Modifying the Process to Fit Business Goals - ITIL Configuration Management

IT infrastructures enable the delivery of critical tools and services to both internal and external customers. The primary building blocks of an IT infrastructure are configuration items (CIs). As defined by the ITIL, a CI is any component within the IT infrastructure, e.g., computing devices, hardware, software, and procedures.

A collection of CIs form the IT infrastructure, and the IT infrastructure supports the advanced applications that provide complex services to the business.Businesses must collect and manage data about CIs infrastructures in order for IT managers, executives and CIOs to leverage this information when making critical business decisions, (e.g., investing resources, and ensuring the organization operates securely and efficiently).

The CMDB deposits the wealth of CI data from numerous sources into a database repository, logically depicting the IT infrastructure. Further, the CMDB maps CIs to IT services, documents processes, and links the CIs to IT Service Management processes in order to achieve business goals. Thus, the CMDB sits at the juncture between the elements that comprise a complex IT infrastructure and the processes that govern its operation.

Implementing a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) can be a daunting task. Even determining the benefits and what your organization’s specific needs are can be challenging. Based on my experience with many CMDB projects, this article explains how to navigate the CMDB planning process, and explains just what it takes to get a CMDB up and running.

CMDB Preparation

More simply, the CMDB contains:

A unique identifier for all CIs, e.g., devices, hardware, software, applications, services, people, facilities, procedures and related documentation (SLAs, OLAs, etc.)

  • A logical model of the IT infrastructure
  • CI version and status
  • CI relationships

While the contents of the CMDB appear simple, the answers to the following questions are the first step to your CMDB project and will govern CMDB content.

  • What does the business require?
  • What is IT Service Management’s role?
  • What does IT require?

These questions must be answered in order to ensure CMDB project success; the answers will identify the business, service, and technical requirements of your CMDB project.

To achieve the goals of your CMDB project, such as enabling operational efficiency and supporting business-critical decisions, the CMDB must provide strong business analytic tools. After all, most IT managers are generally submerged by a sea of uncorrelated IT infrastructure data, frustrating their ability to operate efficiently or provide real-time data for the decision-making process. Further complicating the IT manager’s responsibilities, IT infrastructure data is typically contained in a myriad of sources, such as Excel spreadsheets, databases, Visio diagrams, and even tribal knowledge spread throughout the organization.The dispersion of data, thus, hinders managers from making fully informed decisions.

The real question is, how do you leverage the accumulated information contained in the CMDB to achieve quality IT Service Management? The answer: business analytic tools resident in the CMDB that correlate the raw data into coherent information to support the business. IT managers will use CI information to provide meaningful reports to the other business processes in support of business decisions.The analysis tools enable the IT department to decipher CI roles, show what is connected to a CI, identify the services a CI supports, show where a CI is located in the network, and whether a CI is a member of another CI. From a wider, IT perspective, these tools support:

  • Relationship and dependency mapping
  • Physical topology views
  • Visualization mapping of IT infrastructure to applications and services
  • Application portals and dashboards
  • Analyses that enable business-critical decisions

In turn, the analysis tools enable important operational and business objectives, which is the long-term value proposition enabled by the CMDB, resulting in:

  • Licensing and regulatory compliance (SOX, HIPPA, etc.)
  • Increased network uptime
  • Quality IT services
  • Cost and benefit analysis

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