Every business is a complex array of teams, departments, resources, and goals. Businesses that succeed are those who are able to manage multiple priorities at once and reconcile competing interests into a single, unified strategy.
Technology — including apps, systems, and data — play a central, critical role in helping businesses manage this juggling act. That means that the IT teams who manage this technology are key to business success.
This is what business service management is all about: it’s a structured approach to leveraging technology and IT services to create a cohesive whole out of the disparate parts of the business. In this guide, we look at business service management or (BSM) in detail to explain what it is, how it works, and why it’s essential for any company that wants to thrive.
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What is business service management?
Business Service Management (BSM) refers to a structured method for aligning an organization’s IT services and capabilities with the business strategy and operations. In more concrete terms, BSM refers to the creation of service-level and operational-level agreements, rules, policies, and procedures that integrate IT capabilities and insights into the broader business framework.
The problem BSM seeks to address is this: as the core business processes have become increasingly dependent on technology and IT, the relationship between IT and the teams that depended on them had to evolve. These teams needed IT to be strategic partners rather than fulfillment centers. They also needed guarantees that the services that IT teams provide would be available to them with consistency and predictability.
The primary goal of BSM is to ensure that all processes within the business have the IT resources — meaning people and technology — to support them. The secondary goal of BSM is to anticipate future IT needs and to identify new ways that the business can leverage IT and technology into a competitive advantage.
How does BSM work across the organization?
Think of BSM as the connective tissue that holds the business operations together. Every department and team relies on an arrangement of apps, systems, and processes to achieve their goals. IT teams ensure that the technology is aligned with both the processes and the goals of the team.
To make this idea more concrete, think about all the data integrations and security protocols that come into play within any department. IT teams manage and oversee these aspects in order to make sure that data is available when it’s needed and to prevent unauthorized access to company information. IT is also responsible for system maintenance, uptime, and optimization.
In a healthy business ecosystem, each team has the tools and data they need to do their work with efficiency and accuracy. Business service management is the work of helping that ecosystem thrive and, when necessary, adapt.
Integrating IT services across teams and departments
Past business models sometimes built a silo around the IT team. While this may have made for an efficient and focused IT department, it also meant that disconnects between IT teams and business units were common.
As a result, other areas of the business such as finance, HR, customer service, and sales encountered dependencies and bottlenecks when they needed help from IT. A typical IT-business team relationship might look like this: when a problem arose, the business team would send a ticket to an IT team. The IT received the ticket, but may not have all the information or context needed to provide a solution.
Once missing or incomplete information was resolved, the IT team would triage the situation and begin the process of building a solution. This model of IT service management resulted in fragmentation, delays, and missed opportunities. Critically, it meant that IT teams were reactive in their responses to the business units.
BSM provides an alternative approach that bridges these gaps and allows IT teams to be more proactive. BSM ensures that systems and apps are connected across teams, and that they are managed in a way that is:
- Coordinated between departments
- Comprehensive in scope
- Centralized across the organization
In the context of BSM, IT teams help the business achieve its goals by playing a role in the management and strategy of all processes. For example, the IT team is responsible for cross-team data management, tracking KPIs, and identifying new opportunities for process improvement and automation.
Every team in the business relies on data. Since data is captured, processed, and stored by many different apps and systems, IT teams work to increase visibility and security, while also dissolving data silos and ensuring that teams have the right apps, systems, and analytics tools to help them do their jobs.
IT teams simplify access to data while simultaneously maintaining its integrity and enforcing governance and compliance requirements. As a result, business leaders have the information they need to stay decision-ready and build a business strategy.
Every team relies on some set of metrics to gauge its performance and determine if goals are being met. The complexity of current tech stacks and the volume of data that is available can make it difficult for teams to identify and access the data they need. In a BSM architecture, IT teams have the tools and resources to ensure that every business team is able to track its KPIs.
Identifying improvement opportunities
In a BSM model, the goal is for teams to be more proactive and less reactive. This means anticipating problems before they occur, as well as looking for opportunities to improve processes and achieve operational excellence even when a problem isn’t present. IT helps by evaluating and monitoring all types of business processes and determining if and when changes should be made.
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Why is business service management important?
BSM is important because it allows business teams to get maximum value from the technology and IT services available to them. BSM builds synergy between business units and IT teams and amplifies their ability to achieve business goals.
Beyond this, there are several benefits that come from implementing a business service management model:
- Faster service delivery
- More visibility for requestors
- Greater stack extensibility
- Fewer process gaps
- Closer business team-IT alignment
- More process standardization
Faster service delivery
In order to remain agile, business teams need to be able to respond to competitor activity, customer feedback, and changes in the market. A BSM architecture can shorten the time it takes to optimize processes and workflows, or solve problems when they occur.
