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ITIL :: View topic - How to make configuration management really effective ?
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How to make configuration management really effective ?

 
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IT_MATTERS
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:13 pm    Post subject: How to make configuration management really effective ? Reply with quote

Experts ,

I work for an IT company who supports multiple clients from an infrastructure and application support perspective.Right now we have all ITIL processes and function in place to support our clients. We use Remedy tool to support and as CMDB we are using Atrium from BMC.Its all intigrated with change management and other processes.

But here is our problem :

The information captured in CMDB /Atrium is incossistent , not updated and not enough to support the business service management in order to take the real benifits for configuration management for our clients .Support teams also manage parallely their IT server inventories in other tools like Remedy inventory and spread sheets which are not linked to change and other ITIL processes.

Any advise on how can we improve over this situation in order to have a strong configuration management process and a better CMDB as it is the mother of all service management activities .

Appreciate any tips and advise from your rich and vast experience.

Thanks,
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Deepak Yadav
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UKVIKING
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deepak,

Thanks for the comments in the other forum. And also, thanks for bringing the CM issue to where it belong

I will comment with the obvious questions / answers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1 - What documentation are there associated with the following areas
-Implementation of new services
-Change & Release mgmt
-incident
-problem
-config

by documentation - I mean policy documents, process documents, procedure documents, work instructions, how-to,

2 - What training, instructions, re-inforcement has been given to the various people

3 - Is the a configuration librarian or even a configuration mgr. having a process w/o control entity usually means the process can not be verified

4 - Is there a configuration standards document / group / team that determines what are the standard nomenclature for things like

naming conventions for CIs
ownership of CI
process
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It appears to me that there is no configuration management process - regardless of what you have said.

What has happened is that there was a major ASSUMPTION that the tool would take the aspect of the configuration management process on its own

It also appears that the Service level Management process does not exist - because if I was the customer that you are providing service, I would be very demanding. The fact that you have no clue what devices, etc make up my environment - because you dont have accurate records - would make me question the value of the service that is being provided

In final, in my not so humble opinion

I think the state you made that you have all the ITIL processes in place is a marketing blurb rather than an operational statement of fact.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Also, IMNSHO,

The above observations should come to any ITIL Manager (Red badge) Certificate holder and any Red badge holder would be able to come up with the solutions rather easily. (I wrote this in 10 minutes)

this issue (or one similar) has appeared in at least one of the Case Studies that I used when taking the courses, studying for the exam and the exam's case study
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John Hardesty
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Change Management is POWER & CONTROL. /....evil laughter
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UrgentJensen
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

I tend to agree with Viking.

You need a much stronger and engrained config management process because if you don't have 'one true source' of data, and continually administrate this, then the value of the data as being accurate is immediately undermined.

Other processes will tick along because they are more familiar, but this one is now where you need to focus fully.

Cheers,

UJ
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IT_MATTERS
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with what John says !I also see a need of re training and awareness for configuration management and the policies related to it. We support more than 75 clients for IT infrastructure . Right now we have a client based approach and not an orgaziantion wide standard practice and workflow for configuration management activities even though the tool used is common for all clients. We have configuration managers for all clients .That way some clients have a better configuration management and some have really worse.What would be a good approach ...

1. To do configuration management by customer ?
2. Or have a central team for all configuration management activities ?

Thanks,
Deepak
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UrgentJensen
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Deepak,

Well that depends on what your customers want. Have you asked them if they're willing to have a standardised approach that you will impose on them and all your other customers? Or do they want individual tailoring?

Either way, it's a moot point because if you give your customers the choice between 'some made up stuff we thought might work' or 'industry best practice', which will the choose? So tailoring by customer is somewhat irrelevant.

Getting your Config Managers to work in the same way, to the same quality and processes is the more urgent step.

UJ
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UKVIKING
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First off...

what is the contractual requirements for managing the customer's environment

If you are required to manage the customer's machines. then you should have the minimum information that you as the service provider need to provide service

### Beyond that.... amend contract and pay me more and I will do more

2 If the customer uses the tool along side u, then u are screwed until you get Service Level management in and have this cmdb data as part of the regular meeting

3 If the customer is responsible for the data, .publish guidelines on what information is required, the format, and what information is optional.

provide all the customers with this guideline and with the stipulation that it is in THEIR best interest to keep it up to date . NOTE ###

regardless, there should be some documentation / contract / memorandum of understanding that the database is the 'source' and must be kept up to date and any service related issues that can be traced to inaccurate details in this source ... yadaddad
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JoePearson
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

UrgentJensen wrote:
Have you asked them if they're willing to have a standardised approach that you will impose on them and all your other customers? Or do they want individual tailoring?

Either way, it's a moot point because if you give your customers the choice between 'some made up stuff we thought might work' or 'industry best practice', which will the choose? So tailoring by customer is somewhat irrelevant.


Moot point? In my experience of working for and with outsourced service providers like this, the answer is nearly always the same, but it's far from moot.

* caution * cynicism may follow *

99% of customers will choose "industry best practice" when asked that question. But when asked questions about responsibilities they will accept (typically answered by different staff in the same customer) they will give conflicting answers (which undermine best practice). When asked questions about what reports they require or what service level controls and guarantees they require, they will demand things that the provider can only meet under wild assumptions (at the due diligence stage).

Each client has a unique business and will think this means that have somewhat unique IT needs. It all too often happens that the provider's support teams dedicated to each client are pressurised by their client, and given too much free rein to solve urgent problems their own way, or not enough central support to solve them (in both cases, for example by setting up local server asset lists as Deepak mentioned).

