The CMDB: Success factors and top trends for 2022

What successes are evident after the introduction of a configuration management database (CMDB)? What is important for the future? André Jung takes a look at the status quo regarding CMDB.


CMDB as a success model

The use of a CMDB has been standard in modern IT departments for years. Today, no one questions that the CMDB is an important element in asset management. In most companies, the introduction of the systems has cost quite a bit of effort, time and resources. But once the appropriate model has been found and established, the CMDB becomes the cornerstone for customer services, for stable, high-performance and available IT systems and applications, and for a cleanly documented and transparently controllable IT infrastructure.

What are the benefits of the CMDB in IT Service Management?

    1. The essential support processes, incident and problem management are set up more efficiently thanks to CMDB. Customer satisfaction increases measurably.
    2. Availability and change management also experience productivity gains. In particular, a graphical representation of the relationships - the interdependencies of service-critical IT components in the CMDB - brings enormous added value.
    3. The number of fallbacks for change requests and the volume of critical incidents caused by changes are decreasing.
    4. In many companies, the CMDB now also provides data for asset management.
    5. The key figures for the availability of IT services at all levels become transparent and improve continuously with the use of the CMDB.

The key to success is the appropriate design of the CMDB model. The relationships of the objects in the CMDB in the context of the service portfolio, their criticality and their dependencies should be the focus. The regular inventory of all elements in the internal IT infrastructure via discovery functions and the template-based integration of external infrastructures enable a realistic image.

Based on what has been achieved, IT managers are now asking themselves new questions:

  • Where are the Configuration Management System (CMS) and the CMDB headed?
  • What future benefits can be generated in practice beyond the added value already achieved?
  • Which strategic processes, such as IT security management and business service management, can benefit from the central CMDB?

Two drivers in particular come to the fore here: IT financial management and security management. On the support process side, sustainable increases in quality and efficiency can be demonstrated, but cost reductions cannot be clearly identified. Today, cost pressure is driving many innovations and demands transparent service costs both for the provision of internal services and for the increasingly used external infrastructure services. At the top of the list are the various cloud services for applications, infrastructure and IT security services.

How do security, data protection, data integrity and configuration management work together?

One development that is steadily influencing the overall strategic direction of digital transformation, service architecture, and thus inevitably IT management systems including the CMS, is the question of the security, protection, and integrity of all data, information, and services used in the enterprise.

The number of attacks on corporate IT has constantly been increasing in recent years. The damage to the business and public perception of the affected companies is increasing as well. This has led to a shift in priorities: In order to ensure the compliance of the entire company, questions of security and data protection are strategically very high on the agenda. And a first-class security concept is the basis for digital transformation.

Foresight and the ability to plan can help avoid expensive missteps and dangerous security gaps on the path to digital transformation. To do this, IT needs a comprehensive, deep understanding of the data and information and how they are linked in the central CMDB.

The CMDB can fulfill an important new role by providing the data that supports predictive security management. The focus of the CMDB is thus no longer on mapping purely technical configuration items (CIs) and their attributes. Instead, meta-information of a different kind is to be obtained from the CMDB.

Data that helps answer questions like these:

  • When are migrations to more recent versions due and what are the costs involved?
  • Are outdated versions of firmware, operating systems, applications or interfaces already being used in your own infrastructure or in virtually integrated cloud services?
  • How do you identify and assess risk scenarios arising from outdated software and known or newly discovered vulnerabilities?
  • Does internal patch management conform to that of partners and service providers with whom integrations and cross-enterprise workflows exist?
  • Which applications can be streamlined or replaced with better alternatives?
  • At what point should business critical applications no longer be supported?
  • How do applications support critical business services, such as customer relationship management (CRM), production control and maintenance planning, or ERP, and what effects can be expected when these applications or their IoT sensing are migrated to the cloud?
  • What insights and decision support can be gained from modeling new applications and business services?
  • What data-based dependencies exist between business-critical applications and how do inconsistent or corruptly transferred data sets impact business capability?
    Der Aufwand, diese wichtigen Fragen mit Hilfe etablierter Managementsysteme – einschließlich der traditionellen CMDB – zu beantworten, ist heute enorm.

The effort to answer these important questions using established management systems - including the traditional CMDB - is enormous today. One way to find answers is to evolve the CMDB into a prediction platform that not only serves the status quo, but also supports modeling of future architectures and migration paths while generating risk predictions for alternative courses of action.

Chart: Strategic use of CMDB Data in ITSM

Image: The CMDB as the core of a strategic data & analytics framework for ITSM


CMDB in transition: from a technology-centric model to a data-driven strategy

The goal of a platform for data-driven decisions presents IT with the classic task of extracting information from data and generating knowledge and insights from information. The pillars on this path are the mapping of the essential data sources in a meaningful context to the processes, the IT services and to the business services. The view covers all levels of the infrastructure - from the firmware of the network switches to the server platforms to the APIs of the cloud services, their configuration, performance and degree of utilization. The aim is to create a new, abstract, but reproducible and verifiable level of knowledge. A goal that, on the one hand, requires the already mature and always up-to-date CMDB, and, on the other hand, can be achieved with the help of an AI-supported expert system. This requirement should not be underestimated, especially because success cannot be achieved with technical changes alone.

Successful projects consider the following components:

  • the development of a data and analysis strategy based on the CMDB and other data and information sources
  • the introduction of a data and information management program as an expert system with knowledge graphs that help prepare complex decision-making processes and visualize resilient fundamentals

Last but not least, a data-driven culture should be established in the company, fostered for example by a new leadership position: the Chief Data Officer (CDO). This provides an environment in which all stakeholders contribute to the overall picture and work together to master the transition from a technology-centric to a data-driven strategy.

The result: The CMDB as a source of information for new user groups

The new role of the CMDB expands the typical user group. Whereas up to now it has been people like service desk agents, change and release managers, problem managers, process owners, auditors, etc. who work in and with the support processes, it will soon include colleagues who are responsible for business services and their further development.

These include:

  • Enterprise and service strategy & architecture teams
  • Business service management
  • Financial management
  • Purchasing and supply chain and vendor management
  • IT security teams
  • and - with new objectives - the IT service and operations teams.das Enterprise und Service-Strategie & Architektur-Team

These groups can leverage the enhanced CMS for a business strategy informed by data & analytics.



André Jung

Written by André Jung

During more than 30 years in the IT industry, André Jung has gained a wide range of experience in working with people – in management positions, in sales and in professional services. He was responsible for customer service management for Orange Business Services in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe for over two decades. Today, he enjoys sharing his expertise, thoughts and viewpoints on the subject of IT service management and ITSM tools in specialist articles and videos – when he's not on the road as a motorcycle safety trainer or orchestral musician.

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