In a world of TLAs, it is always interesting when you come across a new one. In my case it was BTM (Business Transaction Management). For those of us concerned with the development and improvement of business processes, we already have the TLA BAM (Business Activity Monitoring or Management). So what if the difference between BTM and BAM I hear you say?

Wikipedia defines BTM as ‘an approach to managing IT from a business transaction perspective. BTM aims to guarantee service quality for users conducting business transactions while simultaneously optimising the IT applications and infrastructure across which those transactions execute.’

It requires the ability to capture and to track all transactions, across all IT tiers, automatically and continuously. The only problem with this definition is what is meant by the term ‘business transaction’?

Recently I had a briefing with Russell Rothstein, VP Product Marketing of OpTier and he explained that a business process, triggered by a business event, is made up of one or more business transactions. He went on to expand that, in today’s complex business world, where parts of the business can be outsourced to partners, there was a real need to be able to monitor from the beginning to the end with all points in between.

A number of factors have lead to the demand for the development of BTM software:

  • Modern applications have become more complex, modular, distributed, interdependent and sensitive to environmental conditions
  • IT infrastructure has become a complex multi tier environment
  • The rise of service-oriented architecture in systems development
  • The introduction and rise of service level agreements of all sorts

These factors have resulted in, as Rothstein put it, problems ‘disappearing’ and ‘popping-up’ without any notice, constant fire fighting and, in the worst case, support teams failing to ‘recreate’ the issues. When you get down to the practicalities, Rothstein stated that it was hard to avoid outages and that recovery times had reached levels of unacceptability to meet business demands. I liked one of Rothstein’s comments as I felt it reflected a business view of the issues, ‘Capacity can’t be measured from the business perspective’.

As businesses and government organisations move towards more and more reliance on the IT applications to support them in the services they offer to customers and the management of the business itself, so there is more functionality required and delivered with growing volumes of data that need to be collected, analysed and reported.

Integration for a business process now means there is a need for complete integration from front to back office and this has to include not only IT transactions in applications but also human workflow processes. At the same time, IT technology is now introducing virtualisation and advocating infrastructure consolidation, plus the use of the cloud. All these new innovations make the business requirements for regulatory compliance of the auditing of business transactions much more complex.

The key, then, of BTM software is the ability to automatically discover real user transactions and monitor them 24×7, checking service levels and sending alerts before any issue can impact business. This means using self-configuring agents that collect transaction data at the OS level.

However, it is not enough just to discover all the components of a business transaction, it is equally important to document under a Master Data Management (MDM) capability so that version and variant management can be added to the armoury. What else do you need from s BTM tool? In an article on his blog in November 2008, Doug McClure listed these capabilities:

  • Transaction Tracing: This focused on in-flight transactions, flows and paths, transaction tuning and optimisation, transaction troubleshooting, complex relationships with other systems applications databases. This component includes transaction latency tracking, timing and profiling
  • Transaction Monitoring: This component handles the monitoring of every aspect of the transaction, performance, availability, capacity, SLA, and timings
  • Transaction Intelligence and Analytics: This component provides analytics to transactions to learn, monitor and manage transactions with applied intelligence

McClure makes a very telling point about BTM: ‘BTM matters because the transactions are the things that get stuff done in business. They are the finite units of work that are the backbone of every business.’ So will BTM replace your existing monitoring tools? The answer is no. It complements them and provides a view of what is happening n your IT enabled business processes across all levels.