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The Evolving Role of IT Service Management

IT professionals need to transform their orientation from "managing boxes" to managing IT resources from a business perspective.
Apr 24, 2006

Mary Nugent

The business environment is changing at a dizzying pace, driven by globalization, business virtualization, outsourcing, and other factors. To compete, and indeed to survive, enterprises must increase their agility. They must be able to swiftly adapt business processes to accommodate changing business conditions. To drive business agility, they must also have agile information technology (IT) resources, including hardware, software, networks, processes and people.

Supporting changing business processes is not easy. Enterprises are becoming more virtualized as business processes are increasingly distributed across organizations. At the same time, the technology environment is shifting dramatically. The evolution of on-demand computing is accelerating the virtualization of IT resources.

To complicate matters even more, the evolving service-oriented software architecture is expanding the distribution of IT services across sources both inside and outside the enterprise. These rapid shifts are making it ever more difficult to manage business processes and the IT resources that drive them.

To meet the challenge, IT professionals need to transform their orientation from “managing boxes” to managing IT resources from a business perspective. They should understand the enterprise’s business processes and how the components of the IT infrastructure support these processes.

Three key technologies have emerged in the evolution of IT systems management to permit management from a business perspective: configuration management database (CMDB), automatic discovery and service impact modeling.

  • Configuration Management Database

    Implementing a CMDB is an important step in IT systems management. It can provide a company with a single source of truth about its IT assets. It acts as a central repository for the wealth of data gathered and maintained by system management solutions. Moreover, it ensures that all systems management solutions interoperating with the CMDB use consistent information. With a centralized and robust CMDB, IT Service Management (ITSM) processes can be driven across system management solutions with the necessary process integration, which is key to implementing IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices.

    A CMDB should ensure the accuracy of data by automatically reconciling it across disparate data sources. A CMDB with reconciled data will be the cornerstone of delivery capability.

  • Automatic Discovery

    Automatic discovery is another key technology. The tools, which continually gather information to populate and update the CMDB, have become essential since it is no longer practical, because of the extreme complexity and dynamic nature of today’s IT infrastructures, to manually gather and maintain configuration information to support ITSM best practices.

    These automatic discovery solutions should be integrated with a CMDB. The advanced solutions discover physical and logical interrelationships in the IT infrastructure, such as the logical topology of SAP, J2EE, and PeopleSoft enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Also, a variety of standards, such as XML and business process execution language (BPEL), will enable the extension of these capabilities.

  • Service Impact Modeling

    Service impact modeling technology is another important piece of the puzzle. It permits modeling of the relationships among IT resources and business services. The technology can increase the automation of model creation, slashing the time and effort required to generate models. It will also permit automatic updates, dynamically changing models to reflect changes in the environments, resulting in faster time-to-IT-value creation and a greater ability to adapt to business needs.

  • The Next Step – Keeping Business Processes Up and Running

    So what’s the next step? As large-scale business processes are disassembled into smaller components, these process components are then distributed both inside and outside the enterprise. For example, Automobile manufacturers are disassembling their manufacturing processes and parceling out component processes to suppliers.

    Enabled primarily by advances in technology, this evolution allows enterprises to focus on the areas in which they can add the most value, and rely on suppliers and partners to deliver the other components.

    At the same time, IT systems are transforming into virtualized environments, enabled by the convergence of the Internet, wireless networking, on-demand computing architectures, and service-oriented software architectures. Virtualization offers far more efficient use of IT resources for lower cost, higher resource utilization, and greater ability to adapt to changing conditions.

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