graphite, graphiti or plotly available for free, I wonder if BSM still has a place even with these small projects today?

What does success look like?

Fundamentally, BSM is about mapping business services to their supporting IT components. However, modern IT environments have become highly distributed, with SOA architectures that have data dispersed across numerous cloud environments and it is just not feasible to map basic 1:1 relationships between business and IT functions any more. This growing complexity can only increase the amount of time and money it takes to complete a traditional BSM implementation. A simplified, more achievable approach is needed in order to fulfil the need to provide meaningful business insight from today’s complex IT environments.

In 2011 Netscape founder Mark Andreessen famously described how today’s businesses depend so heavily on applications when he wrote “software is eating the world”. These applications are built with the purpose of supporting whatever the individual business goals are. It seems logical then that organizations should look into the heart of these applications to get a true understanding of how well the business is functioning.

In a previous post I described how this can be achieved using AppDynamics Real-time Business Metrics (RtBM) to enable multiple parts of an IT organisations to access business metrics from within these applications. By instrumenting the key information points within your application code and gathering business metrics in real time such as the number of orders being placed, the amount of revenue per transaction, and more, AppDynamics can enable everyone in your organization to focus on the success or failure of the most important business metrics.

These are very similar goals to those of a traditional BSM project, however in stark contrast to every BSM project I have ever heard of; AppDynamics can be deployed in under an hour, without the need for any costly services as detailed in a previous blog post introducing Real-time Business Metrics.

Instead of interviewing dozens of people, architecting and building complex dependency models, gathering data and analyzing it all to make sense of what is happening, AppDynamics Real time Business Metrics focuses on the key metrics which matter to your business, providing focus and a common measurement for success across IT and The Business.

So before you embark on a long and costly BSM project to understand what is happening in your business, why not download a free trial of AppDynamics and see for yourself; there is an easier way!

The post Why BSM Fails to Provide Timely Business Insight written by Tom Levey appeared first on Application Performance Monitoring Blog from AppDynamics.

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