When I was an ITIL Consultant, often I worked with customers who were attempting to implement Configuration Management and a CMDB and were looking for guidance on how to start. I found a good way to start discussions about approach was to talk about something non technology related. Here is what I used to start with: You can go to a department store and buy a generic, “one size fits all” suit off the rack and hope it fits you perfectly. But if you’re like me, it usually didn’t and then you end up not wearing it, or trying to fix it yourself and ultimately end up not happy with your investment.
Alternatively, you can go to a department store armed with requirements and design your suit to fit you perfectly with the help of the tailor and designer who understands your requirements, maybe takes your measurements, asks you what the purpose of the suit is, where you are going to wear it, what you want to wear with it, etc. The point is, if you buy something generic and expect it to suit your needs exactly and immediately (aka OOTB) without giving thought to the purpose, you’re usually in for big disappointment.
Such can be argued is the case with a CMDB. Trying to implement a CMDB without designing for it up front first can land you with buyer’s remorse. So how can you avoid this? First of all, it’s all about understanding your requirements, translating those requirements, planning and then implementing.
Planning for the CMDB:
Organizations that embark on CMDB implementation do so for many different reasons. And there are most often no two organizations the same: There really isn’t a one size fits all. Understanding this fact, is step one to a successful CMDB experience.
There are several points I recommend to consider when deciding to tackle the CMDB. As an organization, consider using the following as a check list and include all the relevant stakeholders like your Configuration Management Team (if one exists), Change Management, Incident Management, Problem Management, Service Level Management and others (don’t forget the business side to help define and understand your services!).
- Have you defined and agreed on why you need to implement the CMDB? What is the business challenge you are trying to address? Did you measure where you are starting from? If you don’t, how will you know if you have seen improvements?
- What does your Asset Management practice look like? Is asset discovery your source of knowing what’s in your environment? Or do you manage your assets through the asset lifecycle from cradle to grave and can confidently identify what assets might need to be managed as CIs (Configuration Items)?
- What about Change Management? Are you confident your change process is mature to be able to manage any critical components you are going to manage in the CMDB? And, once your data is in the CMDB, how do you manage it going forward?
- Have you defined your scope? What is the scope of services perhaps to be mapped to the component level in your CMDB? What is critical that you want to control in your CMDB?
- Where is your data? How confident are you that the data that will go into the CMDB is accurate and complete before starting?
Designing the CMDB structure:
All of the above are important questions to ask as an organization prior to populating you CMDB and can help save a lot of headaches and speed the time to value when this type of planning occurs up front. Once you are ready with answers, manage your CMDB experience as a project and use good project management practices along the way.
Designing for your CMDB is sort of like selecting a good tailor in that you will sometimes need the help of the experts who have experience with helping other organizations realize success such as BMC Remedyforce Global Services. A good plan to design for a CMDB should include the following design elements:
- Identify your team’s stakeholders and perhaps a lead
- Re assess the maturity of Change Management to ensure there are good controls
- Define services if you are coming at the CMDB from a “top – down” approach – conduct a service mapping exercise (what are our services, what are our critical services; mapped down to the component level), or, assess the integrity of the
asset data if you are coming at the CMDB from a “bottom – up” approach
- Identify initial scope for CMDB (start small with a sub set of your environment and then build on your progress)
- Identify data sources for in scope CIs (asset management repository?)
- Identify the CI class/relationship structure that is manageable and controlled
- Conduct testing
- Transition to production environment after UAT
- Monitor and track compliance to the processes (CFG and Change)
- Increase scope – repeat
An important note is that lot of organizations struggle with defining their services if they choose the top-down approach to CMDB. When defining services, there are some common elements to defining services that might include: IT infrastructure, applications, information, and people. The CMDB is valuable because it allows you to see the relationships between these four key elements of a service and help you manage the elements. The glue between the four elements is the process; the process binds all the elements together. For further guidance around design of Services, check out the following blog by Jason Baldree, Remedyforce Director of Customer Success, here.
In summary, these are just a few high level tips to remember when embarking on Configuration Management and a CMDB initiative. The key points to remember are plan, do, check and act (sound familiar? – the cycle of continual improvement). Addressing the types of business challenges that a CMDB and Configuration Management solution can help solve can be beneficial and valuable to an organization; if done right from the beginning with a little bit of planning.
Remember: If you buy yourself a suit and have it well tailored to your purpose and specifications, that suit can be useful for multiple occasions and span many decades where if you buy something off the rack without planning for your needs you may find that you only wear it once or twice before it falls apart or you realize, it never fit your needs to begin with.
Hopefully you found these tips helpful, and for further dialogue please reach out to the Remedyforce Customer Success Team at: RemedyforceSuccess@BMC.com.