Knowing why you care about asset and configuration management is the second key to getting it right.
A key purpose for keeping track of all asset and configuration information is to ensure and maintain delivery of services, which keeps your customers happy. This is the “why” behind your efforts to build an effective configuration and asset management program.
ITIL describes Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) like this: “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. This information includes details of how the assets have been configured and the relationships between assets.”
I place emphasis on “deliver services” above because this is the crux of the challenge in effectively and accurately managing your IT assets and configurations.We previously discussed the first key to getting asset and configuration right: know “why” it hasn’t worked. We presented a series of questions to help you find answers which are useful in turning around a failed configuration and asset management program into a successful one.
Here, we focus on an equally important “why,” which is the second key to simplifying asset and configuration management and getting it right: knowing “why” you are doing this.
Let’s dig deeper by discussing the benefits of the two elements that make up SACM: IT asset management (ITAM) and configuration management, supported by the CMDB.
Why “why” is so important for ITAM
If you clearly know the “why” when it comes to asset management, then the “what,” or the actual planning and execution of your plan, becomes a whole lot easier. You need to spend significant time on the “why” until the answer is clear. Then, you can move onto the “what,” which we’ll discuss in a future blog post.
So, why are you really doing this?
Let’s discuss the many benefits of ITAM, which according to ITIL is the process for tracking and reporting the value and ownership of assets over their lifecycle. It will help you see why improving SACM is so important to your organization.
- Asset class decision making: From a planning perspective, we can use ITAM history to make asset class decisions, such as hardware from one vendor versus another.
- Portfolio planning: ITAM is helpful in project and portfolio planning. Imagine the following scenario. You are considering a major app upgrade with an estimated million-dollar price tag. Of course, you must justify the cost to get approval. However, by considering the asset data you find a significant hardware or software upgrade will be required. The project now has a 4-million-dollar price tag. This is a big difference which can result in your plan being denied.
- Portfolio simplification: Tied to the benefits of efficiency / cost savings and the ability to respond, portfolio simplification is perhaps the greatest overlooked benefit of asset management. Say you are supporting 20-30 different applications in each area, where 2-3 would meet 80% of the need. The cost and complexity of supporting all these apps is usually many times the actual software cost. Knowing this can really help you simplify.
Beyond that we have the additional benefits of cost savings and compliance, cost leverage and user choice. Many of these benefits are tied to each other. For example, cost leverage, or having cost as a weapon, can proactively influence user choice.
Configuration and the Service Owner
As we discussed earlier, IT organizations are understanding that their value is in delivering what the customer needs to keep them happy. Customers care about receiving a high-quality experience; the technology is not top of mind for them. So, the role of IT is to make technology available to customers for reliable and quality consumption. This in turn is leading IT to focus on true services rather than just technical outcomes.
This transformation, caused by the proliferation of online services, mobile technologies, the Internet of Things, and more, is fueling the emergence of the role of the Service Owner.
What does configuration management have to do with all this change and job of the Service Owner? The role and value of IT is shifting. A Technical Manager is more concerned about application availability, pending threats, status of incidents and requests. On the other hand, the Service Owner is the technical muscle behind the customer and in charge of the outcome the customer really wants: end to end service. Service Owners ask questions like:
- Who are my customers?
- What do they want / need?
- Are my customers happy?
- Are they maximizing the benefit of my service?
- How can I improve my service?
- What should I be building for them?
- Is my service high quality, easy to use, complete?
- What can we eliminate or automate?
- What are my “competitors” bringing to market?
- Is my price fair & competitive? How can I improve it or add more value at the same cost?
- How are my delivery team / providers doing? What do they need to be more successful?
- What are other Service Owners doing that might benefit my service?
These questions arise when an IT person sees service from the customer’s eyes. And as you can see, a Service Owner has many more questions to answer than a Technical Manager regarding end users.
Configuration management is the decision-making support base underpinning all IT services. For Service Owners, and subsequently their customers, accurate configuration management provides 5 foundational benefits:
- End to end service delivery and ownership
- Support of modular, reusable services
- Bill of IT in a customer valuable way
- Support of KPIs the customer cares about
- True top to bottom service visibility
“A problem well stated is half solved,” said Charles Kettering, the famous 20th century inventor and head of GM Research. This statement rings ever truer in the 21st century where enterprise IT must deliver services rather than just managing technology (there goes that word in bold again!) Accurate and reliable Asset and Configuration Management creates a firm foundation of decision-making data that enables them to do just that.
(This series on SACM continues on July 24, 2017)
About the Author: Don Casson is CEO of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm helping medium to enterprise public and private sector organizations to dramatically transform their IT operations. Don is a frequent writer, blogger and presenter, and has delivered over 50 webinars on topics in Service Management, including IT and shared services.
Feel free to contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org