Imagine walking past a fast food restaurant and you feel your stomach start to rumble. Yup, it’s lunchtime! So, you immediately decide to enter the restaurant, order your favorite burger without thinking twice, and take a seat. That burger is hot and sizzling when you take a hearty bite of happiness and satisfaction.
You’re happy because this burger has met exactly the specific requirements and expectations you have for it. It’s not your favorite burger for nothing! Even if all burgers in most cases have a patty between two bun halves - there is so much more that you are looking for. You want certain toppings such as cucumber and tomato slices, and certain sauces to excite your taste buds. And of course, the burger shouldn't be cold, the sesame seed bun shouldn't be burnt, and the lettuce leaves shouldn't be bitter.
In short: the configuration of the burger has to be right. And that requires a high level of quality of functioning configurations: a kitchen without defects, efficient storage, trained staff who know what they are doing, and much more.
If we move from preparing your meal at your favorite fast food joint to IT Service Management, we quickly end up with a process called Configuration Management, an ITSM practice from the ITIL framework.
Configurations and relationships in the IT landscape
According to ITIL, the purpose of Configuration Management is to ensure that accurate and reliable information about the configuration of the IT infrastructure, each IT service, and its supporting configuration items is available when and where it is needed. This also includes information about how the configuration items are configured and what relationships exist between them.
It's about making the infrastructural basis, the services, and the components that contribute to their delivery transparent and reproducible. Configuration Management records all changes to ITSM-relevant systems including hardware, software, and technical assets in the company, and it is so important because IT services consist of a large number of components and have numerous dependencies.
The complex heart of Configuration Management
Configuration Management requires a technical-organizational solution to map all configuration information - this is referred to as a configuration database or Configuration Management Database (CMDB). In the ITIL framework it forms one of the central components, a core element of IT Service Management. The key challenge that the CMDB aims to solve is to remove isolated data and outdated information in isolated systems and environments.
The following simplification illustrates why the CMDB is so important: Team 1 operates a configuration item labeled A, and Team 2 operates a configuration item labeled B. There are dependencies: In order for configuration item B to function smoothly, configuration item A has to run without problems. Unfortunately, the flow of information across teams is poor, so Team 1 doesn't even know that this dependency exists - the context is missing. What if, for example, Team 1 carries out maintenance work and takes its configuration item A offline? Without even suspecting it and without other teams being informed, this measure affects the functionality of Configuration Item B. The consequences can be dramatic and expensive if worse comes to worst!
The CMDB is intended to sustainably counteract the isolation of information and the inadequate flow of information. The ITSM team stores all relevant details about the organization's IT landscape and IT services in it. Here the details of all configuration items are shown with their current status, responsibilities are stored, the dependencies and relationships are described and important documents are linked. It's about nothing less than consolidating all configuration details in one central location.
So it is more than just a database. It includes tools such as discovery tools to identify configuration items and integrate data from different sources across the enterprise, reporting features to filter, sort, and visualize data according to specific needs, monitoring features to monitor and audit data sets and their correctness across the CI lifecycle, and security and authorization concepts to ensure that only authorized people can make changes.
Systematic Configuration Management and its potential
With the establishment of a CMDB, the complex collection of data, and the setting up of well-thought-out Configuration Management processes, ITSM teams expend a considerable amount of time and resources. However, experienced teams are convinced that the efforts are worthwhile - and that the ITIL framework rightly regards Configuration Management as a fundamental aspect of IT Service Management.
The goals and benefits of systematic Configuration Management are obvious:
Quality: It is a process that ensures in the medium and long term that the company's IT systems and services, with all their characteristics and contexts, are of a consistently high quality throughout the complete lifecycle.
Visibility and control: The IT landscape with all its services and the linked and interacting components is fully transparent and can be controlled at any time.
Change Management: As part of the continuous improvement of IT services and the technical evolution of the IT landscape, the IT infrastructure with its services and configuration items is subject to permanent change. Configuration Management based on a mature CMDB supports the transparent management of such changes, as automations and specific workflows help in their implementation.
Efficient modernization: With the help of professional Configuration Management, obsolete, inefficient, and/or non-standard configurations or configuration items can be identified and - prioritized appropriately - replaced.
Added security: Comprehensive Configuration Management is a security factor. Modern components and processes lead to better protection against threats and technical problems. For example, the delivery and distribution of updates can be managed efficiently, allowing newly discovered security vulnerabilities to be fixed quickly.
Support for Incident Management: If the IT infrastructure and its services are comprehensively and completely described in the CMDB, incidents are easier to isolate, understand, and document. The ability to search for and identify potential weak points in a targeted manner supports the development of avoidance strategies.
Performance: Modern solutions that are technically up to date, are well maintained, and interact seamlessly and smoothly, are a key prerequisite for high performance of the infrastructure - and of the ITSM team. For example, if up-to-date IT documentation provides real-time information about when and where modifications or corrections have been made to the infrastructure, once changes have been made, the team should be able to quickly have a productive relevant system (or, in the event of problems, at least quickly have the original standard configuration).
A balancing act
Setting up Configuration Management so that it works perfectly can feel like a balancing act. On a tightrope. About a hundred feet up in the air. Without a safety net. While the circus tent is on fire. So if you feel like this and you'd like some help, don't hesitate to contact us. We'd be happy to lend a hand!
- Knowledge Management in IT Service Management – It’s Enough to Invent the Wheel Only Once
- Systematic IT Asset Management and Its Potential – More than Inventory Management
- Continuous Service Improvement in IT Service Management – Putting Optimization Initiatives into a Structured Form
- What is Service Request Management? – 8 Best Practices to Handle Service Requests Efficiently
- Inventory 24/7: What is IT Asset Management?
- Beyond ITIL – Alternative ITSM Frameworks and Their Differentiation