Six Steps to CMDB Success

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While the value potential of a configuration management database (CMDB) is undisputed, you need to be careful and not blindly jump into implementation without having a clear plan in place about how this powerful tool will be used within your organization.  Here is a list of six things that you should have in place to ensure the success of your CMDB implementation and get the maximum value from your configuration management activities.

Business Objectives

What problems are you trying to solve by implementing a CMDB?  Defining clear business objectives for configuration management will help you understand what kind of configuration you need, where to source it from, who will use it, and how much data quality matters to your organization.  Having a clear set of business objectives before starting implementation will enable you to deliver value more quickly and avoid the “adoption challenge” that IT organizations often face after deploying something new.  Business objectives answer the question about “why do I need this?”  Many companies find that merely the act of defining what the business objectives are is enough to change stakeholder attitudes from “resisting change” to “wanting the system delivered sooner.” 

Discovery Tools

If you are going to manage change within your IT environment effectively, you are going to need a set of discovery tools to help you.  It isn’t practical to manually update configuration data when systems or dependencies change.  Robust discovery tools like Virima Discovery enable you (through the use of installed agents and/or centrally deployed discovery capabilities) to see everything in your IT environment, identify changes as soon as they occur, and capture configuration data that you’ll need for security and compliance activities.

ITSM System Integration

A CMDB is simply a database, a place to store information.  Your IT service management (ITSM) system provides the tools, workflows, and interfaces to enable users to interact with your configuration data and convert it into tangible business value.  Whether you are choosing to use the out-of-box CMDB that comes with your ITSM system or augmenting it with a product like Virima Enhanced CMDB, it is critically important that you integrate your CMDB and ITSM system properly.  If you don’t, you are at risk of losing capabilities for data analysis, real-time business insights, and workflow integration.  There are a number of ITSM processes (Incident, Problem, Change, Release, and others) that are supported and enhanced by the capabilities that your CMDB provides.  Strong integration between your ITSM system and CMDB can make these processes run more effectively and efficiently.

Data Owners / Data Stewards

Configuration data for your organization is continuously changing.  Every time a system is added, removed, or changed, your configuration data must be updated to keep it accurate and current.  Most failed CMDB implementations aren’t caused by system deficiencies, but rather the failure to assign ownership of your configuration data to the right people within the organization.  A best practice is to assign two groups or individuals to each piece of data – a data owner (typically a business stakeholder who owns the source system where the data came from) and a data steward (either a business analyst or IT staff member who is responsible for keeping the configuration data up to date).  Data owners and data stewards have shared accountability for your data quality.  They can help you measure quality, highlight gaps/issues in your data, and provide updates when needed. CMDB automation is an important part of enabling your data owners and data stewards to do their jobs effectively.  These staff members need to spend their time focusing on the quality of data and making decisions based on the data, not performing mechanical update processes in your CMDB.  Automated discovery and integrations with configuration item data sources are a big productivity enhancer.

Data Management and Retention Plan

Populating data into your CMDB is important, but archiving and purging obsolete data is equally critical to the success of your configuration management initiative.  One of the most significant quality issues that ITSM organizations report is old configuration records for systems that are no longer present in the IT environment, or are no longer used by business processes.  CMDB data follows a data lifecycle, just like your IT systems follow either a hardware lifecycle or application lifecycle.  When the IT systems are retired or no longer used, their associated configuration records in the CMDB also need to be archived and/or purged (depending on your company’s policies).  If you want your CMDB to have a high level of data quality, you need to establish a data management and retention plan, which includes a set of tools, processes, and policies for how to get data out of your CMDB when it is no longer needed.

Data Visualization

Even small IT environments are too complex to understand in rows and columns.  Data visualization tools are essential for making sense of the CMDB data. Configuration data is a digital representation of your physical IT environments.  It is the relationships between configuration items that describe how individual IT components fit together into systems and services that are used by your business functions.  Dependency data is complex, and the easiest, fastest, and most valuable way for your ITSM staff to use it is through business service maps that depict end-to-end dependency chains.  Without visualization tools, you will find it difficult to harvest the full value potential from your CMDB

Your CMDB and the configuration data it contains are some of the most valuable resources your IT team has available to it.  Configuration data is what makes all your other ITSM processes work effectively, it helps you manage risks, and it gives you the information you need to optimize your company’s operational processes.  These steps will help you maximize the value of your CMDB investment and set your configuration management processes up for ongoing success. Why not sign up for our webinar next week on the Six steps to CMDB success.

Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard

Mike Bombard COO Virima Technologies - Mike joined Virima Technologies (Atlanta, GA) in 2010 and oversees Virima ITAM/ITSM SaaS product sales, marketing and field services organizations. He has been providing solutions to solve complex IT challenges in a variety of industries for over 25 years.

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