The CMDB is overrated

by | Jul 3, 2020

It is a known ‘fact’ that you need a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) to be successful in IT Service Management. After all it is nicknamed as ‘The Single Source of Truth’ for a reason. Yes, it takes a lot of effort to set it up and maintain but in the end it will all be worth it.

At least, that is what I always hear. But ask 10 service managers why you need a CMDB and what the main benefits are and you will likely get 10 different answers. So although we are all convinced we need one it is hard to tell why. Did you know that in 2009 a Gartner study showed that less than 5% of the Fortune 2000 organisation had a CMDB in place? So apparently you can be pretty successful without a CMDB.

Over the years we have seen many CMDB implementations fail because of countless customizations and integrations, needless replication of data and no clear business justification for putting in all the effort. Nevertheless, most service managers are still convinced that a CMDB is an essential part of successful IT Service Management. Why? Because urban legends die hard. Just like the well-known ‘facts’ that eating low-fat food will not make you fat and eating carrots will improve your eyesight.

Urban legends die hard, especially in the world of ISTM

Am I suggesting that you don’t need a CMDB at all? Never? No, I am not. Whether you need a CMDB or not is determined by the services you deliver and the information you need to fully support these services. If you provide a CRM service to your customer that is supported by a cloud solution like SalesForce what would you need to register in a CMDB for this service? On the other end, if you provide a workplace service and you charge your customer based on who is using what equipment and applications it is very likely that you need a CMDB to support this.

So the main message of this story is that your CMDB (if any) should be driven from the services you provide, not from the ‘need’ to register and administrate every possible part of your infrastructure. The level of detail you need will vary per service and will also depend on other sources of data like inventory tools and financial systems.

We have a whitepaper available that contains 13 clear and easy to follow principles for setting up your CMDB and making sure there is a business justification for maintaining this data. We also give you guidelines on who should be involved in the setup and maintenance of the information. We would love to share this with you and help you setting up your CMDB.

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