CMDB: A Journey, Not a Destination
March 18, 2008 Richard Muirhead
Organizations are increasingly reliant on their IT infrastructure to deliver the solutions they need to drive the business forward. As a result, many organizations are turning to ITIL to help them to address IT support and delivery challenges and deal more effectively with operational processes. The configuration management database, or CMDB, is a fundamental component of the ITIL framework, yet despite increasing awareness and demand for CMDBs by ITIL adopters, many still struggle to understand exactly what a CMDB is and how it can be used and implemented to maximize the potential of their ITIL framework.
At its best, the CMDB is a trusted, dynamic, and unified repository of information about all configurable IT components, and how they map to the delivery of IT services. As such it is fundamental to ITIL, providing a central point for governance, asset, inventory and change and configuration control, as well as a core system for more effective service assurance. A CMDB also has great potential above and beyond enabling ITIL processes–it provides the foundation for the cultural, political, and organizational changes necessary to allow new technology and process initiatives to succeed.
At its worst, the CMDB becomes a costly and cumbersome burden to the business. A CMDB with poor data quality is not only ineffective, its ineffectiveness tends to grow at an exponential rate. This is because once the quality of data in a CMDB degrades past an acceptable level for decision-making, users stop trusting the system of record and stop relying on best practices for change control. The resulting changes go unaccounted for, introducing risk and continuing the cycle of unreliable configuration data.
In practical terms a CMDB with up-to-date and easily accessible information will help the service desk log calls more quickly with a higher degree of accuracy. It will also support best practice ITIL processes to better manage problems, track incidents and help IT operations to gain a holistic view of the technology environment. But many IT adopters only view the CMDB as a ‘thing’ to buy rather than an enabler of data integration in support of superior processes and organizational efficiencies. This can make the CMDB a potentially tough sell within organizations that may not feel that they are ready for such an all-or-nothing approach.
According to research from Enterprise Management Associates, the biggest obstacle to CMDB adoption is currently a lack of resource and budget commitment due to a low-level of buy-in within the IT department. Clearly a political and cultural transformation is required to ensure adoption, and with huge differences between organizations in terms of their process maturity and business goals it is essential that enterprises approach their CMDB initiatives in a way that best fits their current situation. Manual data gathering, ‘big bang’ deployments, and a lack of focus are all factors that can stop a CMDB dead in its tracks. However if deployment is considered to be a work in progress and is implemented following a few general rules, there is a far better likelihood that the resulting CMDB will be accurate, effective and deliver maximum return on investment.
Here are six ways you can make your CMDB journey less painful:
While a CMDB can certainly offer dramatic operational and business benefits within an ITIL framework, the manner in which it is implemented should in no way be so dramatic. A bite-sized, automated approach that takes into account the individual circumstances of the business is crucial to success, and as more organizations begin to see CMDB implementation as a journey not a destination, the greater the rewards and opportunities we should expect to see from this crucial resource.
Richard Muirhead is the chief executive officer, chairman, and founder of Tideway Systems, a London-based developer of application dependency mapping software for use in CMDB environments. To contact Richard, go to www.tideway.com.