Is one company’s performance management simply service management by another name? Does it matter what you call it, as long as the end result is a better business?

These were some of the questions buzzing around my head after two interviews I conducted, one with Lisa Erickson-Harris, a research director for Enterprise Management Associates, a research firm that focuses on infrastructure management, and the other with Nicola Sanna, CEO of performance management software provider Netuitive.

In her September interview, Erickson-Harris attempted to clear up some of my confusion around the terms service level management (SLM), IT service management (ITSM) and business service management (BSM). She suggests that SLM focuses more on response and resolution times for IT services, while BSM relates more directly to the broade active business and revenue objectives.

I didn’t feel quite so clueless when she mentioned that many attendees of a Webcast presented by her firm seemed similarly confused:

…if you talk to an enterprise user, you’ll at least get an answer about what BSM means to them and why it’s important. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have BSM implementations under way, but it does mean that they are starting to get a handle on it and starting to put some of the supporting pieces in place. I think when SLM started out, it was about bringing IT closer to the business and better alignment, but there was a step missing in between. So there needed to be another layer between SLM – rising above the silos – and then crossing the bridge to really looking at the business.

Interest in and increased adoption of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has helped promote BSM, says Erickson-Harris. Sanna agreed and named BSM/ITIL as one of four megatrends that is driving interest in his company’s software (along with an “explosion” in distributed systems, virtualization and an increased emphasis on real-time data).

Read the complete interview: SLM’s Star Is Rising

In his interview, Adding Smarts to System Management, Sanna explains that companies are shifting their focus from the infrastructure that enables them to provide services to the services themselves.

The service sits on top of all of those technology layers. But (companies) are no longer happy with “green” on the network, “it’s not my fault” and so on. But how am I serving my customers? That I care about. And make sure you can give me an answer while we are deploying virtualization, which is saving us money on the back end. 

Traditional system management approaches (which Sanna calls “brute force”) are too labor-intensive to scale well and lack the flexibility needed for virtualized environments, which are very fluid. He cites a Gartner report in which 70 percent of IT executives gave their current system management tools a grade of C or D.

…that is based on people managing individual servers. If they are having that much trouble and that much dissatisfaction managing individual systems, talking about end-to-end services is a problem that is exponentially more complex. Now you are talking about all of these relationships between the different systems and how they are impacting one another. If there is a 70 percent dissatisfaction rate with managing individual systems, how can you apply that same approach to a much more complex model? 

Netuitive’s approach, says Sanna, is to add an analysis layer to system management “to make the data intuitive and to be able to flag exceptions automatically.” The company has won some pretty big clients with this approach, including Orbitz, AT&T and Wachovia.



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