Any outsource service provider faces a real commercial risk of losing clients by appearing to "impose" common standards - unless (something I've never seen) the sales, senior management and legal people fully understand the service benefits of imposing these standards.

Tightly managing the separate support teams to comply with common standards often puts them in a difficult situation - conflict between central management objectives and team management objectives - and something usually gives.

My tough answer:

If your service mgt system can't accommodate different clients' needs via parameter changes only (no process or architectural changes) then you should not be in the centralised service mgt business. This applies whether the business is outsourcing or central support to multiple departments.
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UrgentJensen
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joe,

Ok, you are looking beyond my broad point to the difficulies of trying to manage in that type of agreement, and of course I have sympathy for your perspective. I don't think it's cynical, rather a reflection of the current culture of customer/IT service relationships.

UJ
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JoePearson
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There I go looking beyond a broad point again. Occupational hazard. Smile
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UrgentJensen
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No worries Joe, we both get to be right!

UJ
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milligna
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just read through this thread and found myself wincing a couple of times Very Happy

In my short career dealing with ITSM concepts I have worked only on the outsourcing side of the fence. I've come to the conclusion that asking an outsourcer to manage your ITIL service Management practices really only works if the service you are outsourcing is nice, neat and contained - for example a well defined application service and related infrastructure.

As soon as you start asking an outsourcer to manage some aspects of a more complex environment but not all you run into problems in terms of change and configuration management. "you run the wintel servers, but we'll run the applications and databases on them. You run the entire backup infrastructure, but we'll run the UNIX servers that you back up."

I had one customer that had a very strong interest in doing their own change management (and enforcing their change management practices on us as the outsourcer) which worked fine - except that we ran the toolset and "configuration management" such as it was.

Their change management process interfaced really nicely with the Config management data that we were managing ourselves (wintel servers for example) because we had some reasonable controls around the data - but when it came to their applications and unix servers for example we didn't manage CI data so the quality dropped significantly and in many cases it hurt their Change Management process. I'm of the opinion that ITSM is "all or nothing". You either give the whole lot over to the service provider, or you manage it yourself.

Kev.
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UrgentJensen
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kev,

Absolutely, this can be a nightmare. It doesn't matter how well and strictly enforced processes are, the best ones are the ones that compliment each other and have associated roles and responsibilities that grease the wheels.

I don't work in managed services precisely for the reasons you're talking about - ownership and demarkation of responsibilities. Urgh...

UJ
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Diarmid
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kev,

this is why there are strict rules concerning the scope for ISO20000. You will be able to find discussions on that somewhere on the web (I'm not sure if there has been much in this forum?)

The whole point is that service management is an integrated activity.

This enlightens me about the other thread. Configuration Management is core to all aspects of the IT service, as are most of the ITIL elements (Change, Problem, Incident, Capacity, etc. etc.)

A customer who asks an outsourcer to manage their "ITIL service Management practices" has not the slightest clue what they are doing. They think that these practices are something apart from managing their services?

You can only mange that for which you are responsible. How did your outsourcing company get in the state of agreeing to impossible commitments? Where was due diligence? Why am I unemployed while rubbish like this is going on?
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milligna
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haha! I don't know Diarmid Very Happy

I think you're spot on that some of these customers' ITSM practices were so far gone that they just wanted to offload the lot without clearly defining the scope of what was and wasn't to be managed. The company I work for has a strong ITSM background (far more so than the last outsourcer I worked for), but I do believe we sell ourselves as being "your ITSM provider" and some customers might misconstrue what this means in terms of where their own responsibility starts and ends.

At least it means there's plenty of scope for improvement Very Happy
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Cotswolddave
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Deepak,

I just delivered a course covering service mapping and the issues brought up by delegates were very similar to those you described. They saw that platforms teams hadn't really bought in, plus the new whizzy tools (atrium also) wasn't actually working - so what do they do....

Many of the other posts offer good advice but it probably won't change things becuase its too late. Trying to recover the original plan will be difficult so another way has to be considered. In the course we talked about the people, resources, awareness, understanding etc and the conclusions may be relevant to yourself.

1. Platforms teams will always need detail and data relevant to their own needs, so don't try and either replace it with your system or tell them they are wrong. If they can't or won't keep their own data up to date, then you can't integrate it either.

2. Service management needs are often more about data for coordination such as owners, changes, dependencies, risk, hours of service etc. which cover multiple technologies and go across platforms. No one else is going to create a "cmdb" so it is a new set of data in addition to the technical stuff used by platform teams. New data requires owners, so don't expect federation of existing sources to avoid the need to establish ownership.

3. If you focus on what no one else is doing such as mapping services to systems you can shame people into not supporting the effort as its vital for change management and incident reporting. If you try and take ownership of their data, then expect resistance. So focus on what they're not doing outside of their own area and have management support behind you.

4. The fact that there are different customers involved makes it all the more embarassing for the company. It is a management problem which a CMDB or clever technology will not solve. I try and not use the term configuration management any more and talk about communication management. Config mgmt is about establishing a means of communication across teams and groups about complexity of IT systems. It therefore needs to be as simple as possible and probably doesn't require the technical detail that will only be understood by specialists.

In finishing the course it became apparent that the purchase of Atrium was really motivated by a need to not challenge the status quo. Magically integrating data from multiple sources meant (in their view) no one had to change. Its why in the end, after recognising a failed implementation they booked the course - it would have been better beforehand so they could have anticipated issues. I suspect it will probably be another 12 months before anything is delivered that can be trusted. But this is IT so what is 2 years late anyway?
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