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IBM Pulse2011 Conference: Helping Enterprises Get Smarter

Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, "This is like deja vu all over again," and that is what last week's IBM Pulse2011 conference in Las Vegas felt like. The event had the same title, "The Premier Service Management Event," and the subtitle, "Optimizing the World's Infrastructure," as last year's conference. This year's conference also had essentially the same message, with some exceptions, such as an emphasis on Smarter Computing. But that is not a bad thing. As was noted many times during Pulse2011, integrated service management is a journey. For most enterprises, that journey takes much longer than a year, so staying the course is important.

Of course, that does not mean that there were not a lot of announcements and a flurry of activity. Pulse2011 attendance was about 7,000, which is about 30 percent over last year. So there was a lot of hustling and bustling and, as an obvious proponent of IT, I found it a positive indication that the IT business is continuing to grow and change--hopefully, to the benefit of everyone.

Accurately describing integrated service management (ISM) would seem to require a sweeping IMAX presentation, so trying to boil it down is likely to leave out many key concepts. Still, I intend to try. ISM is about managing across all of the service supply chain, and that includes not only the infrastructure (physical in addition to digital), but also the people and processes that make that infrastructure function effectively and efficiently. Three key aspects of ISM are:

  • Breadth--The notion of breadth is used in relation to many IT efforts and solutions, including cloud computing, the data center and the IT infrastructure. ISM touches on all of these, as well as the business infrastructure and the people and processes that interact with that infrastructure. After all, IBM's inclusion of the word "optimizing" in its "Optimizing the World's Infrastructure" strategy touches virtually any and all of the services and outcomes that infrastructure delivers. It does you no good to drive a car when you do not have a destination in mind, a mental map for getting there, or an inkling of why you were going there in the first place or know why this was the best destination for you at that time. Bottom line: ISM aims to commonly extend the logical structure and benefits of technology across virtually all of a company's IT and business processes.

  • Management--Management has many aspects, though the old saw "you can't manage what you don't measure" overstates the case as it touches only one aspect of the process. Businesses that have had a lot of holes in their measurement abilities often make sub-optimal decisions, but measurement alone does not solve problems. After collecting and measuring the right data, you must effectively analyze it to extract the insights that allow you to make the right decisions and achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Integration--The final key aspect of ISM is integration, which means considering the business and IT infrastructure as a whole. This is foreign to organizations where specialized silos have been the norm, but the problem here is that optimum performance in individual local silos may not add up to an optimum for the global whole. In plainer English, in siloed infrastructures, the whole is not nearly efficient as it could be. ISM aims to lead to better decisions and better outcomes that improve business efficiencies and success.

Now, enterprises are constantly changing, so integration will probably never be fully complete and ISM is probably a journey that will never end. But organizations that can pursue the old 80/20 rule--where 20 percent of the work yields 80 percent of the benefits--may find that ISM solutions can make a real difference.

Of course, ISM plays directly into IBM's Smarter Planet initiative, and driving the ISM push are the three key words of IBM's "interconnected," "instrumented" and "intelligent" Smarter Planet strategy. But what do these key words mean? IBM describes interconnected as being about people and systems that interact in new ways; instrumented as being about the ability to measure, sense and see the exact condition of everything; and intelligent as the ability of processes and assets to respond quickly and accurately to information that affects them.

IBM believes ISM revolves around visibility, control and automation--so much so that the company has trademarked "visibility, control and automation." IBM sees visibility as monitoring in real time; control as the ability to react quickly and effectively; and automation as the means to achieve efficiency. Of course, IBM gets down to technologies, and three key areas are cloud computing, workload-optimized systems and federated information.

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