CMDB – Why so many get it wrong

Each year countless business attempt to build a CMDB but according to research by Gartner the overwhelming majority, an estimated 80 percent, fail to complete their implementation.

The Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is a crucial tool for businesses aiming to maintain control over their IT infrastructure. Despite its importance, many businesses not only find CMDB challenging to implement, but also struggle to manage it effectively post-implementation.

To harness the full potential of a CMDB, businesses must understand the reasons behind these struggles.

Setting clear objectives and scope

It is crucial to define what you aim to achieve with your CMDB. Perhaps your focus is improved Incident Management, leveraging CMDB to provide a comprehensive view of your infrastructure, enabling faster identification of affected configuration items, facilitating quicker root cause analysis and resolution.

You might choose to focus on clearly mapping and documenting your Service Offerings and Business Services, documenting their relationships to configuration items (CIs), so that you can clearly visualise dependencies and impacts, improving service management and decision-making.

Other common focus areas are Change Management, Asset Management, Risk and Compliance, and Capacity Management. Setting clear objectives will help guide your design and implementation process, ensuring that the CMDB aligns with your business goals.

It’s also important to start with a manageable scope and gradually expand. Trying to cover every possible configuration item from the outset can lead to overwhelm and errors. Begin with the most critical assets and systems, then incrementally add more items as your CMDB matures.

The critical role of CI Managers

Configuration Item (CI) Managers play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of the CMDB. Each CI Manager is responsible for specific elements within the CMDB, ensuring that their designated configuration items are accurately documented and consistently updated.

This decentralised approach to management helps distribute the workload, preventing any single individual from becoming overwhelmed and ensuring that every aspect of the CMDB receives attention.

CI Managers also serve as subject matter experts for their respective areas, providing valuable insights and ensuring that changes are accurately reflected within the CMDB. They play an essential role in maintaining the integrity and reliability of the database, enabling the business to make informed decisions based on accurate, up-to-date information.

The need for a CMDB Working Group

Another crucial factor in the success of a CMDB is the formation of a CMDB Working Group. This group should include stakeholders from all relevant departments. In your implementation, this may be limited to IT teams, or it may include members from IT, finance, operations, and others.

The purpose of this working group is to foster collaboration, ensuring your CMDB reflects the diverse needs of your business.

The CMDB Working Group promotes communication across departments, helping to identify and resolve issues promptly. This collaborative approach ensures that the CMDB remains a valuable asset, tailored to the specific requirements of your business.

By meeting regularly, this group can help maintain the database’s accuracy and relevance, preventing the CMDB from becoming neglected and underutilised.

The resource allocation challenge

Another reason why businesses tend to falter in their CMDB implementation is the insufficient allocation of resources. Successful management of a CMDB necessitates a dedicated team, including the specific role of CMDB Manager. This position is critical for overseeing the database, ensuring data accuracy, and managing updates.

Many businesses fail to recognise the importance of this role, leading to a lack of clear ownership and accountability. Consequently, tasks are often overlooked or neglected, leading to a poorly maintained CMDB that fails to deliver its intended benefits.

In the absence of a dedicated CMDB Manager, inaccurate data can quickly render the database outdated, resulting in poor decision-making and inefficiencies. A dedicated manager ensures the CMDB is continuously updated and aligned with the business’s evolving needs, providing a reliable source of information for IT management and strategic planning.

Invest in your CMDB for long-lasting value

Successful CMDB implementation and its continuing management rely on dedicated resources, collaborative efforts, and clearly defined roles.

By appointing a dedicated CMDB Manager, forming a CMDB Working Group with all relevant stakeholders, and designating CI Managers, businesses can overcome common pitfalls and unlock the full potential of their CMDB.

Investing in these areas ensures that the CMDB remains a valuable asset, driving efficiency and supporting strategic decision-making within the business. While achieving a successful CMDB can be challenging, adopting the right approach enables businesses to establish a robust and reliable CMDB, delivering long-lasting benefits.

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Trevor Petrie - Knowledge Management Specialist

Written by Trevor Petrie

Trevor Petrie is a Knowledge Management Specialist, Accredited Lean Practitioner and Certified ServiceNow Administrator. Connect on LinkedIn or view Trevor's ServiceNow Resume.