Configuration Management Best Practices

by Maya G

Configuration Management: Tracking Assets to Improve Delivery of Information Technology Services

Configuration Management ensures that accurate and reliable information about IT services is available to the stakeholders to aid decision-making and the delivery of the services. Many assets make up each IT service. These assets are called Configuration Items (CIs) and are tracked based on their respective relationships to each other and the service.

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Configuration Management

Configuration Management will leverage a Configuration Management Database to house and display these CIs and their relationships. Imagine, if you will, a diagram showing how every piece of hardware, software, integration, and third-party fit together to build each service. This diagram will illustrate how each piece of software sits on top of the infrastructure, and whether the infrastructure is in the data center or the cloud. It will also show the dependencies of the software on other software or third-party partners. 

 The best way to view the CMDB is by service. This service will have an owner and each type (or class) of CI will have an owner. There will be many people supporting and managing their piece of the service. For example, a service may be Finance and Accounting. Consider all of the people, processes, and technology needed to support that corporate function. 

Discovery enables the CMDB to provide current data to stakeholders. It assesses the environment and finds one of three things for each CI.

1) no change to the CI or its attributes

2) a change to the CI or its attributes, or

3) a new CI entirely. On the last two, Configuration Management will work with Change Management (or Change Enablement in ITSM

4) to ensure Change Requests are in place for each change to a CI or the introduction of a new CI.

6 Best Practices to Follow for an Optimized Configuration Management Process and CMDB

There are established Best Practices for the Configuration Management Process and the CMDB. Below are six steps to have an optimal Configuration Management Process and CMDB:

  1. Assemble all stakeholders to best understand what each need from the CMDB. This includes outcomes (not outputs) and reporting metrics.
  2. Agree on the scope to be in the CMDB. This includes CI Classes (types of CIs like servers or databases), CIs within each CI Class, and the specific attributes for each CI Class. To increase the chance of success with your CMDB, start with the main CI Classes, then grow over time as the CMDB matures. Attempting too much too quickly will make it more difficult to find success.
  3. Discovery will be established to automatically find and update discoverable CIs and CI attributes. Non-discoverable attributes, (e.g., status or owner) must be manually updated in the CMDB.
  4. The CMDB discovers and reconciles the CMDB data, looking for changes to CIs and their updates. A Change Request is sought for each CI change.
  5. Establish a process to manually keep the non-discoverable CIs and attributes current. If using an ITSM tool, tasks can be sent to CI Class Owners (and their delegates) to ensure the data is accurate. One of the largest culprits for outages is a CI having the wrong “status”. For example, if the CMDB has a CI as “retired” and it still is “live”, Changes may collide, and Incidents take longer to resolve.
  6. Metrics and reporting are vital for the transparency and adoption of the CMDB. All stakeholders must believe that the data is correct and gives an accurate view of the current state.

How to Establish a CMDB: The Key is Configuring the Processes Around it

Once the CMDB is established and maturing, CIs may be grouped together to offer a view of an IT service. The CMDB will be able to illustrate the relationships between CIs that make up the service. It is at this stage that Configuration Management becomes more than just an IT process. It becomes an enterprise-wide process as many of the CIs and stakeholders for a service will reside outside of the IT department.

The Configuration Management Process should drive the tool implementation. One of the most common mistakes is implementing a CMDB (technology) without having a plan or process in place. Like other technology, it executes an existing process.

Configuration Management requires a governance mechanism to ensure that the data is accurate, relevant, and available for consumption when needed. Governance comes in the form of a Configuration Control Board (CCB). The CCB should have a broad representation of stakeholders, so the CMDB is addressing each stakeholder’s needs. The CCB will develop a roadmap for scope and maturation over time.

 While many metrics and measures are available in the ITSM tool, the CCB should lay out the needed metrics for measuring performance, health, and compliance, and identify which are inside the tool and which are outside. Metrics should be transparent and permit every stakeholder to have confidence in the quality of the CMDB data. 

 The CMDB is the backbone of every Service Management organization. It takes leadership support to ensure that resources and stakeholder involvement are at appropriate levels. The rest of the Service Management process (and practices) are dependent on the success of the CMDB.

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