|How PowerPoint Fell in Love with “Aligning IT with Business”|
|Written by Bojan Simic|
|January 26, 2010|
Once in a while, IT management vendors pick up a theme that their customers are very interested in; they start building their marketing messaging around it, write white papers about it, and have it all over their websites. Before you know it, what originally was a legitimate request from end-user organizations for addressing challenges that they have, it becomes a marketing term that is very difficult to define for end-users. “Aligning IT with business” is becoming a very good example of that.
The fact is, the majority of end-user organizations are still struggling to come up with a set of metrics that would help them understand how their IT initiatives are contributing to their business goals. These organizations are allocating a significant part of their enterprise budgets to their IT initiatives and they need to figure out:
So the need to align IT is a true pain point for end-user organizations and they are willing to invest in technology that will help them with that. But what technology is the best fit?
In the last two weeks only, I’ve had a number of briefings with vendors that are providing different types of technology solutions: application monitoring, application acceleration, network management, business transaction management, etc. Almost all of them had “aligning IT with business” on one of the first 2-3 slides that they presented. That almost becomes a message, such as “do more with less” or “improve employee productivity”. There is about 15 different classes of technology and more than 300 vendors that can help you with these goals.
For a long time, IT management vendors were trying to make a case that C-level executives and line of business owners (LoB) should care about the value of their solutions. They wanted to get in front of folks that have more signing power, and they are finally getting their chance. They are well on their way to confuse the heck out of these people.
From the technology perspective, the closest fit for helping organizations understand the impact of their IT infrastructure on business performance are Business Service Management (BSM) solutions. However, many end-user organizations perceive BSM as a management concept, not a class of technology per se. From a vendors’ perspective, BSM typically means a product or service that monitors the health of business services by being able to drill down into the performance of each part of enterprise infrastructure. The bottom line is that BSM is a management concept and includes more than just the implementation of technology solutions for monitoring the health of IT services from a business perspective, but it is also important to note that deployments of these technology solutions are one of the key enablers of BSM implementations that end-users are looking for.
Leading BSM vendors such as HP, Compuware, CA, IBM, Quest Software or BMC do provide robust capabilities for managing IT operations from the perspective of key business services. The list of vendors that provide similar capabilities can be extended to include vendors that are increasingly growing their market presence, such as Nimsoft or some emerging vendors in this market such as AccelOps. However, it should be noted that even within a BSM group of vendors there are some major differences in terms of capabilities that they can provide. For example, very few of them have the capabilities for monitoring end-user experience from both inside and outside of the corporate firewall. Their capabilities for monitoring network performance are very different, and some of them have more advanced dashboards for mapping the performance of IT infrastructure to business processes, etc.
On the other hand, there are several groups of vendors that do not necessarily provide full BSM solutions, but a mix of capabilities that are very valuable for organizations that are looking to understand the business value of their IT initiatives. For example, Gomez is not providing a full suite of BSM capabilities, but a combination of their ExperienceFirst platform and Business Pulse product allows business executives to understand how the performance of their Web applications (speed, availability, etc.) impacts their business goals (conversions, page views, revenue generation, etc.). Also, AlertSite’s recent integration of Google Analytics data with their Web monitoring capabilities allows business and IT teams to get a better understanding of how application performance impacts usage patterns for website visitors.
Even application acceleration vendors are delivering similar capabilities. A good example is Crescendo Networks, who, in addition to Web acceleration solutions, offers an AppBeat SC product that allows organizations to collect transactional data and monitor the impact that Web performance has on business processes.
From the technology perspective, this is not where “aligning IT with business” ends. A current economic climate caused CIOs to lose some of their power to CFOs and now organizations are looking to develop a set of internal processes, technology capabilities and performance metrics that would help them to answer the following questions:
There are several groups of technology solutions that go beyond the BSM space whose capabilities are needed if organizations are looking to answer these questions. Business Transaction Management/Monitoring vendors, such as OpTier, Precise, dynaTrace, Nastel or INETCO, are at the forefront of this, as they focus on the impact of the performance of revenue generating applications on business goals. Also, there are vendors, such as Aternity or Knoa Software, that can help organizations to determine how many users are impacted by application performance issues or map applications to business processes that they are supporting. Again, these vendors do not provide a full suite of capabilities that can help organizations with understanding how their IT performance is impacting business goals, but they play a very important role in that process.
Having the ability to measure the availability of your organization’s business-critical applications is very different from being able to understand how many business-critical transactions were not completed because these applications were not available and what the business value of these transactions is. Also, being able to monitor the response times of your applications is very different from being able to understand how the speed of these applications impacts the effectiveness of business processes and your organization’s ability to generate revenue. The end result is that organizations are looking for technology capabilities that will allow them to integrate their IT performance data with their business dashboards and use this information to improve the business value of their IT services. From a technology perspective, that is what “aligning IT with business” really means for end-users.
However, achieving this goal requires not only technology, but also making adjustments to organizational structure, workflows of business processes and formal lines of communication. More importantly, it requires a well defined enterprise-wide strategy that includes very specific objectives. If you are an end-user organization that is taking these actions internally, it will become more apparent as to what technology capabilities you really need.
Tags: end-user, management, business, technology, point, organizations, initiatives, marketing, contributing, investments, aligning, invest, pain