Increasing numbers of enterprises will adopt business service management (BSM) in an "explosive change", driven by cost pressures, enterprises' increasing use of virtualisation and new compliance requirements, the head of infrastructure vendor BMC Software has predicted.

The automation of IT departments' own processes would create a fundamental shift in practice, BMC chief executive Bob Beauchamp told delegates at the BMC UserWorld conference in Prague. "IT is the least automated department of any department in the enterprise today."

IT departments tended to rely on long serving individuals with "tribal knowledge" of systems to troubleshoot - "part of the problem our industry has had for 20 years".

Beauchamp compared IT departments' position with that of the fairy tale cobbler who makes shoes for all the village children except his own.

IT departments had provided management information systems for human resources, sales, production and other enterprise departments, but when problems arose in the IT department itself, "we still use manual processes day in day out - that's not scaleable".

He warned: "That model over time will collapse and I believe that time is happening now."

There would be an "explosive change in the industry", he predicted, with the adoption of BSM moving IT departments from chaotic manual systems to "ERP For IT".

"Virtualisation, SOA [service oriented architecture] and compliance requirements will force this now at a rate we've never seen before," he said.

Large enterprises were now faced with huge labour time costs to manage and maintain their maintain their IT assets, he said, citing IT services firm EDS, which spends an estimated 80% of its costs for managing between 4m and 5m desktops a year on staffing. If enterprises were to reduce these costs "there must be automation", he said.

Figures from analyst firm Forrester showing that with 75% of IT budgets spent on infrastructure, BSM could save up to 25%, he added.

Automation through BSM would also offer a "single source of truth" about IT assets, processes and performance that would help meet compliance requirements, Beauchamp told the conference.

Beauchamp later told CIO that BSM was essential to meeting new compliance requirements such as the US Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. "I don't see how you can go on complying without it," he said. "All you're talking about is process mapping. The configuration management database keeps track of the relations between your IT infrastructure and IT processes."

Regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley required the documentation and testing of processes, he said. "BSM allows us to document and automate the IT process."

The BSM market is expected to grow by 15% a year, but it was hard to estimate how widespread the uptake of BSM by enterprises actually is, he admitted. "We're in that phase of BSM that so many people are converting, it's difficult to size."

Forrester analyst Thomas Mendel said: "People have acknowledged that BSM is important." But he added: "We need another five years for people to really, really adopt BSM."

He urged enterprises to adopt a staged approach to BSM adoption, starting with asset management and moving through ITIL adoption, mapping services to components of the IT infrastructure and user of a configuration management database.

BMC launched a range of new and expanded BSM for IT Operations products at the conference, designed to offer enterprises a single view of transactions, capacity and performance across physical and virtual environments that maps to ITIL standards.