The cornerstone of any successful IT management strategy, the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is a powerful tool in the asset managers arsenal. Enabling an easy macro overview of the existing IT infrastructure, the CMDB utilizes relational asset tracking to ensure upgrades, interruptions in service, and maintenance are resolved or executed without causing further interruptions or outages.
Without some form of CMDB management, like the one provided by SysAid’s CMDB software, the likelihood of problems arising from hardware or software upgrades skyrockets.
This makes a detailed and consistently updated CMDB an essential piece of good ITAM. A component of the ITIL framework, the idea behind a configuration database is relatively simple, without a good implementation its usefulness is limited. Proper integration of new and existing assets will make or break a new database, with improper or poorly integrated assets potentially resulting in lost time, money, and resources.
When implementing a new CMDB or upgrading an existing one, it’s important to keep a few basic rules in mind. This list of tips should help guide the creation of a new CMDB or set an already existing CMDB up for future success.
Identify the Goals of Your CMDB
The overall scope of the CMDB can be as narrow or as wide as needed to perform its function but to understand what the scope of the CMDB should be it’s important to know what function it will perform beforehand. Most CMDBs are designed to track a wide range of assets throughout a company. From software to hardware, to operating systems, licenses and application roles, the CMDB needs to include any system or asset that may have additional dependencies on other systems. Even independent systems should be considered as a CMDB for clarity.
With that being said, every single asset within an organization should not be entered into a CMDB. This is why understanding the intended function of the database is so important. Clogging the database with extraneous information and assets that aren’t needed will simply make things more difficult for all involved. Identify what systems will need to be involved with the database and adjust the asset list accordingly.
Keep the Database Updated!
It seems obvious from the outset, but in order for a CMDB to provide value, it needs to be carefully maintained. This goes hand in hand with your existing change management process. Meticulous tracking of authorized changes that have been implemented to active configuration items (CI) in the database needs to be updated immediately in order for the database to be effective. Ignoring the importance of a good change management policy and its impact on the CMDB itself will eventually lead to failure as the database loses transparency and it becomes more difficult to keep it updated accurately.
Find a Balance in Authorization
It’s important for people to be able to access and make changes to the CMDB throughout its lifetime. It’s also important to strike a balance between accessibility and security. Identify who needs to have access to the CMDB or who may need access to the CMDB and limit access beyond that accordingly. Letting too many users have access to changes in the CMDB will inevitably lead to confusion and inaccuracy. While it’s good to have a wide range of personnel covering facets of the database, the “too many cooks in the kitchen” rule definitely applies here. This is something that should be planned for from the outset and placed under constant review in order to limit non-essential user access to the CMDB.
Don’t Forget the Training!
Even the best procedures and protocol will fall apart without proper training. Ensuring every person involved with the CMDB has the right training, information and qualifications will go a long way towards keeping things tidy and organized throughout the CMDB’s lifespan. A database managed by poorly trained personnel isn’t going to go very far, and could even be detrimental in the long run. Making sure that everyone involved is not only properly trained, but understands the purpose, function, and scope of the CMDB will drastically reduce the chances of a screw up down the line.
Remember to Include Key Software Assets!
For many organizations, the CMDB is going to need to track more than just hardware. Software is often just as important as the hardware it runs on, if not more so. If any essential software used within your business is somehow related to or dependent on other systems, that interdependence needs to be included in the CMDB to prevent outages or interruptions in service. It can be easy to overlook, for example, that the accounting database running on an internal server needs another server in order to function. Listing these assets within the database will all but guarantee that things continue to operate smoothly regardless of changes taking place!
By their very nature, CMDBs will often require the cooperation and contribution from multiple departments within your business. A lot of time, effort, and legwork can be saved by making sure everyone is on the same page from step one. If everyone involved understands the benefits and function of the CMDB right from the get-go, it will be much easier to collect information on assets and their dependencies without needing to pull your hair out to get it. As with many things in IT, working as a team and communicating well goes a long way towards a successful database.
Give It Time to Work!
If you remember these tips while setting up your CMDB, it will eventually make its benefits apparent to everyone involved. While it’s unlikely that the advantages will be immediately apparent as soon as its set up, the amount of time and frustration saved will pay for itself many times over the longer the CMDB is in use. Stay focused and keep making use of your new CMDB; it will pay off in the long run!