Business Activity Mapping (BAM) is a method of charting relationships that documents and subsequently clarifies the connection between IT activities and business processes.

The process involves three steps:

  1. Mapping activities. Identifying and defining key business and operational activities.
  2. Assessing criticality. Classifying applications and IT services by importance.
  3. Defining service. Determining the level of dependency of those activities on IT services.

Benefits of Business Activity Mapping

Implementing a BAM exercise has significant payback as a strategic planning and business alignment tool. Its use as a planning tool can positively influence several IT governance activities.

BAM provides the following benefits:

  • Clarifies impact for incident classification. By relating IT resources to business activities, BAM helps IT determine the impact of application errors on the enterprise. This creates a blueprint for incident management workflow based on business impact.
  • Relates the ability of IT to meet service levels. Associating IT technical operations with business functions gives IT a better negotiation point for service levels associated with each application. It enables IT to have a broader understanding of the types of technical requirements that will be required to meet promised levels.
  • Lays the groundwork for a service catalog. BAM is good starting point for an IT service portfolio. This can be boiled down to a service catalog which allows IT to present services from a business perspective instead of a technically-oriented perspective.
  • Facilitates change management. Mapping out relations between businesses activities and IT assets allows IT to have a better understanding of how maintenance activities can be carried out with minimal disruption to the business.
  • Outlines needs for disaster recovery. Aligning business activities to IT assets gives a clear indication as to which assets require what level of protection and redundancy.

Key Considerations

BAM is a good starting point for the development of service documentation because it addresses the most essential question in IT service management: What shape, form, and degree of IT services are required to support the business process? For a concrete example of the value of BAM to service documentation, consider the service catalog. Many organizations find a service inventory or service catalog is an effective means to communicate IT offerings and performance to a business audience. It can be used to set expectations, to report performance, and to clarify costs. However, service catalogs can be used for more than a PR tool to demonstrate IT value. To gain greater utility from a service catalog, add details such as:

  1. Service levels. A publication of the level of support business users can expect from IT.
  2. Cost to the business. A way to link costs to IT services whether or not IT operates on a chargeback model.

Service catalogs and internal service level agreements (SLAs) are client-facing documents. They represent a relationship between IT and the business. IT leaders must have the IT service portfolio established, and be aware of operating level requirements before publishing “what IT can deliver” to clients. For this reason alone, BAM is an essential first step when developing and publishing IT service documentation. It really is the foundation of the IT service portfolio.
In Figure 1 below, the client-facing documents are supported by a backbone of IT-facing documentation.

Figure 1. IT and Client-Facing Service Documentation
Source: Info-Tech Research Group


Service Documentation Glossary

  • IT Service portfolio. IT develops a service portfolio to cover service on all current applications based on IT’s application portfolio.
  • SLAs. IT puts together and negotiates service levels with the business around core applications.
  • Operational level agreements (OLAs) and underpinning agreements. These are more technically oriented agreements which tie business service requirements to internal IT operations, OLAs, or third-party vendor contracts with underpinning agreements.
  • Service catalog. A service catalog is the customer-facing window business users have into the IT service portfolio. It should reflect services which are relevant to the business as opposed to the full capabilities of the IT department. Service levels, once determined, should be included in the catalog.

Step 1: Map, Identify, and Define Key Business Activities and IT Apps & Services

The first step in BAM involves listing all enterprise activities. The level of granularity with which this is documented will depend heavily on the level of complexity and degree to which technology is involved in the business. The more involved IT is with the business and the more applications it supports, the more likely that each activity will depend on differing IT assets. These business activities are then mapped to IT services and applications (as seen in Table 1).

Table 1. BAM Sample: Sales Department
Source: Info-Tech Research Group

Business Activity/Service Desktops Telephony IT Help Desk Support App Development Printing Email Collaboration Project Management
Rentals High High High Medium Medium High Low
Installations High Low Low Medium Low High Low
Special Projects High High High Low Low High High
Resale Program High High High Medium Low High Low
Consulting Services High High High Medium Low High Low


Business Activity/Service Exchange Server MS Project HD Ticket Mgmt Sales Web CRM Custom Knowledge Mgmt Application Corporate Employee Mgmt DB
Rentals x   x x   x x
Installations x x x   x x x
Special Projects x   x   x x x
Resale Program x   x     x x
Consulting Services     x x x x x

Step 2: Application Classification and Service Process by Impact

Once a connection has been established between the applications supported by IT and the business processes, it becomes easier to identify apps according to their value and impact on the business.

  • Core application. Applications such as e-mail or enterprise-wide applications which affect every department and are core to the ability of the organization to function.
  • Departmental applications. Applications that are core to a single department’s ability to perform its main functions.
  • Generic applications. Applications such as MS Office which may be used across multiple business units for various purposes.

The more predominant an application is within the business, the greater the impact if errors, outages, or changes occur. Such enterprise-wide applications should be classified as core applications.

Step 3: Mapping Out IT Support

With activities mapped and services classified, IT must then determine the level of support. This could be expressed in units of IT labor hours or by hard dollar value where applicable. Some example units are listed below. Developing an accurate cost or resource assessment can be challenging and should be viewed as an ongoing effort. At first instance it may be an educated guess, but as the process matures, the data becomes more and more relevant.

Table 2. Determining Levels of IT Support
Source: Info-Tech Research Group

IT Service


Example  Units

Application Maintenance

How much work is required internally or externally to support applications?

Application team/number of applications = Application team work per application
# of business processes involved per application

Application Development

How much work is done internally or externally to add new functionality to enterprise Web sites?

IT development costs
# of business processes connected to application

Data Center Resources

What type of maintenance is required to support servers associated with the application?

Server room power consumption/total servers
Server maintenance costs per server/ # of apps running

Help Desk Support

How much help desk support is involved in supporting end users?

Help desk tickets classified per application
# of business processes connected to application

Network Infrastructure

How do additional applications affect WAN costs?

Cost to upgrade WAN
# of applications supported


Business activity mapping is a formal, in-depth process which requires commitment from key stakeholders. Keep the following recommendations in mind to accomplish this activity successfully:

  1. View this activity as an IT-wide strategic initiative for building IT business alignment. While BAM is useful for developing IT service management capabilities, it is inherently an IT strategy activity that can be used to drive many IT initiatives from DRP to incident management workflows. Consider this a top level activity and invest the appropriate amount of time and resources given the degree of value it can generate for the business’s technology strategy.  
  2. Involve the business. Business analysts, representatives, and corporate stakeholders must play a part in flushing out business activities. The value of BAM comes from incorporating business input into IT planning. Without input from outside of IT, this process will become an act of futility.
  3. Make BAM an IT-wide initiative. Involvement in mapping IT support should go beyond the service desk. Be sure to involve stakeholders from applications, networking, and data center in the process. Leading the charge without full IT commitment will make this process difficult if not impossible.

Bottom Line

IT departments looking to move towards a service-oriented IT delivery model must use business activity mapping to link IT assets and services to business processes. This process helps align IT activities with business impact and paves the way for identifying the true cost of IT service. 

More Information:

Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)

A Business Friendly Approach to IT Service Management

© 1998-2009 Info-Tech Research Group. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission

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