Posted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 1:56 pm Post subject: Papleux.com update: Five Practical Lessons for Configuration
I hope this helps. Don't hesitate to contact me if you want to discuss it.
Five practical lessons for Configuration Management
Written by Fabien Papleux
Sunday, 08 October 2006
Configuration Management holds a special place in ITIL. It is not an
immediate attention grabber as are other processes like Incident Management, Change Management or Service Level Management. Yet, it has the potential to make profound changes in the way you deliver IT services in your organization. The truth is: not many people really understand it, and it is not a quick win. As a result, it is usually poorly presented, with the potential of long term return only. Not exactly an exciting prospect.
Well, that's only half the truth as it is mainly perception. Everyone knows perception is half the truth. So what are we missing? How do you sell it? What should you do and not do? Let's be practical. That is where you are going to make a difference.
1. Don't try to do it all at once
Detailed plans of your final solution will eventually emerge from the ashes of your mistakes. Of course, you have to be, look, act and present professionally. It doesn't mean that you cannot be honest and admit that in most cases, building a CMDB with everything in it is simply unrealistic. Too many elements need to be addressed before you can find the model that will offer the perfect balance between size, cost and usefulness.
For instance, you need to integrate users as part of your CMDB. User data needs to be defined, added, modifed, secured and deleted based on a range of parameters. If you run an International business, just the different privacy laws can be a headache. In any case, chances are that your Human Resources department holds the keys to quite a few processes around the management of user information. So here are a few challenges to overcome:
- Educate the head of HR on what a CMDB is, why we need it and what is in it for him/her.
- Define a process that will allow HR to continue to function without additional workload once the CMDB is in place.
- Identify and guarantee HR's constraints in terms of data confidentiality.
- Identify the points of contact between HR and IT, document the processes and establish responsibilities.
- ... I am not going to list them all but you get the picture.
Most important of all, if you cannot control it, leave it out. The only thing that is worse than no data is unreliable data. You cannot do anything with it. You cannot trust it and you will eventually disregard it altogether.
2. Let them do it
Chew it piece by piece. While you work on a certain piece like network equipment, let others develop their ideas of a CMDB. Don't try to over-control it. As you evangelize ITIL, you get people excited. Different departments will get new ideas and run side projects on their own. Not only is it difficult to stop, it is not advisable. Try to be part of it. Remember the old saying: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. The last thing you want to do is to be perceived as the person who is making it difficult for them. Empowerment will get you further than you can imagine.
They might even ask you for advice. The best advice you can give them is the framework of Configuration Management. Let them organize their information within that framework: PICSV (Planning, Identification, Control, Status Accounting, Verification & Audit). Once you get to it, they will have acquired much more than you expect: they will have acquired experience.
3. Integrate the costs
You can hardly justify the investment into a large tool with the process of Configuration Management alone. In practice, your Service Management tool, whether Peregrine Service Center, Remedy or another, usually comes with a CMDB and/or a Configuration Management Module. If it does, you really need to integrate its cost into the overall price. Your CMDB will provide direct benefits in most of the processes which have their own business case.
It will speed up the Incident and Problem Management processes. It will increase the quality of your changes and reduce the time to releases. It will enhance the reporting of Service Level Management, provide accurate asset and Total Cost of Ownership information to Financial Management. It will produce Capacity reports and allow Availability to run exhaustive reports. The list is not exhaustive but it demonstrates how fundamental this CMDB is.
4. Look at front-end options
Open technologies like XML can help you consolidate information from different sources seamlessly. Maybe your CMDB is nothing less than a front-end interfacing your many sources of information. It is a low-cost solution because you know where the data is, you only need to develop a user and data interface.
Less than a Big Bang approach, this could also allow you to give the organization a glimpse at the value of a more integrated system down the road, while delivering results today.
5. Right-size it and Audit
You should never store information for the sake of storing information. The best way to ensure that you are not consolidating what you think is important, but what the stakeholders hold as important, is to start with a process. Once you know what is involved into selling a car, you can identify what information is critical, what is nice-to-know, and what is luxury. Experience shows that in a productive environment, no-one has the time to maintain luxury.
Don't automatically absorb information. If you have the chance to have a network monitoring tool that can discover and query elements, it would be dangerous to allow that tool to integrate changes and additions automatically into the CMDB, because any modification to the infrastructure that is not already in the CMDB is a change that was not properly controlled. Therefore, that information is a measure of the adoption of the Change Management process. Such information should be submitted to an audit process to verify it, review the impact of the change and decide on a confirmation or roll-back of that change.
Because of the size of this database, it is completely critical to plan drastic audit procedures. Your first steps in maintaining this baby is going to be questioning everything in it. Ask people to prove that the information is accurate.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 08 October 2006 ) _________________ BR,
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