The Five Keys That Underpin Success for Asset & Configuration Management

Thought Leadership for
IT Service Management Professionals

The Five Keys That Underpin Success for Asset & Configuration Management

Posted by Don Casson

Fri, Dec 01, 2017

 

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How willing would you be to take on a project that has a success rate of just 15 percent? If you’ve been asked to create a configuration management database, or CMDB, you’ve been given an assignment that causes many talented IT professionals to fail. Approximately 85 percent of the companies that try to create a CMDB fail every year.

Why do asset and configuration management tank so often? While there are many reasons asset management hasn’t realized its full potential, a few significant ones stand out. First, getting data across an enterprise is difficult at best. For many organizations, asset data collection involves different tools and collection methods that end up with information stored in multiple repositories.

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As a result, companies often have repetitive and sometimes conflicting sets of data that need to be reconciled. Since many organizations have inconsistent naming conventions and their discovery data is incomplete, it’s usually challenging to rationalize their data sources. Even after their data stores are reconciled, companies still have to compare their data repositories with license entitlement, a process that normally has its own set of difficulties.

Once that’s done, organizations face the daunting task of rationalizing their asset data with the relevant vendor and contract information.

While the explanation just provided might give you an idea about why asset management is so challenging, the biggest reason it fails so frequently is that it’s done in the reverse order it should be executed in. In too many cases, asset management is done from the bottom up. This means companies typically start collecting data even though they don’t know why they’re doing it.

For asset management to be successful in today’s IT environment, it should be done from the top down. When you know who’s going to use the data you’re collecting and what they’re going to use it for, it gives you a customer-centric perspective that can guide your data collection and organization.

Like asset management, configuration management hasn’t delivered the value it should in a lot of instances. Why is that the case? It’s largely because configuration management is a solution that wasn’t created in response to a problem.

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Many IT professionals set up their configuration management without understanding why information is being collected or how it’s going to be used. They don’t take time to figure out how they can do less instead of more. As a result, a tremendous amount of information has been collected, but there’s no discernable agenda to guide its use.

When it comes to ITIL configuration management process flow and ITIL asset management best practices, the best way to make them work better for your company is to adopt a customer-centric approach to management. In other words, know who you’re collecting data for, why these individuals want the data and how they’ll use the information you collect first.

The Rise of Service Owners

What makes IT valuable? The stock answer to that question used to be delivering technical solutions, but things have changed dramatically in recent years. Today, IT organizations are starting to realize their true value lies in their ability to deliver what their customers want while providing a high-quality experience. It’s not the technical solutions that are important. Instead of the technical outcomes, the services IT organizations provide should be what matter most to customers.

This shift in focus has led to the rise of service owners. A service owner is responsible for creating what a customer really wants from the beginning through the end of the process — from conception through execution to delivery and beyond.

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The emergence of the service owner has changed things significantly in service asset and configuration management. Technical managers need to answer certain questions about their technical solutions, including:

  • Is my application available?
  • Are there any apparent threats?
  • Are incidents being addressed?
  • Are there any new requests?

Service owners must see things from a customer’s viewpoint to deliver the outcomes their customers want and need. To do this, they must ask a greater number of different questions, including:

  • Who are my customers, and what do they want and need?
  • Are my customers happy? If unsure, how can I improve my services?
  • What should I build for my customers to improve their experience?
  • Are my services high-quality, user-friendly and complete?
  • Can I eliminate or automate any components?
  • How can I improve my service or add more value without increasing cost?
  • How is my team doing, and do they need anything to be more successful?
  • Are other service owners doing anything that can benefit my service?

As you can tell from the nature of the questions service owners must answer, many of them would benefit from accurate configuration management. More specifically, accurate configuration management can help 75 percent of service owners.

If you notice something else about those questions, it might be how customer-centric they are. By leveraging data to improve customer experience, service owners can increase customer experience. With so many service owners having the potential to benefit from accurate configuration management, service asset and configuration management are now more vital than ever.

