Business Service Management Today & Tomorrow

Jun 2 2011   6:07PM GMT

A CMDB is Not Just for IT

Doug Mueller Doug Mueller Profile: Doug Mueller

As more companies are implementing a CMDB as a core part of their Service Management implementations, questions are starting to arise about the boundaries of the content of the CMDB.  Many have felt that the CMDB has no role outside of IT; but, a growing number are seeing that the value of the CMDB is not limited to IT.  The fact is that the CMDB is as relevant for areas outside of IT as it is for IT.

To pursue this idea, we should first review the purpose and role of a CMDB.  The CMDB contains

  • Things that are important to you
  • How those things are related to each other
  • How things and relationships are related to your business
  • The impact of things on each other and the business

Traditionally, it has been assumed that this data is IT equipment and is used to better manage your IT environment.

However, there is nothing unique about IT equipment.  There are many other things within your business environment and it is just as important for you to know about, understand relationships for, and understand the relationship to your business for those things.  What you really need is a holistic view of the configuration of your entire environment to truly understand connectivity and inter-dependency.  Your business is not just about IT but about how all parts fit together and inter-relate.

An example close to IT is found in the telco space.  There are many components that are required in order to allow the transmission of data and voice.  Understanding those components and how they are linked is critical to the company and are as important to keeping the company running as understanding the configuration of IT.  Taking it a step further, understanding customers and the services they use and how those services map to the infrastructure will let you see the affect of specific pieces of infrastructure on specific customers.  All of this data can be captured and represented in a CMDB.

Another example that really helps to bring the point home is a company who is using a CMDB to track a specific asset that is critical to the success of their company — coffee machines.  Why are coffee machines important?  This company runs a chain of convenience stores.  They know that if the coffee machine is not working in the morning in a store that business in that store goes down by 90%.  So, they use the CMDB to track coffee machines (and the other equipment in their stores), link them to locations, tie them to contracts and service options, and to link into the traditional management operations of Incident, Problem, and Change Management.  With this use of the CMDB, they have been able to significantly reduce the times when coffee machines are not available in their stores and have been able to better manage this critical asset to their company’s success.

Yet another example is in production at an airport.  In order to run the airport and load and unload airplanes, it is important to understand the IT environment and all the IT equipment at the airport.  However, it is just as important to understand the gates, trucks, baggage system, and other aspects of the airport.  Being able to have a single, integrated picture of all the different things that are important to the running of the airport, how they are all related and interconnected, and how together they affect the business of the airport has allowed them to become much more efficient at understanding the operation of their business, in tracking problems, in planning changes, and in keeping things running smoothly.

There are many things outside of IT, some related to IT and others completely unrelated, that are important parts of the configuration of a company.  Understanding the configuration of the company as a whole and not limiting that understanding to just IT can dramatically improve the ability to manage and run the company more effectively.  The CMDB can play a significant role as the central source of truth for the complete configuration of your environment.

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