Reinventing your CMDB: 5 key steps to operating a complete, correct, and compliant CMDB in ServiceNow

One of the main jobs of the IT team is to actively manage, track, update, and secure all hardware, software, devices, and network components within the company’s IT environment. For mid to large-size organizations, this could easily reach tens of thousands of configurable items (CIs), including a huge influx of connected devices.

 But the list of CIs isn’t just getting longer — it’s also getting more complex, as many items have dependencies that could affect their availability or performance. IT professionals face a real challenge in managing these assets and their accompanying data, primarily as they must simultaneously focus on other priorities.

 This is the purpose of a Configuration Management Database (CMDB), a centralized repository that stores information about any IT component within the organization. Typically delivered through a platform like ServiceNow, the CMDB is an essential tool that provides a virtual map to the IT team, helping them effectively manage, track, update, and secure all items in the environment and being the trusted source for automation and compliance. 

 But despite being a cornerstone of the IT environment, many challenges are associated with operating a CMDB, which could have very real operational, security, and compliance consequences. In this post, we review the purpose of a CMDB and offer five best practices for using this tool to ensure the health and performance of your IT organization.


What is a configurable item?

A Configurable Item (CI) is any item that needs to be managed to deliver an IT service. This includes but is not limited to:

Hardware: Servers, network devices, laptops, desktop computers, mobile devices, etc.

Software: Operating systems, applications, drivers, utilities, etc.

Facilities: Data centers, server rooms, network closets, etc.

Services: Technical or business services and related offerings, contracts, licenses, etc.


At a glance: 5 key functions of a CMDB 

  1. Provides a comprehensive view of all IT assets and their interconnections, thereby facilitating informed decision-making and resource optimization.

  2. Enables effective change management by efficiently tracking and managing changes, mitigating the risk of service disruptions, and ensuring smooth transitions.

  3.  Expedites efficient incident resolution by providing real-time insights that swiftly and accurately identify affected configurations, thus preventing or aiding in promptly resolving IT incidents.

  4.  Aids in regulatory compliance by diligently monitoring configurations and their attributes to ensure adherence to regulatory standards and compliance requirements.

  5.  Supports cost optimization by identifying underutilized assets, thereby assisting organizations in making judicious resource allocations that enhance cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency.

Five best practices for operating a complete, correct, and compliant CMDB

 Operating an effective Configuration Management Database (CMDB) typically requires an IT solution to establish the foundational components of the database. One of the most prominent players in this field is ServiceNow, renowned for providing a comprehensive solution that streamlines CI (Configuration Item) tracking, relationship mapping, and asset data maintenance for organizations. This entails employing a mature data model and a robust solution capable of supporting multiple data sources, all while boasting strong reconciliation capabilities. ServiceNow’s turnkey solution is tailored to meet these needs, ensuring efficient management of diverse datasets and their intricate relationships. 

  Nevertheless, although a partner such as ServiceNow can establish the groundwork for a CMDB, the database’s overall robustness and effectiveness rely on a clearly defined strategy, robust governance, and continuous data management. These crucial aspects necessitate the active involvement of the organization’s IT team alongside its extended business transformation partner ecosystem.

Here we outline five key best practices to help organizations ensure they are getting the most out of their system—and how to maintain the highest levels of performance, security, and compliance.

1.Establish a single source of truth to enable end-to-end visibility and insights.  An effective CMDB should consolidate all configurable items. However, many organizations operate with a decentralized CMDB, resulting in a lack of a full and complete view of the entire environment. This is sometimes through no fault of their own since some CMDB solutions support hardware and software but not end-user devices or vice versa. IT teams should review their CMDB(s) and, wherever possible, consolidate or harmonize systems to improve overall visibility.

2. Automate data processes to ensure the system provides real-time insights. A CMDB is a live system. Given the constantly evolving technology landscape and the increasing complexity of industry-specific IT solutions, effectively managing the high volume of IT components poses a considerable challenge. Companies should automate data processes related to controlling data sources, reconciling data, and prioritizing data sources based on trust levels within the CMDB. This helps to ensure data is captured and that insights provided by the system are reliable.

 3.Define clear rules to optimize performance and reduce risk. Companies should set up essential audit rules, such as ensuring consistent completion of mandatory fields, conducting data consistency checks, verifying relationship accuracy, and addressing stale CIs within specified timeframes. This will help prevent the occurrence of orphaned CIs by emphasizing accurate linkages, connections, and associations between respective components.

4. Conduct a comprehensive health check to determine baseline system performance. The evaluation of CMDB health involves several critical scores and metrics. We sometimes refer to these health components as the “3Cs” of CMDB health:

  •  Completeness Score: Tracks the volume of CIs containing required and recommended information tailored to the organization’s compliance, automation, or service requirements.
  • Correctness Score: Validates CI uniqueness, relevance, and activity, enabling the identification of data source gaps, duplicate CIs, inactive CIs, and the usability of CIs based on their relationships.
  • Compliance Score: Ensures the internal configurations, policies, and requirements are met to validate the IT components.

6. Implement a robust monitoring routine to track progress over time. As the CMDB continually evolves, its performance follows suit. An essential approach to CMDB maintenance involves adopting a recurring revalidation cycle akin to regular health check-ups. Instituting a 90-day cycle for reviewing and refreshing stale CIs in the CMDB is imperative, as it aligns the CMDB revalidation with the quarterly business cycle, facilitating streamlined decision-making, proactive data maintenance, and optimized resource utilization.

 From high-complexity to full-control: Achieving CMDB excellence with Globant and ServiceNow

 Ensuring the CMDB’s accuracy, completeness, and reliability is crucial for seamless operations and informed decision-making. Moreover, nurturing the health of the CMDB enables organizations to foster an IT ecosystem that drives efficiency, productivity, and sustainable growth.

 If your IT organization would like to improve the performance of your CMDB, Globant can help. Contact us to schedule a CMDB assessment led by our team of experts. This assessment will provide a baseline analysis to identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities for an optimal solution. Reach out to our ServiceNow Studio team to find out more.

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The ServiceNow Studio at Globant empowers clients to optimize the ServiceNow platform, enabling support for HR, finance, IT, customer service operations, and more. We strive to provide a strategic approach to optimize the ServiceNow software technology for your business.