CMDB Overview

ServiceNow’s Configuration Management Database (CMDB), when utilized effectively, allows organizations to unlock the true power of the full suite of applications available on the Platform. The CMDB follows a true Common Service Data Model allowing for deeper visibility, advanced automation, and better analytics and reporting as you expand your use of ServiceNow across ITSM and beyond into ITOM and ITBM.

The core benefits (below), look great on paper, but without the right processes defined and stakeholders engaged, the CMDB will never reach its full potential.

Core Benefits of a healthy CMDB:
  • Transparency between ITSM processes
  • Eliminate silos, politics, and tribal knowledge
  • Provide a single source of truth to enable fact-based decisions, removing emotion and ivory tower thinking
  • Facilitate effective communications
  • Allow for timely escalation and prioritization

A “healthy CMDB” as ServiceNow defines it consists of Completeness, Correctness, and Compliance.

This means:
  • Configuration Items (CIs) have the required information
  • There are no duplicate, orphan or stale CIs
  • CIs meet defined policies (minimum patch version, anti-virus software installed, etc.)

Since the CMDB is very easy to populate, preventing information sprawl and protecting the integrity of the data is key to ensuring it stays healthy and functional. Far too often, we see companies turn on the CMDB and begin using it tactically without a roadmap, which can lead to unnecessary hurdles. With a strategic plan in place for the CMDB, we can ensure key stakeholders are identified and appropriate processes are in place for maintaining integrity and avoiding short term roadblocks. The result is the ability to achieve longer-term automation and reporting goals with ease.

EchoStor’s CMDB Approaches

 
Where to begin?

Start small! The key to a healthy CMDB is more on people and process than it is technology. Once the people and processes are in place, iterating and maintaining the CMDB becomes a much simpler task. When considering what your CMDB should consist of, it should have:

  • Business-critical information only (the right types of data points, and the right amount)
  • Accurate & up-to-date information
  • Proper ownership and segmentation of maintenance activities
To begin the journey for achieving the above, there are three approaches to starting small:
  1. CMDB “Service First”
  2. This approach takes the highest-level approach to understanding your landscape. Focus on your core offerings or Business Services. These offerings in your CMDB can quickly act as an alternative to the traditional categorization of an Incident or Change record, shifting your process to be classification based as opposed to categorization, and allowing for better reporting and automation across the board. This is the recommended approach for those in the beginning stages of their Service Management journey, new to a CMDB, or if they do not have an automated method to populate the CMDB.

  3. Critical Application Mapping
  4. This approach takes one particular application and maps it down to the finite level. The application map can then be used to better understand outages or business impact on scheduled changes. This tends to be a good fit if focused on an application that is either very important financially to the organization, or an application that has frequent outages.

  5. Automatically Discovery a Subset of CIs
  6. This approach begins to populate the CMDB with detailed information about each CI that can be leveraged from an audit and compliance perspective. Focus on discovering the critical devices in a small IP range that run business-critical applications.

For approaches 2 and 3, you will want to make sure you’re using an automated discovery tool (more on ServiceNow’s agent-less Discovery solution will be discussed in a future blog post).

Regardless of the approach chosen, your teams will have a framework to begin identifying and creating Configuration Items, as well as maintaining the information, which will, in turn, provide tangible results to show off to other teams.

Tangible results tend to lead to momentum, which in turn leads to buy-in from stakeholders that may have been resistant to the project because of poor experiences in the past.

Deciding on Configuration Items  

Regardless of the approach that is taken, CIs on a micro level are no different than the CMDB at a macro level—having a process and stakeholders in place to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate is key, and that most issues stem from too much information rather than not enough.

These four questions should be asked prior to deciding whether to track a certain CI class:

  • Is this level of CI necessary to meet the business requirements?
  • What is the value in capturing this component at a more detailed CI level?
  • What is the overhead to manage and maintain this component detail?
  • Is this level required to manage the control of changes related to the CI?
Recommended Stakeholder Structure

The two most important roles involved with supporting the CMDB really comes down to the Configuration Management (CM) Process Owner and the Configuration Manager.

The CM Process Owner ensures the proper process is being adhered to and is responsible for future development of the CMDB.

The Configuration Manager handles the day-to-day maintenance activities and tasks associated with the CMDB, as well as working with the responsible parties and ITSM process owners for ensuring their CIs stay up to date and accurate.

Depending on the size of your organization, the structure of the roles and responsibilities for who should maintain your CMDB will differ. In larger, more complex organizations, the team should operate independently from the day-to-day support functions of other ITSM areas. If that is not possible, CMDB stakeholders should be clearly identified and responsibilities clearly defined as part of their role.

Conclusion

A healthy CMDB allows for the advanced automation and analytics capabilities available within the ServiceNow platform to easily scale. Combining the easy to use technology with the right people and process will allow for the CMDB to unlock the full potential of the ServiceNow Platform.

EchoStor is offering our CMDB Readiness Assessment free of charge until June 30th, which maps your organization to best practices, stakeholder identification, and CMDB roadmap.

For more details or for assistance on getting started please contact Tom Cullen, ServiceNow Practice Lead, at tcullen@echostor.com.

About the Authors: David Hanson and Paul Wydra III have both been part of the ServiceNow ecosystem for over 8 years, after beginning their ServiceNow journey in 2012 & 2013 working directly for ServiceNow.

About EchoStor: Founded in 2005, EchoStor Technologies is an award-winning provider of Data Center, Cloud and Service Management solutions. Our dedicated ServiceNow Practice, composed of certified implementation specialists and architects, business process consultants, and industry experts each excel at optimizing business processes to take full advantage of the power of the ServiceNow platform.

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