If you’re new to ITAM, there’s a good chance you’re trying to figure out how to get reliable information from your databases and get a handle on the flow of data that’s coming in. Even seasoned IT directors and ITAM leads struggle to maintain consistent and reliable data. Sadly, the result is that people in your position are punished every day for things like audit penalties and license overcharges that aren’t really your fault. So, if CMDB, CI, EULA, and MDR are keeping you up at night, let me help you by starting at the beginning: What is a CMDB?
Before I get started, you should know who I am and why you should listen to me in the first place! I have been working in IT Asset Management for over two decades and have extensive experience in the manufacturing, financial, and healthcare sectors. More about that later. But first, what is a CMDB, and do you need one?
What Is A CMDB?
The definition of a CMDB is configuration management database. It is a database, or file, that contains extensive information about the hardware and software used in IT services at your company or organization. Today, IT departments have to deal with a firehose of data. Best practices now require every organization to use a CMDB instead of spreadsheets and other, more rudimentary tools.
Your CMDB is made up of CIs – configuration items. CIs represent everything in your computing environment – all your hardware and details on when they were purchased, all your software and details on purchase dates and licensing agreements, who’s using what, and the relationships between all of them.
A CI is different than an asset record. The asset record describes the asset in mutable terms, such as the manufacturer, the serial number, the model number, when you bought it, and when you threw it away. On the other hand, the CI record tells you what’s changing about the asset record, such as who’s using it, its name on the network, what software’s installed on it, and those sorts of things.
Why You Need A CMDB
Now that you have answered your question, “What is a CMDB?” – let’s talk about why you need one.
Your CMBD allows you to be in control of your entire computing environment. It helps you discover where waste is occurring, how much it’s costing you, and where you may be out of compliance with a software license. You can even integrate data from hardware vendors and software publishers to ensure your data is in sync.
It’s a lifesaver, too. From managing outages to when it’s time for that dreaded software license audit, your CMDB can keep you out of hot water (and employed!). And when it comes to cybersecurity issues, your CMDB can keep you from incurring disasters such as what we’ve seen happen to numerous organizations over the past couple of years. In one such case, a data breach caused by a single compromised password, resulted in energy shortages across the East Coast.
The Problem With CMDBs
Unfortunately, most companies and organizations don’t have the luxury of nice, clean, reliable data. Over time, information has been entered by any number of individuals who may or may not have been trained in best practices. Configuration management is where most problems originate, and as we all know, you can’t get good data from bad. In fact, research indicates that up to 80% of the time, ITAM efforts fail.
But, if you’re stepping up a new CMDB, you’re in luck! If you create your CMDB using best practices, you’ll have reliable, trustworthy information to keep you out of trouble in the future. But, as internet technology has become more and more maddingly complex, organized and reliable CMDBs have become more (maddingly) difficult to accomplish. It is particularly true when there has been a merger or acquisition.
CMDB Best Practices
While it makes total sense to create a CMDB, implementing it requires investment. Make sure you can answer a simple question such as, “What is a CMDB?” but also speak with confidence about why it makes good business sense. If the C-Suite can be persuaded to go ahead and make the investment, it’s going to be your job to create it with best practices and maintain it.
First, you must get all the data into your CMDB, which will be the most challenging step. Every IT asset, including its purchase history, end-user assignments, job purpose, where it sits in the asset lifecycle, what kinds of users are using it, etc., must be properly entered – or the entire house of cards will collapse. While many CMDB tools promise to automate this step, it can be a messy process because the data originates from many different places, so I don’t recommend using automation here.
Once the data is entered, your CMDB system must be configured to update the information when necessary and do it correctly. The good news is CMDBs have evolved over the past few years, and many now play nice with ITAM (IT Asset Management) and ITSM (IT service management) platforms, allowing you to “see” everything that’s going on in your computing environment in one place.
What Is A CMDB’s Business Purpose?
It’s easy, especially for those new to ITAM, to focus on its data rather than its business purpose. But, according to research by Gartner, you should be able to cut your software spend by 30% by properly implementing and maintaining your CMBD. That 30% reduction should be more than enough money to justify leveraging the CMDB.
But you can’t treat the CMDB as a magic bullet. You need to use best business practices, have some experience, and make sure your tool answers the questions your CI needs. That’s where an ITAM coach can be a lifesaver. First, your ITAM coach helps you choose a tool if you don’t already have one or determine if the one you have is the right tool for your needs. Then your coach teaches you how to implement it using best practices, gets the right data flowing through it, create reliable reports on the fly, and spot trouble before it blows up.
Thank you for reading “What Is A CMDB & Why You Need One”. If you’re interested in finding out how an ITAM coach could help your team, please reach out to me.