This blog is an excerpt from ServiceNow’s 3-part eBook Series, “A 6-Step Approach to ITOM and ITSM to Work Better Together,” to download the complete series – you can click here.
Today, the average corporate IT organization is trapped between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.”
On the one hand, there’s the need to “keep the lights on” by maintaining the status quo, effectively managing outages, enacting change swiftly and safely, and leveraging insight into services and performance.
On the other hand, there’s the need to support the enterprise’s new ambitions — whether it is supporting the corporate digital transformation or using new technologies to drive the corporate strategy and operations forward.
To escape the trap, a new and better way of managing IT services is required. Enterprises need a better, more intelligent way of managing IT services. One that breaks down organizational silos to focus on better business outcomes through the optimal application of technology and data. And one that begins with bringing service management and operations management together.
The ServiceNow 6-step approach to this starts with:
- Step 1 – The establishment of a CMDB.
- Step 2 – Discovering infrastructure and business services to populate the CMDB with the data and information needed to support both ITSM and ITOM operations.
These first two steps are a platform upon which IT organizations can build an IT management solution that spans both ITSM and ITOM in a way that improves service quality, speeds up operations (for both ITSM and ITOM), reduces costs, offers greater insight into performance, and enhances the end-user experience.
Step 1: Establishing a centralized CMDB (and the power of a single system of record)
A CMDB is a centralized database that stores information about your IT assets and their relationships with IT and business services. If your organization uses ITIL, then your organization’s CMDB will support the ITIL service asset and configuration management process/capability:
“The process responsible for ensuring that the assets required to deliver services are properly controlled, and that accurate and reliable information about those assets is available when and where it is needed.”
In undertaking Step 1, the creation of a CMDB – even if starting simply with network assets and a few services–offers your organization a strategic advantage through connecting many aspects of your business. And, with the CMDB in place, your organization will have a single source of truth across all of IT and be able to benefit from the power of a single system of record is not only optimizing ITSM and ITOM capabilities but also supporting them both in working better together.
The proven benefits of establishing a CMDB are:
- Better understanding the configuration and relationships of services and the IT assets used to deliver them
- The ability to map monitoring alerts to the services affected to better understand their impact
- Greater control over IT assets and supporting any corporate IT asset management activities related to compliance and cost optimization
- Quicker resolution of incidents and problems and better meeting service level agreement targets
- Improved assessment, planning, and delivery of changes and releases
- A platform for the required IT and enterprise-level governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) activities
- Contributing data and insight for financial management and optimization activities
- Supporting improvement activities and technology/organizational change programs
All these benefits collectively help to make IT operations better, faster, and cheaper. “When we implemented ServiceNow, we had no CMDB, we had no integrations, no governance, and we had separate systems that weren’t talking to each other. We were at an ITIL maturity level of 2 to 2.5. Now, most of our processes are at a 4 to 4.5,” said a director of IT production services.
Step 2: Discovering infrastructure and business services
The ServiceNow approach to Step 2 is a two-phased discovery process.
In the first phase, the CMDB is populated with discovered information about your organization’s IT estate. This starts with infrastructure discovery, also known as “horizontal discovery.” This discovery phase automatically seeks out the IT-asset makeup of your organization’s environment, identifying the infrastructure and recording it in the CMDB.
In today’s IT world, the infrastructure discovery needs to span both the physical and virtual assets in your data center as well as the different types of assets available from cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
The second phase of discovery is a “vertical discovery,” where, in addition to horizontal discovery, ServiceNow’s service-aware approach also provides a top-down discovery method that maps your organization’s business services.
This living “service map” tracks the underlying infrastructure that the business services rely upon, giving your IT organization clarity in understanding how changes to, or issues with, infrastructure can impact a business service.
Eight configuration management and CMDB tips
Configuration management and the CMDB has a reputation, within the ITSM industry, of being “too difficult.” However, this isn’t a view shared by ServiceNow customers with over 80% of them using their CMDB for some purpose.
The ease and level of your organization’s CMDB success are also dependent on the approach it takes. The following eight tips will help your organization to get its CMDB established right:
1. Start by understanding all the possible use cases for the CMDB and its data/information–these might not be obvious, so systematically question different IT teams and roles. Then prioritize these gathered needs against current resources and capabilities.
2. Fully understand the desired end state. Then ensure that all CMDB efforts, including discovery, are pointed firmly at this achieving this end state.
3. Focus on the quality of data over the quantity–seek out the right data to deliver against the highlighted and prioritized business needs.
4. Ensure that the CMDB is allocated sufficient resources to succeed, both in set up and on an on-going basis. Automation will help significantly here.
5. If obtaining the required backing and resources to establish your CMDB is difficult, start small–focusing on known business issues and opportunities–to demonstrate the value of the collected data/ information and to support further resource investment.
6. Even if resources aren’t limited, be very focused on the initial scope. Get that right first, then move on to other areas.
7. Leverage automation as much as possible–from discovery through accurately enacting and reflecting changes.
8. Don’t neglect people change (and the need for organizational change management)–while technology will hopefully make people’s lives easier it’s also a change to the existing ways of working, which will most likely encounter resistance.
Download the whole eBook series to learn more about the next 4 steps:
- Step 3: Proactively identifying service issues
- Step 4: Making an informed incident response
- Step 5: Automated remediation
- Step 6: A single view across IT services and operations.