If you’re an ITAM lead or IT director starting a new CMDB initiative (or improving the one you already have), where’s the best place to begin – CMDB or asset management?
As an ITAM coach and consultant, organizations bring me in to help them gain control over the enormous stream of data they’re responsible for after management has been convinced it’s worth the investment to have a CMDB. If that’s the case in your company, it’s critical that your CMDB be implemented properly right off the bat. It’s the only way to ensure you’re properly defining the relationships between different CIs, which then represent the CIs in your IT environment. Your CMDB, in essence, allows you to increase your success rate on improvement initiatives, etc.
Now your team has to build it! Because I’m often asked where’s the best place to start – CMDB or Asset Management?, I thought I’d impart some helpful advice so you can make the wisest decisions right from the onset.
Terms & Definitions
But first, let’s clear up some of the confusion around the terms and definitions used in this area. Below are the official and accepted definitions according to ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library. ITIL “defines the organizational structure and skill requirements of an information technology organization and a set of standard operational management procedures and practices to allow the organization to manage an IT operation and associated infrastructure.”
- Configuration Management Database (CMDB): A database used to store configuration records throughout their lifecycle.
- Configuration Record: A record containing the details of a configuration item inside the CMDB. It represents the item that’s out in the environment.
- Configuration Item (CI): Any component or other service asset that needs to be managed in order to deliver an IT service.
- Information Technology Asset Management (ITAM): A generic activity for the process that’s responsible for tracking and reporting the value and ownership of hard and soft assets in the environment throughout their lifecycle.
- Asset Record: The individual attributes of the asset that will be entered into the asset record. All of the asset records will be rolled up into a specific Managed Data Repository (MDR) called an asset register (in ITIL terms) or Asset MDR.
Now that we’re on the same page regarding definitions let’s go back to the original question…
CMDB or Asset Management - Where Do You Start?
The attributes stored on an asset record should have these three characteristics:
- The attributes should be unique to the asset itself and found nowhere else in the CMDB/MDR system.
- The information should be static and not expected to change drastically during the asset’s lifespan.
- The information should be delivered by a source with a high primacy of evidence.
The Challenges Of The CMDB
When a CMDBs goes bad…it’s BAD.
Nearly every ITSM has a horror story about a CMDB going bad. And, they always go bad when you need them most. In their defense, configuration items describe more than just assets. CIs are all the things and services that makeup what the IT department delivers to the business. A good CI will focus on the relationships, joins, and breadcrumbs necessary for the CMDB as a whole to report on the computing environment.
This is a good point to examine the similarities and differences between asset records and configuration items (CIs). Both play an important role in ensuring the accuracy and completeness of your CMDB and, consequently, your DbIQ.
Asset management is concerned with things that don’t change about an asset: what it was purchased for, what it is being used for, etc.
CIs are concerned with what’s changing with an asset: who’s using it, what’s changing about it, and how it is interacting with the rest of the environment.
Why & How Asset Management Solves These Challenges
As you can see, your CMDB will not be able to make heads or tails of what’s going on in your computing environment without the asset data. Asset management enables you to keep track of CIs through their lifecycle and reports on the relationships between them. It brings to light any positive or negative patterns before they become problems. It increases the success rate of improvement initiatives and decreases the downtime of critical services. And ITAM is required for important business capability certifications such as ISO, HiTRUST, FFIEC, etc.
Asset management, in essence, provides a better foundation for your CI data and gives your ITAM team the discovery tools they need to provide that data that the folks who will be using the CMDB don’t.
CMDB or Asset Management?
So, getting back to the original question – CMDB or asset management – where to start?
Always start with asset management before creating your CMDB – if you don’t, your CMDB won’t work.