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Definition of Key Terms

Before we examine the five fundamental elements that only asset and configuration management have, let’s look at the meanings of some key terms that will be used in the discussion of those five elements. Here are some key words and their meanings as they relate to our discussion:

Asset & Configuration

This term refers to tracking and reporting the value and ownership of assets. When you think of ownership and value, you’ll have a more financial and control orientation, which leads many to then think about their contractual relationships and third-party vendors.

Configuration Item

A configuration item is anything that is necessary to deliver an IT service. Examples of configuration items include hardware, software, processes and people. When you think about configuration items, your mind will often shift to thoughts about their current state, readiness and availability.

Service Asset

A service asset is a resource or capability that contributes to a service delivery. While configuration items can be managed directly by IT, not all service assets can be managed as easily. The knowledge and skills of your team members are service assets, for instance.

Even though you can arrange training for your staff, you can’t manage or control what information they retain. Your team’s ability to handle a problematic incident is another example of a service asset that’s not always easy to manage. Although you can give your team instruction about how they should respond to a problem, you can’t physically control the actions they’ll take to resolve an issue.

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Configuration Management

Configuration management is the process you use to maintain accurate information about the configuration items that are used to deliver your IT services. Configuration management is not the same thing as a configuration management database. Whereas configuration management is a process, a configuration management database is simply the location where you store information about your individual configuration items and how they relate to one another.

Service Asset & Configuration Management:

Service asset and configuration management, or SACM, combines your asset data and configuration data to ensure accurate and dependable information about a given asset is readily available when it’s needed to support a service. This information includes an asset’s configuration as well as the asset’s relationships to other assets.

There are numerous activities involved with service asset and configuration management, including:

    • Planning: ITIL recommends creating a service management plan for every service you offer. A service management plan addresses the critical components of a service before you implement the service. It will discuss things such as the service’s scope and objectives as well as the service’s relationship with other services and processes.
    • Identification: This task involves creating an inventory of all your configuration items. ITIL suggests giving each of your configuration items a unique identifier so they’re easier for you to keep track of. When you’re identifying your configuration items, you should record every piece of information about them that’s necessary for your configuration items to be used effectively.
    • Control: ITIL encourages you to control your configuration items by developing a strict protocol for adding, changing and removing configuration items from your configuration management database. The point of doing this is to make sure changes don’t happen without your staff following the procedures you implement.
    • Accounting & Reporting: Keep track of the status of every one of your configuration items throughout their lifespans, including any changes that have been made to them and any alterations that have been proposed. Accounting for everything that happens to your configuration items will provide meaningful insights you can use to improve your IT services. It can also help you identify any unauthorized configuration items that are in your configuration management database.
    • Verifying & Auditing: ITIL recommends verifying and auditing your data regularly to make sure your documentation and data are in alignment. Verifying is an ongoing task that ensures your configuration management database is an accurate reflection of your configuration items. Auditing occurs less often.
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When you perform an audit, you’ll take a close look at the accuracy of your records and ensure your staff is adhering to the procedures you have in place.

    • Information Management: In addition to making sure your information is accurate, you have to manage your information so its integrity is maintained. You should protect the integrity of your information by backing up your configuration management system often.

Five Fundamental Elements Only Asset & Configuration Management Have

As we discussed earlier, service owners are becoming more and more prevalent in IT. Because accurate, reliable configuration management can benefit the overwhelming majority of service owners, it has become increasingly important for many IT organizations. Configuration management is so vital that it is considered the decision-making support base that underpins every IT service in innovative IT organizations.

Here are the five fundamental elements you’ll only find in service asset and configuration management:

  • End to End
  • Modular & Reusable
  • True Cost of Service
  • KPIs the Customer Cares About
  • Visibility from Top to Bottom

To understand how these work, we’ll break each element down.

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End to End

Whether you’re reviewing your ITIL configuration management process flow or you’re trying to implement some ITIL asset management best practices in your work environment, your asset and configuration management system should be created around the elements listed above.

Your asset and configuration management must be designed to manage your assets, configuration items and services from end to end, from the start until the end of their respective lifecycles. Your goal should be to complete the full lifestyle circle for your customers, providers and managers.

Asset and configuration management should no longer be done from the bottom up. If you flip this configuration, you learn that a top down perspective lets you see from the point of view of your customers.

