Do you want to have your company data organized in a new database? Maybe some database exists already in pieces of excel or datasheets with almost no automated interconnection. You are overwhelmed by email responses in unclear chains, and you are thinking that ticketing can help. You are clear you want to improve it! Where to start from?
What is the purpose of database solutions?
First, try to avoid thoughts of which tool to use (ServiceNow, Remedy or something else), what will be its yearly costs for license, maintenance, or what feasible architecture solution could be used to build it. You might lose the purpose if you start with such business/cost decisions. First things first: Think about the purpose of your CMDB for now and your vision for the future. How will it support your business goals and objectives? What is the value it shall bring?
Imagine you are buying a new car and deciding between all of the brands. You get so focused on price, yearly costs and what is performance, that you lose track of purpose. You buy a great car with the newest features and high performance for a great price. However, the car is meant for small city shopping—it needs to squeeze into a small parking slot and your grandmother will drive it. She will be confused by too many advanced functions and upset about maintenance, which her neighbor cannot help her with. Instead, she must book an authorized service every time. The user will be unhappy and management will get complaints all the time. Avoid such situations by thinking about its purpose first.
After you are clear about the purpose of CMDB and future requirements to support the business, you have clear criteria to evaluate which specific tool fits the best and is within budget. However, before you get the tool developers on your board, there is still some homework to be done.
Where do you stand now?
When a company decides to implement a tool like ServiceNow, there must be something more behind it. The developer’s budget can be easily spent and wasted if the company is not clear yet about their current baseline. CMDB is not only about tables and business rules or scripting. Take a moment to stop and think.
- What do you already have, what works well, what does not work well?
- Who are CMDB’s sponsors, who are the stakeholders, and who are the customers?
- Do the owners take the responsibility of ownership inside CMDB/ServiceNow?
- Who will be the approvers, the subject matter experts, the coordination and execution teams?
- Do you have any unified and real-time HR data source to feed the foundation about users?
- Is there already a ticketing or ITSM system in place? Do you use any processes, like Incident management, Change enablement, Request Fulfilment…?
Companies often work based on ITIL. However, ITIL is only the best practice, it does not give specific answers to a developer. Company shall describe how the daily operations are performed in the field of Asset Management, Configuration, Incident, Change, Problem, Knowledge, Release, Capacity, Request Fulfillment, or Service Level Management. The execution teams need to verbalize their daily jobs into clear rules and logic applicable to ServiceNow. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? In case the teams struggle when describing their process/activities, you can take the following list as an inspiration:
- Purpose, Objective
- Standards and Policies, Security or Compliance classification
- Area of governance e.g., Global/Local
- In Scope, Out Scope
- Term definitions – some people can understand basic terminology differently
- Role Descriptions – its qualifications, responsibilities, and duties, what and when the role must respond, its entitlement, permissions, and roles’ segregation, attendance, and representation on boards.
- Audiences, Entities and Communities e.g., Change Advisory Board, Technical Expert Groups, its representatives, purpose, and principles.
- Process Description, its Triggers and Outcomes, Flow Chart with Activities
- Interfaces – related tools, and external processes
- Maintenance, Verifications, Quality Controls, Audits
- Notifications, Reports
- Performance monitoring, Indicators, Measurements, Service Levels, Metrics
- Guides and Manuals
Try to holistically understand how your business, services, processes, departments are interconnected. None of them are standing alone. Any action in one area of the chain causes reaction in a different area.
Where do you want to get to?
Your specific set of considerations will be based on the vision you created. It depends on the specific situation of each company. Before hiring developers of the new tool, the company can already evaluate, internally or with help of a consultant, which processes are already optimized and mature for automatizations inside the tool.
- Do you need to enable additional processes, like Knowledge management, Capacity forecasts, Service Level reporting…?
- Shall CMDB/ServiceNow maintain only hardware data, or software/license and Application information as well?
- Shall ServiceNow at the same time also be a repository of all office IT equipment?
- Do you foresee that you will need reporting of cost centers and charges for the equipment?
- Do you want to invest in interfaces for collecting/copying data? Can you cover the cost of maintaining updates of interfaces and their documentation?
- Do you want to extend the end-user experience by request fulfillment for the equipment or application’s access permissions?
- What is the level of detail you want to be focused on in CMDB/ServiceNow? Where to draw the invisible line for saying a polite “No, thank you, this is a nice data source, however, it does not pay the value to maintain it.”
The scope and long-term goal shall be written down and reviewed regularly. One-slider summary in user-friendly language can help everyone—owners, users or developers—to set expectations and work as one community towards the one common goal.
If you identified the right people and roles already, promote the target of where you want to get. You should also inform others who are not directly executing in CMDB, as they might be the users or customers later. Do not try to implement all of the new features at once. Cut it up into smaller logical pieces for the community, plan and communicate, deliver, and tune up one by one.
Excuse me, how do I get to Champs-Élysées?
Now, you have your location and desired target destination. How to get there?
Do you remember what they always told you? Here it is again.
Clean your room!
Eliminate waste, keep it simple, optimize… It is worth the effort to do it before you request the developer to design the tool. Always first optimize, then automate. It will pay back!
- Difficult relations and very complex workflows are costly to design and a hell to update later.
- Pay special attention to exemptions. Some companies make exceptions to exemptions. As an example: A server purchase is always approved by the Global DC Capacity Manager, however when the server is for XY country, then the approval is executed by local XY facility manager. The more exemptions you create, the more fragile the CMDB/ITSM tool will be and the process is easy to fail.
Feed the cat!
Alright, so now you know what our CMDB content is—maybe millions of CIs and attributes, which can be created by an interface or upload. But what next to consider?
Somebody must organize those CIs into a logical and technological (carrying same attributes) structure, so-called classes. The structure must suit the purpose of ServiceNow, support the goal and business. At the same time, CIs must be easy to maintain as data is aging and getting invalid every minute. The team shall include a Subject Matter Expert (e.g. UNIX specialist) to select needed attributes, CMDB Architect to keep focus on relevant topics only in context of the whole CMDB, Configuration Process Manager to ensure data maintenance later, and the tool developer to implement solutions.
It is not an act of heroism to create a huge database, but a proof of geniality to keep it with real-time data and minimal effort, while well-structured to review and designed with a user-friendly mindset.
Database Solutions: Summary
Overall, all is a logical sequence of considerations. The volume of it might surprise you. Often is used a project to enable CMDB/ITSM solutions. However, it is never a one-time project. Continual improvements and reviews must be planned.
Hopefully, this article helps you to get ready on your starting line. You can now consider and evaluate the purpose and the position, where you are and where you want to get. Devoteam Consultants can help you with these early steps. Also, they can assist with searching the right way and navigation in case you are already in the middle of a project, recognizing a pain point or blocker on the road. Devoteam also provides top-class Developers to implement or fix the solutions in ServiceNow. We welcome you to use our contact details, it will be our pleasure to help improve your processes and tools.
Do you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us!