Happy New Year! Consider it a fresh start

Discussion_RGB_blue.pngIt’s a new year and that means it is time to discuss making some resolutions. Let me gently suggest one for your organization: Gain control of the value inherent to your Configuration Management System (CMS) or Configuration Management Database (CMDB) to make it as valuable as possible to your organization’s consumers.


If you don’t currently know what the inherent value of your CMS is we might want to address the 800lb gorilla in the room. You need to know whether the data within your CMS or CMDB is truly an accurate representation of your organization and has the right scope of Configuration Items and Relationships.


Some questions you might consider asking to check to see if your organization is on track in a general sense:


  • Do you have accurate reporting strategies which validate those key Configuration Items which are impacted most frequently, i.e. reports that are actually valued and consumed?

  • Are those high value business services modelled in way that demonstrates real impact for Change Management analysis to the business?

  • Do you have a maintenance plan built into your Configuration Management processes so you are able to fully manage the lifecycle of Configuration Items from inception to retirement?

  • Are you effectively aligned in your organization to have the right persona ownership and facilitation of a CMS or CMDB? 

These are pretty straightforward questions to consider asking, yet each could result in an enormous effort or cost to address. My take is that the pursuit of improvement is vital. We should all be asking ourselves these questions a bit more frequently and the beginning of the new year is the perfect time to do this.


A few years ago I worked in Professional Services to deliver both CMDB’s and CMS’s (a variety of vendors here) for customers. It does not take much effort for me to recall those customers who got very excited with their newfound automation and discovery capability only to find out that they now have this CMDB of data they did not know how to properly consume. What resulted in many cases was a fundamental people, planning and execution problem; not a tool problem per se. Those customers jumped ahead way, way too fast and without proper planning.


The marathon of CMS


Analogies are something I like to use from time to time and this is where building a CMS or CMDB is a lot like training for a marathon. You don’t just go out and all of a sudden start running a 5k or a 10k, much less a half marathon. Some people might, but it isn’t practical for the majority. You have to plan and then dedicate yourself to it. Doing so requires a ton of dedication and effort or you wind up paying for it in the end with pain and frustration.


HP Run.jpg

Just like runners participating in a marathon, organizations vary in capability, thus requiring differing training regiments. Certain companies can and will go faster than others; whereas, some can go for a longer journey than another. Building the right set of data for your organization means you have to invest in a foundation and that involves understanding who will achieve the most value by consuming your CMS or CMDB. Bottom line—consumer participation early in your implementation is critical to facilitate frequent dividends as you approach each mile marker in your journey.


Running farther


So, what happens when you have run ahead faster than you should have and find yourself with data that just isn’t as meaningful as you might have initially thought?


Well, I can tell you there is no shame in resetting your expectations and allowing yourself to have a complete do-over in discovery again. There are more situations than you might guess where organizations have made a second, third and even fourth attempt at building the set of data they find most useful in their discovery use cases. Generally speaking, these tend to lean more towards service delivery in support of Change and Incident Management. Re-discovery of data is truly a topic not many talk about, but there is value by inspiring others to keep trying here.  In the end, I believe it is worth it and the conversation should be had where appropriate.


Begin at the starting line


From my vantage point, those clients who take a hard look at building a defined set of processes which wrap around a vendor tool are more successful than those who attempt to modify or tailor a tool ( internal or vendor-based) to processes they have predefined. This is especially true when done early in an initiative or program. The reality is that no tool is perfect for every organization out there. How you plan to implement and use your tools really determines the degree of success in your discovery journey.


Of course starting over is easier said than done in most cases—because letting go is a tough thing to do. There is always that unique set of data or report output that seems to be invaluable. Or, maybe the relationship within your service delivery tool and reporting are something you just don’t want to let go of for a variety of reasons.


If you haven’t been as successful as you initially anticipated, I recommend that you put together the right plan for your organization and address the issue again with a level of scope which is obtainable and reasonable, some existing and some new.


2014 is a fresh start and another opportunity to do things an optimal way. You are absolutely not alone and others are facing the same challenges you are.


Reaching the finish line


Progress_RGB_white.pngIn summary, it’s worthwhile to self-assess from time to time in order to get the most out of what you are capable of doing, i.e. progress. I’d like to leave you with some questions to ask your consumers of data. If you don’t have any specific consumers in mind, go out and poll the whole bunch and narrow it down.


Ask them if the right data is being made available to them respectively. If the data is not right for them, ask them what the right data looks like or is for them. Talk with enterprise architects to learn more about your landscape. Talk with application owners or DBA’s to understand what they are responsible for. Reach out and understand who owns the critical networking components. Make it a virtual team effort and get all of the areas involved to see who needs data the most and is a supporter of the CMS or CMDB.


Make sure you have the right data in 2014. And, if you don’t, begin the journey by asking the tough questions of yourself and peers how to get to the right data.


To access a core group of subject matter experts on HP products for Configuration Management Systems, be sure to check out the HP Linkedin Group - HP CMS.

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