When you manage from the top down, you’ll know what your customers want and need, which gives you the chance to narrow down what you need. Exercise restraint and limit your needs to the bare minimum, then get what’s truly necessary.

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Modular & Reusable

Remember — everything is either a service or a sub-service. With this in mind, you should think modular and reusable as you’re mapping your processes. In most instances, three or four reusable, modular processes in a selected area can often accommodate 80 percent of the needs. While you should actively limit your data whenever possible, you still need to implement your original data curation closed loop process.

This process will be unique to your work environment, and it should improve the quality of your data as time goes by. As you’re doing these things, collect cost data information so you can more accurately determine your true cost of service down the line.

True Cost of Service

In general, IT organizations have a noticeably low maturity level in the context of IT costing. This immaturity prevents IT from doing some important things, including driving customer choice and participating in cost/benefit conversations. As IT continues to shift away from providing technical solutions and toward offering customer-centric services, many organizations want their IT to know the true costs of the services they provide to customers.

Whether you get cost reimbursement or you do showback costing, it still influences consumer behavior by creating better understanding and decision-making among customers. It enables you to lead your customers where you want them to go because you can create standard and bundled offerings that feature the handful of activities you do the majority of the time.

By having standard bundles of services and using cost and delivery times, you make it easier for customers to make decisions. You’ll simplify the work you and your team have to do. Can you achieve any of those things without asset and configuration management? No, you can’t.

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KPIs

The final two pillars of successful service asset and configuration management are the KPIs —key performance indicators — your customers care about and top-to-bottom visibility. As you know, your customers are the people who use your data for any purpose. The key performance indicators that are meaningful to your customers tend to flow downward in a pattern that resembles a pyramid.

KPIs flow downward from your customers to your service owners and then to the relevant service providers. The KPIs become service level agreements and then operational level agreements as they flow down the pyramid. As time passes, the operational level agreements roll upward into your service level agreements, which end up delivering the KPIs that are important to your customers.

Visibility

As your team labors to produce the services your customers want and need, be on the lookout for ways you can improve your service delivery as well as the measures of your success. Your team should perform work that’s visible and perfectly aligned with your customers’ wants and needs.

And, with proper asset and configuration management, your processes will be visible from the top to the bottom. They’ll be aligned with what matters most to your customers as well.

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Benefits of Service Asset & Configuration Management Based on the Five Fundamental Elements

When you have service asset and configuration management that’s based on the five fundamental elements discussed above, you can do more than you can now. You can build a service that you may want to offer in the future which is based on your customers’ actual needs, for instance.

Since your service asset and configuration management will enable you to create modular and reusable sub-services, you can see what the performance and delivery might look like from beginning to end while benefitting from the chance to actively limit the data you curate and improve its overall quality at the same time.

You can also add up the SLAs and OLAs for each sub-service to get a feel for how much your prospective service will cost before you invest resources in creating it. As your OLAs move up the pyramid and become SLAs, they’ll reveal the KPIs that are truly meaningful to your clients. When you base your service asset and configuration management on the five fundamental elements, your processes will be visible from beginning to end and they’ll be in line with what’s most important to your customers as well.

Contact Evergreen Systems

At Evergreen Systems, we don’t believe the way things were done yesterday has to be the way they’re done today. That’s why we’ve been on the leading edge of IT service management for 20 years. That’s also why we can help you with your service asset and configuration management, making sure it includes the industry’s best practices and that it’s prepared to handle the changing demands of the marketplace.

If you’re still focused on producing technical solutions for your customers or you’re trying to develop technical outcomes before you fully understand why you’re working on them or what they’ll be used for, it’s time to stop doing things the way you’ve been doing them. It’s time to start working from the top down from a customer-centric viewpoint with the goal of providing sought-after solutions instead of one-off technical solutions.

Our solutions approach to business means we use the latest technologies and the industry’s best practices to create solutions pre-built for you. Everything we do goes through our Innovation Center, which means we’re literally advancing the state of the art for you when you work with Evergreen Systems.

Are you ready to learn more about how we can help you with your asset and configuration management? Give us a call or complete our contact form today.

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