Building Robust Configuration Management to Leverage IT Services

Elaine Mays, CIO, Texas Juvenile Justice Department
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Elaine Mays, CIO, Texas Juvenile Justice Department

Imagine an environment where the organization assets are spread across multiple disparate systems throughout with no ability to manage the organization in a consistent and effective way and no insight to know if the performance and expectations meet the needs of the business. Data is not standardized and there is incomplete or inaccurate information making it difficult to make good business decisions. Well, this is how some organizations operate today. This type of environment makes it challenging for an organization because no one fully understands how the data and hardware integrates with one another. This can be a disaster for mismanaging resources and assets along with making it challenging to deliver “World Class” service, not to mention the lack of direction or knowledge when it comes to problem resolution. In my opinion, a Service Integration And Management (SIAM) model will integrate these services into a single business-facing platform.

"In my opinion a good configuration management solution incorporates event monitoring to provide improved network availability in order to operate in a cost effective manner"

This is why, in my opinion, any organization that provides technology services should have a good configuration management system to measure if customer needs are met. A well-defined service catalog and configuration management solution will aid the organization with the ability to effectively and accurately manage and monitor its infrastructure as it relates to changes, service and support delivery because it will store user and configuration items into a single system to provide better customer service, problem resolution and the ability to proactively identify future issues by reviewing trends, standards, and system configurations.

In my opinion a good configuration management solution incorporates event monitoring to provide improved network availability in order to operate in a cost effective manner and provide a clear and concise representation of the enterprise environment and assist in analyzing the risk of a change prior to being released into production.

As previously stated when technology resources are decentralized in an organization, it makes it challenging to provide support in a timely and effective manner, in the long run it will cost the organization more to operate, which makes it challenging to make sound financial decisions and manage resources effectively with multiple, redundant systems in an environment that are not integrated.

I am aware of an organization that implemented a complete federated service catalog and configuration management solution and over time improved its service delivery and support to its customer. In my opinion a good configuration management solution will provide consistency in the infrastructure by managing the configuration of devices, improving overall service delivery and have data that assist in outlining how to effectively support the needs of the business as well as monitor and control the impact of changes in the environment real-time.

When an organization decides to evaluate a configuration management solutions system they should make sure these modules are included: incident management (break/fixes), problem management (proactive techniques), account management (on boarding), change and release management (the ability to understand what is changing in the environment and the impact to the business) or the ability to pull metrics to look for trends to improve processes and service support. Products with a discovery mapping tool is also helpful because it ties all configuration items together. The configuration items and user information should be stored in a single repository to allow the business to have access to well-documented information, such as a federated knowledge base that is shared across technologies in order for technical resources to accurately and effectively support the customers in a timely and consistent manner. Today, some businesses have already integrated a web interface that presents the Service Catalog and even Instant Messaging (IM) chat technologies to replace the need to “staff the phones” at the Service Desk.

A good configuration management solution should be able to assist in identifying an issue or send an alert in the event of a change in the environment, which will allow the business to compare current changes to prior recorded configurations. Data identified with auto discovery or inventory can be used to form relationships and dependency between the configuration items and the services the customers rely upon to assist in timely resolutions.

In my opinion, some businesses view configuration management as a bureaucracy, rather than an opportunity to standardize and create an environment that is repeatable and predictable. Building a robust Configuration Management Database (DB) allows the business to have visibility into its operations for better capacity planning. This helps identify and understand the value IT brings to an organization and helps to understand what resources are dependent on another.

In closing, a business should ensure they have a good governance module in place to demonstrate what value IT means to the customers because a well-run Configuration Management process is critical. As organizations consider moving toward a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) model, it will assist the organization in understanding the overall Return on Value (ROV) and Total Cost of Consumption (TCC) of services, so an organization will know over the life span of that service how much it will cost them.

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