Measuring the Success of Your CMDB

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.