IBM Solutions for Smart Business manage
services, application performance

Small and mid-sized businesses need smarter, more centralized IT solutions

SERVICE MANAGEMENT IN ACTION Today many organizations’ information technology (IT) challenge often comes down to this: How can we achieve more business value from less IT infrastructure? Part of the reason for this lies in the persistently unpredictable economy, in which every dollar counts and ROI takes on a special premium. But part of it also stems from the ad hoc way IT architectures have grown and evolved.

The outcome, too often, is an infrastructure divided by technical domains that responds too slowly to unpredictable workload demands or business strategies, and is difficult to manage from a service management standpoint. While the various IT domains may work well in isolation, they don't always collectively manage services well from end to end.

As a result, centralized, cross-domain solutions have become much more appealing for small and mid-market organizations, where basic resources—staffing and funding—typically aren’t abundantly available. IBM Service Manager for Smart Business and IBM Application Manager for Smart Business are turnkey appliances designed for quick and easy implementation and integration, yet both deliver exceptional value across a broad variety of different IT domains and tasks. They help organizations turn the focus from the technology per se to what really matters—minimizing interruptions of core business processes and simplifying the implementation of business strategies.

They also epitomize what IBM means by "smart business": instead of simply more infrastructure, the goal should be more efficient, cost-efficient, and business-prioritized utilization of the infrastructure. For small and mid-market organizations with limited staffing and funding, that's very smart indeed.

IBM Application Manager for Smart Business: Centralized IT status monitoring and reporting

“Centralized, cross-domain solutions are now much more appealing for organizations of all sizes. And certainly that's true for small and mid-market organizations, where basic resources—staffing and funding—aren’t abundantly available.”

How comprehensively and swiftly does your organization track and monitor the infrastructure's emerging problems? Newly installed services generally perform as intended, but with time, service levels degrade as demands increase, resources diminish and business requirements change. The capability to easily view the infrastructure as a whole (bird’s-eye), examine performance logs and drill down into specific network segments or individual server workloads is needed to achieve proactive IT management. Clearly, the faster and more accurately technical problems can be detected, isolated and resolved, the more business value the infrastructure yields.

Outdated methods typically use a broad set of disparate tools, each mapping to a particular domain and each with its own interface and information repository. The problems with such an approach are clear; IT managers are required to check each tool in turn, glean information from it, and combine that information with the information drawn from others to arrive at a holistic concept of the overall performance of a given service. Should a service run into issues, minimizing mean time to repair (MTTR) is no dead cinch. Furthermore, as IT becomes more central to business success, slow IT problem resolution becomes a bigger and bigger problem—and centralized, automated, business-optimized monitoring solutions become more and more attractive.

IBM Application Manager for Smart Business helps your IT staff monitor the infrastructure either as it performs currently, in real-time, or in a historical context compared against past performance levels. Essentially, this solution is driven by technology drawn from IBM Tivoli Monitoring (ITM)—the enterprise-class, leading monitoring solution used by the very largest organizations with the most complex infrastructures. Specifically, IBM Application Manager for Smart Business features ITM's monitoring agent, which can be deployed anywhere in the infrastructure to collect detailed server and network device information. ITM agents make it much simpler to evaluate service levels in a practical sense: the yardstick of business goals.

IBM Application Manager for Smart Business comes preconfigured with monitoring agents for servers, network switches and routers, databases, and various business applications—essentially every common layer and logical cluster of IT solutions and assets. Collected data is logged, analyzed and rendered into key performance indicators (KPIs) depicted in intuitive, color-coded graphs and charts. Operational performance data can even be customized for particular contexts—job roles or groups—via workspaces.

Even more business value stems from additional utilization of that same information. Suppose for instance a given database is deemed mission-critical, and it’s running out of available storage. IBM Application Manager for Smart Business will detect that growing problem and automatically generate an alert to the appropriate IT team member.

Finally, as an appliance, IBM Application Manager for Smart Business is exceptionally easy to install and configure, and requires little direct oversight subsequently—a true turnkey offering, well suited to the budget-and-time-challenged nature of IT at small and mid-market organizations.

IBM Service Manager for Smart Business: An all-in-one service desk and a self-help portal

How quickly and easily does your organization address reported problems and is there an end-to-end process for assigning severity levels, allocating resources and informing affected users of service resumption? Service desks can be seen as the human version of the IT monitoring and reporting platform. As problems occur, users report them (with varying degrees of accuracy and technical competence). The faster these problems can be resolved, the more productive your users are likely to be. Service desk management often serves to magnify the strengths or weaknesses of overall IT fitness, and it's an area where even relatively limited improvement can yield a big business impact.

For small and mid-market organizations, there may not be much of a service desk function at all. Many depend upon ad hoc implementations including spreadsheets or open-source solutions that were either never specifically designed for this purpose or have long since outlived their usefulness. Unsurprisingly, the outcome is generally slower resolution of reported problems, lack of prioritization in problem-solving, lack of analysis of the acquired data, and, generally, a diminished business outcome from IT and employee productivity overall.

IBM Service Manager for Smart Business represents a dramatically superior solution. It works in exactly the ways small and mid-market organizations need most—by driving value across multiple domains via a unified platform, and by utilizing the data it collects far more intelligently than competing alternatives. Like IBM Application Manager for Smart Business, it's an appliance that is simple to install and configure, and once it's up and running, the solution almost immediately begins to yield a better outcome.

How? The appliance includes process workflows or preconfigured templates to drive information from point A to point B and arrive at a superior business result. The Service Manager’s built-in intelligence is based on years of ITIL best practices solutions and relieves IT staff members from the burden of repetitive data analysis. The solution effortlessly maps the right information to the right people (as determined by job duties) via the right sequence of events, substantially accelerating the speed and accuracy of problem resolution and making employees more productive, more quickly.

An additional strength: it supports remote diagnostics. This empowers your IT staff to collect information from designated endpoints in the network, such as user desktop or laptop machines, and take direct action on that endpoint to address problems when possible. Instead of having to make a physical trip to that user's desk, most problems can be resolved over the network—a far more efficient and cost-efficient use of IT staff time.

Still more business value arises from the self-help portal. This Web browser service gives users the power to research and solve their own problems. For example, users can reset their own passwords via the portal, which walks them through the process. Meanwhile, IT staff are free to attend to more complex tasks of higher business priority.

Finally, IT can even use IBM Service Manager for Smart Business to evaluate itself. Thanks to the included survey management features, IT has the power to poll users directly, asking them to describe and quantify their satisfaction levels with the service desk. Over time, as information is acquired, it can then suggest optimizations and improvements—ensuring that the solution becomes a closer and closer match to the organization's unique requirements.

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