The advantages of the top-down approach can be significant. As a consultant, one of the common themes that I hear from clients (both business and IT) is that IT is not aligned with the business; the IT department has no idea what we (the business) really do. Conversely, in many cases the business has no transparency into IT. In other words, IT cannot provide the business with the metrics that can assist with establishing the IT value proposition. Business Service Management (or Business Services Management), if executed correctly can build the bridge between IT and the business. This is achieved by providing transparency into the services that the business depends on and IT having a greater understanding of the business. More importantly BSM can provide a more stable, cost-effective and robust service. For example, a transaction that is generated by a web order experiences a service interruption due to the web server being unavailable. The interruption impact could manifest itself as latency or an actual outage. In either case, BSM can provide IT with understanding of the criticality of the issue resulting in a more targeted and timely response. In addition, both executives and IT staff can have visibility of cost of the incident.
The end result is the predictability and IT cost of a business service that can be consumed by leadership. Instead of talking about the downtime associated with a server, database or some other technical component, communication can revolve around the performance and stability of the service. This is something that can be consumed and understood at a much higher level. For example, in many organizations the CIO does not care that a server has crashed. He or she is most likely going to be more interested in the impact of the server crashing on the business. BSM can provide the metrics and transparency to quantify the impact based on data that is consumable by the business while still providing the technical information required for effective incident and problem management. Another benefit that can be realized as a result of BSM is moving IT from a “cost center” to a business partner.
The disadvantages of the top-down approach can also be significant. The top-down approach requires a mix of skill sets that can be difficult to obtain. This is most true if there are budget constraints. Tactical value is very difficult to achieve with the top-down approach. It can sometimes take months to map one service. This of course is dependent on budget, business resource availability, complexity of the target service and depth of the mapping effort. Availability of the business to assist in the service mapping effort is also critical. Showing incremental value to leadership can be difficult. In most cases showing the incremental value or the lack of being able to do so proves to be prohibitive making the pure top-down approach impractical.
In a future blog post I will discuss in more detail the variables of a business service and visualizing it from a bottom-up approach.
About the Author
Brian Sanders, Client Principal – Evergreen Systems
Brian has almost 15 years of IT experience. Brian started out his career as a Unix/VMS engineer and Oracle DBA. After being an engineer for several years, Brian moved into the infrastructure design space and process engineering. Currently Brian’s focus is IT strategy and IT business value.