More visibility for requestors
The BSM model can also improve the service delivery experience. With the right tools, requesters can track the status of their tickets and can be automatically notified when status changes or when additional information or action is required.
Greater stack extensibility
Staying competitive means getting as much from the existing tech stack as possible. The alignment between business teams and IT services that comes from a BSM model can help teams get the maximum value from legacy systems and existing apps, instead of continually adding on to or endlessly customizing them. Learn more about stack extensibility.
Fewer process gaps
New processes and workflows emerge all the time. When these new processes fall outside the capabilities of the existing systems and tools, gaps occur. BSM helps teams identify and address these gaps.
Closer business team-IT alignment
The BSM model allows business and IT teams to work together as co-creators to solve problems and optimize processes. This is especially true when low-code automation tools are used as part of the BSM architecture.
More process standardization
Standardized, structured processes lead to more consistent outcomes and make it easier for IT teams to enforce security, governance, and compliance standards. Structured processes also result in better experiences for employees and customers.
What are the challenges in business service management?
Although BSM offers significant benefits, successful implementation requires investments of time and money. It may also require the organization to undergo some changes to the company culture.
By far the most pressing challenge to BSM — or any other IT-focused initiative — is the ongoing shortage of developer talent. By one estimate, the number of open jobs in the IT sector will continue to outpace qualified candidates through the rest of the decade, resulting in a net shortage of 85 million IT workers by 2030. As a result, many companies are turning to low-code platforms to help close the talent gap.
Business service management best practices
An effective BSM strategy requires coordination and careful planning. Cross-team collaboration, data integration, security, and access are all factors that can make or break a BSM implementation. Regardless of the business size or complexity, some BSM best practices should be applied universally:
- Map every process
- Standardize each workflow
- Centralize requests
- Supplement systems of record with systems of engagement
- Anticipate process gaps
- Automate repetitive tasks
- Engage with low-code
Map every process
Business service management is by nature a complex machine. This complexity makes it prone to confusion, bottlenecks, and delays. Process mapping can help teams manage this complexity by defining processes, standardizing the flow of work, and establishing accountability.
Standardize each workflow
Standardization helps teams avoid errors and produces more consistent outcomes. It also makes it easier for IT teams to enforce security and compliance requirements. Standardized workflows can create better user experiences and reduce barriers to collaboration.
Successful BSM depends on having a centralized system for service request management. Centralization helps teams meet SLA targets and avoid duplication. Centralization also makes it easier to monitor statuses and identify bottlenecks. Supplement systems of record with systems of engagement.
One of the most common barriers to BSM is a tech stack that functions as a system of record rather than a system of engagement. Systems of record are good for maintaining control and protecting data by restricting access. Systems of engagement do a better job of helping business users collaborate with IT and integrating various apps and systems.
Anticipate process gaps
Business needs change, and that means processes and workflows will have to evolve. In some cases, that means new types of processes and workflows will need to be developed. Some of these can be managed with the components of the existing tech stack, others will require more creative solutions. Anticipate and plan for these process gaps by using tools with more flexibility, such as low-code.
Automate repetitive tasks
Successful business service management hinges upon efficiency. Automation supports BSM by facilitating the speed of work and the flow of information. Repetitive tasks such as capturing incoming requests, converting requests to tickets, updating statuses, entering data, and sending emails can all be managed with automation tools. Automation also helps teams avoid errors and streamlines their work by routing items to the appropriate person.
Engage with low-code
Low-code tools are known primarily for enabling faster development of software, but they can also speed up a range of other activities that occur in BSM initiatives. For example, process optimization, workflow development, and task automation can all be managed with low-code. The benefit of low-code is that it reduces the amount of coding required for these changes, so IT teams are able to conserve their resources.
Components of service management
An optimal business service management (BSM) strategy will include several key components such as:
- Defined service relationships
- SLAs and other agreements
- Process documentation
When integrating your IT department into the rest of your business, maintaining service relationships between multiple disparate teams can be a challenge. The key is to focus on the creation of value between IT and other departments, showing them what the IT team can do to help them on a daily basis.
After you’ve proven utility and shown how the integration of IT into the rest of your business will benefit the company in the long run, focus on your products, services, utility, and stakeholder needs and requirements.
Because business service management is a complex undertaking, tools are just as important as strategy. Companies have many options when it comes to BSM tools, and a good fit will be determined by the specific needs and structure of the business.
Some of the most flexible and popular choices for BSM include:
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Delivering efficient, cost-effective BSM isn’t easy. It requires planning, collaboration, and the careful distribution of IT resources.
Pipefy simplifies and centralizes BSM initiatives by combining a low-code framework with process automation technology. Pipefy gives business users the tools they need to manage their workflows, track their requests, and stay agile. IT teams maintain control through process standardization and security reinforcement.