Measuring the Success of Your CMDB

By Dennis Drogseth

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By now, I would think that most of you are aware of the idea of a CMDB or Configuration Management Database, and that many of you have teams looking at CMDB system deployments. I would also suspect that many of you are uncertain about the actual value of the CMDB system and why it’s important. This is certainly the case among many executives that EMA works with.


The challenge is compounded because the CMDB system is designed to improve how your organization works together, laying a foundation for better processes and process automation, better and more consistent access to information, and better analytics. Or, as our IT consulting team puts it:


The CMDB is an enabling technology. It provides access to IT data in a structured, reconciled, and synchronized manner from the many technology silos and toolsets spread across your organization. It feeds high-level analytics and intelligence engines that can enable new, more accurate, and more effective ways of sharing and analyzing information. However, it is NOT in itself a service desk, change management system, dashboard, etc. As such, it has little dollar value in and of itself.


According to EMA’s research, most IT organi­zations go forward with a CMDB investment without a formal ROI. The CMDB is a “transformational enabler for culture, process and organizational changes which can show strong values, but for which the metrics are more difficult to define.” (CMDB Adoption in the Real World: Just How Real Is It? (2007)). Nonetheless, in EMA engagements, virtually all of our clients ask us to support them in defining both “hard” ROI metrics and softer metrics for project milestones sooner or later.


Just like ITIL itself, no one should embark on a CMDB for religious reasons, but instead it should be viewed as a vehicle to enable a defined set of critical goals. The impact of a CMDB system across IT can quickly become dramatic, and the 2007 research confirms this with what EMA believes is a truly enlightened view: with 50% of the respondents affirming that 75% or better of their overall IT organization is impacted by their CMDB initiative.


CMDB Success


It might be useful in this column to provide you with a snapshot of the thinking for defining value around your CMDB deployments. You, after all, will in many cases be the final arbiter of success. So, arriving at the table with some of these ideas can help you and your organization move forward faster and more realistically.


First of all, there are metrics directed at ensuring effective milestones in the evolution of the CMDB system itself. These metrics generally divide into three areas: scope or breadth of coverage, accuracy or integrity of information, and efficiency metrics documenting improvements in the maintenance and evolution of the CMDB itself.


Some examples of scope metrics might be:


·       Have all appropriate stakeholders been identified and committed?

·       What’s the percentage of CI’s with identified owners.


Some examples for integrity and accuracy:


·      Number of missing or duplicate CIs.

·      Number of changes to the CMDB per month due to identified errors with the CMDB system.


Some examples of metrics for efficiency:


·      Percent of CIs that are discovered or updated automatically.

·      Percent of CIs that are synchronized and reconciled automatically.


Now let’s look at a few example of metrics directed at external or larger values, including ITIL process improvements. These really divide into two categories: those that lend themselves to ROI or hard business impact, and those that are more milestone-like in supporting a more collaborative and effective way of working across IT.

For simplicity’s sake, I have combined them below into four categories: change management, asset management, service impact, and security/governance/compliance.


Some examples of metrics for change management:


·       Reduction in number of failed changes and re-do’s.

·       Reduced cycle time to review, approve and implement changes.


Some examples of metrics for asset management:


·       Faster ability to provision (existing/ new) services to customers based on more informed insights on asset interdependencies.

·       Improved ability to integrate and retire new assets in terms of time efficiency, cost efficiency and service impact (downtime).


Some examples of metrics for service impact:


·       Reduced MTTR

·       Improved MTBF

·       Reduction in number of trouble tickets


Some examples of metrics for security/governance/compliance:


·       Reduction of incidents/problems specifically caused by non-compliant CIs.

·       Reduced time to perform audits for compliance.


Needless to say, these metrics will generally take a little longer to materialize—after all they won’t be possible until at least your phase one CMDB is in production. Secondly, while they benefit from the CMDB, these improvements often reflect additional technology investments and process improvements that leverage the CMDB but are above and beyond the CMDB system itself.


The most critical thing for you to keep in mind is just as CMDB technologies are evolving through deployments, effective metrics and valuation systems are similarly in their early stages. In fact, given the very dynamic nature of a market in which we can all hope to learn from each other, to a large degree this is as it should be.


This is probably not the year to write the definitive guide to CMDB system assessments. However, 2008 is hopefully a year in which more and more of you will be looking to put a stake in the ground and lead your organization to clear and tangible values through your CMDB investments.


Dennis Drogseth is vice president of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at ddrogseth@enterprisemanagement.com