Answers to 8 essential questions about assets that should be in your CMDB

Your Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is continuously increasing in size and complexity, driven by an endless list of components that need to be improved or new data sets that someone wants to add. You understand that more data doesn’t necessarily translate into more value. You wish someone could tell you, “What data do I actually need in my CMDB?” We can answer that question, and do it pretty precisely. At the core of any CMDB are the Asset/Configuration Item (CI) Records. Here are the answers to 8 essential questions about assets that are important to manage the IT ecosystem, and should be in your CMDB.

1. What are they? An accurate inventory of what assets and configuration items exist in your IT ecosystem is the foundation of your CMDB. Your asset/CI Records may come from discovery tools, physical inventories, supplier reports, change records, or even spreadsheets, but whatever their origin, you must know what assets you have in your environment.

2. Where are they? Asset location may not seem relevant at first, but the physical location of hardware, software and likely infrastructure impacts what types of SLAs you can provide to users, the cost of service contracts with suppliers and, in some areas, the amount of taxes you are required to pay. In many organizations, the physical location of assets is only captured as the “ship-to address” on the original purchase order; however, good practice dictates that you should update this information frequently. Some options may be GPS/RFID tracking, change records, physical inventory or triangulation from known fixed points on a network.

3. Why do we have them? Understanding the purpose of an asset is the key to unlocking the value it provides to the organization. Keep in mind that an asset’s purpose may change during time as the business evolves. The intended purpose when the asset was purchased may not be the same as the actual purpose it is serving today. Periodic review of dependencies, requests for change and usage/activity logs can help provide some insights into an asset’s purpose.

4. To what are they connected? Dependency information is critical for impact assessment, portfolio management, incident diagnosis and coordination of changes. Often, however, asset dependency data is incomplete, inaccurate and obsolete – providing only a partial picture to those who use the data for decision-making. When capturing and managing dependency data, it is important to keep in mind that the business/IT ecosystem is constantly evolving (particularly with the proliferation of cloud services), causing dependencies to assume important time attributes.

5. Who uses them? User activities and business processes should both be represented in the CMDB as CIs (they are part of your business/IT ecosystem). If not, then you are missing a tremendous opportunity to leverage the power of your ITSM system to understand how technology enables business performance. If you already have users, activities and processes in your CMDB, then the dependency relationships should frequently be updated from system transaction and access logs to show actual (not just intended) usage.

6. How much are they costing? Assets incur both direct and indirect costs for your organizations. Some examples may include support contracts, licensing, infrastructure capacity, maintenance and upgrades, service desk costs, taxes and management/overhead by IT staff. Understanding how much each asset is costing may not be easy to calculate, but this becomes the component cost for determining the total cost of providing services to users.

7. How old are they? Nothing is intended to be in your environment forever. Understanding the age and the expected, useful life of each of your assets helps you understand the past and future costs (TCO) and inform decisions about when to upgrade versus when to replace an asset. Asset age information should include not only when the asset was acquired, but also when significant upgrades/replacements occurred that might extend the expected, useful life of the asset to the organization.

8. How often are they changing? Change requests, feature backlogs and change management records provide valuable insights into the fitness of the asset for use (both intended use and incidental). This information should be available from other parts of your ITSM system (change, problem management, portfolio management, ), but it is critical that current and accurate information about change be considered a part of your asset records.

You should be able to find the answers to these 8 essential questions about assets in your CMDB. If you can’t, then you may have problems with either your data integration or asset data quality. If that is your situation, then Blazent can help. As industry leaders in data quality management solutions, Blazent can help you gather data from a broad set of sources and, through integration, correlation, reconciliation and contextualization, improve the quality of the core asset records in your CMDB, so you can maximize the decision-making value from your ITSM investments.

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