Configuration Management in ITIL4

by Maya G

The purpose of Configuration Management is to manage and control assets that make up an IT service. These assets are called Configuration Items (CIs). Configuration Management gives the foundational data for the other Service Management processes. For example, Change Requests are evaluated for risk based upon the information in the CMDB. CMDB information is used to restore Incidents faster.

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CM in ITIL4

How a Quality CMDB in the SVS Helps Deliver Value?

When thinking of the CMDB, and Configuration Management as a whole, ITIL4 helps give perspective. For example, ITIL4 discusses Service Management in the context of four dimensions:

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ITIL4 Service management

  1. Organizations and people,
  2. Value streams and processes,
  3. Information and technology, and
  4. Partners and suppliers

These are the keys to the success of the CMDB. People execute the processes and ensure that the CMDB is aligned to stakeholder value. Technology represents most of the CIs in the CMDB and the CMDB itself (including discovery). And, there is an increasing number of CIs owned or operated by partners. These four dimensions represent a full view of the CMDB. As an organization considers how to establish or improve a CMDB, all four aspects must be engaged and fully leveraged.

Another ITIL4 core area is the concept of Guiding Principles. There are seven Guiding Principles shepherding all transformations and efforts. Let’s look at each in the context of the CMDB:

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Seven Guiding principles of ITIL4

  1. Focus on Value – When establishing a CMDB – or evaluating the health or performance of one – the focus MUST be on what stakeholders see as value. The CMDB scope and all activities should reflect this value.
  2. Start Where You Are – Many organizations have grandiose dreams of a healthy, high-performing CMDB, but the current state makes it nearly impossible. The CMDB maturation must begin from the current state. If a starting point is too ambitious, the CMDB may never show value.
  3. Progress Iteratively with Feedback – After knowing the accurate starting point, maturing and improving the CMDB should occur in small increments with the guidance of feedback from stakeholders and consumers of the CMDB data.
  4. Collaborate and Promote Visibility – There are many types of CIs ensuring the success of every IT service. This success is dependent on collaboration across many teams. The application teams work closely with the infrastructure teams and the business stakeholders to keep all parties aligned transparently and visibly.
  5. Think and Work Holistically – IT services support business outcomes. These business stakeholders need to be involved in the holistic design and operation of the CMDB.
  6. Keep It Simple and Practical – When embarking on a CMDB journey, many organizations attempt too much impractical scope, decreasing the chances for success. To start, the CMDB needs to be a simple diagram of the CIs that support the key IT services. Then, over time, add scope that aligns with stakeholder value.
  7. Optimize and Automate – Of all the Service Management practices (or processes), Configuration Management and the CMDB use the most optimization and automation. Discovery uses both to retrieve, control, and manage the CMDB data.

Service Value System (SVS) in ITIL4: CMDB and Continual Improvement

In ITIL4, the Service Lifecycle is replaced by the Service Value System (SVS), which includes the Service Value Chain (SVC). The SVS is pictured below and shows a high-level view of how business customers submit an Opportunity or Demand, and it travels through the SVC (guided by the Guided Principles, Governance, Practices, and Continual Improvement) to create value for the customers.

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Configuration Management Process flow

For the SVS, the CMDB helps deliver value and is both a practice (Configuration Management) and a focus of many Continual Improvement efforts. It is in the SVC that we see the impact of a quality CMDB.  As you can see in the diagram below, the CMDB is involved in almost every aspect of the SVC.

The Plan is a strategy element that the CMDB is an integral piece as it is the best place to show the current state of the IT estate.

Just like with the SVS, the CMDB is key to many SVC Improvement initiatives.

As we look into the core aspects of the SVC, the CMDB is the cornerstone of the Obtain/Build, Design & Transition, and Deliver & Support.

For Obtain/Build, the CMDB shows the current state of IT services, the CIs that make up each service, and the relationships between CIs and services. If we are considering a buy-versus-build decision, the CMDB is the best place to begin the analysis as it helps us understand what is currently in the environment.

In the Design & Transition, new CIs and services are designed and added – or changed – in the CMDB. This is a key step for the accuracy of the CMDB data.

As we Deliver & Support the new or changed service (or CI), it has CMDB impacts and the attributes for each must reflect the change. 

While many see the CMDB as an operational aspect for IT service delivery, it is also a strategic asset for a quality initiative.

The ITIL4 authors did a great job with the updated framework to reflect the new and emerging needs of the CMDB and its stakeholders.

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