3 Approaches to Building Your CMS


  • Complexity of the information can be overwhelming if the collection criteria is ill-defined;

  • Requires a complex, often expensive, tool to systematically collect and maintain the information;

  • Application focus is still very IT-centric, may not lead to service transformation; and

  • Tends to lead to over-architecting the CMS, making it difficult to maintain.

The tactical-technology-focused approach – Organizations will usually start with this approach when they have access to and can utilize existing monitoring and management tools to collect physical and logical infrastructure configurations like existing servers, routers and switches installed throughout the environment.

This information is used as the starting point for building the CMS and facilitates the establishment of baseline configuration items (CIs) that can be used to cascade relationships for application and service definitions.

Most organizations have various tools used to manage infrastructure information and these databases are considered separate configuration management databases (CMDBs) that can be used as foundational information to integrate with the CMS.

Some of the pros and cons of this approach include:


  • Leverages information that is most likely readily available in existing toolsets;

  • Less complex and builds a solid foundational model;

  • Requires nominal effort from IT resources;

  • Allows for cascading relationships for application and service mappings; and

  • Provides a baseline data model.


  • Does not initially capture service relationships, but sets the baseline;

  • Requires a well thought out design plan to allow for eventual transition to service information;

  • Can be time consuming when attempting to gather all information across IT silos (server, network, storage, applications, etc.); and

  • Requires standard naming convention across IT domains.

Figure 1: The Pyramid: The Three Approaches to Building a CMS

Having trouble deciding?

If you are unsure of the best approach, it is recommended to start from the bottom and move your way up based on your organizational strategy, needs as well as experience and maturity. You need to make sure your CMS design enables you to scale to accommodate future CMS needs.

Additionally, ensure you define, design and implement your organization’s integration of the change and service asset and configuration management processes to support the CMS and the underlying data stored within the CMDBs. Time spent on defining the foundational processes and procedures will pay huge dividends in your ability to select an appropriate toolset for the CMS.

Without defining the foundational process activities in the beginning, you will limit your ability to choose tools wisely.

Utilizing this approach can drastically narrow the scope of the project and allow for appropriate design and testing based on existing and commonly available information. In some cases, a parallel effort can be initiated to define and document a baseline service catalog, as long as your organization has the resources available to accomplish it without disrupting the CMS project.