How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3

By Linh C. Ho  |  Posted 2009-02-13

How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3

Data without any context or meaning is not useful to anyone. When the data is processed and presented, it becomes meaningful information with which the user can make informed decisions. In IT service management, providing the right information to the right people at the right time empowers IT, business managers and executives. It allows them all to be knowledgeable and wise, as IT Infrastructure Library Version 3 (ITIL V3) puts it. As a result, they are more agile in efficiently meeting client and business requirements.

Over the last few years, the perceived answer to managing the wealth of data is the Configuration Management Database (CMDB). The CMDB has been hyped to deliver great value; however, many are still trying to work out how and where to start. Interestingly enough, ITIL V3 introduces Knowledge Management as a key process that touches all five life cycle phases, but with particular emphasis in Service Transition.

As part of Knowledge Management, ITIL V3 introduces a Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) with the goal of effectively providing meaningful information, knowledge and wisdom to appropriate IT or business users for quality decision-making. The SKMS is defined as a set of tools and databases that are used to manage knowledge and information. The SKMS includes the Configuration Management System (CMS), as well as other tools and databases. The SKMS stores, manages, updates and presents all information that an IT service provider needs to manage the full life cycle of IT services.

So, how do we achieve the SKMS? How does it relate to the CMDB? We will explore these questions in this article. In a future article, we will cover how Business Service Management (BSM) enables the SKMS.

How do the CMDB, CMS and SKMS relate to one another?

First, a CMS brings multiple CMDBs together in a federated approach. The CMDBs make up a CMS along with other data, and a CMS makes up a SKMS. CMS provides information for IT decision makers that are typically derived from changes, assets, configuration and so on. Examples of CMS information for the Configuration Items (CIs) can be costs, purchase dates, suppliers and support levels, SLA status, locations, contact information and so on. The CMS supplies this information to the SKMS.

Second, the industry is recognizing that it is not as easy as it sounds to implement a CMDB-perhaps ITIL V3's SKMS reflects this realization. So the federated model acts as a CMS to provide the ability to get data from multiple CMDBs (homegrown or commercial). The CMS feeds the SKMS (along with other business-relevant data elements) to process and present to the right users via dashboards and intelligent portals.

How the SKMS Works

How the Service Knowledge Management System Works

An SKMS is achieved through integrating data and information that are supplied by one or multiple service management technologies. The data collected is then processed, filtered and presented via dashboards or intelligent portals. One company, a global outsourcer, is already working towards ITIL V3's SKMS using its homegrown CMDBs instead of a commercial one. This provider saw three initial benefits of implementing an SKMS:

1. Collaboration: Providing a common service visualization platform for all parties involved in delivering these services, and providing the ability to see the service components all the way to the CI level

2. Leverage existing investments: Processing data from existing service management technologies and its homegrown CMDBs without ripping and replacing any IT investments

3. Operational improvement: Understanding how services are made up helps to quickly identify the business impact and components affecting a service degradation or outage. As a result, it improves mean time to repair (MTTR) and overall resolution process

This global outsourcer uses Compuware's Vantage Business Service Management (BSM) as the technology to enable the SKMS. The underlying data comes from service desk, change management, event management, and asset and configuration management, to name a few.

BSM is a natural fit to do this since its goal is to align IT services with business objectives by correlating disparate data sources, and helping IT map its services to the critical business processes they enable. Moreover, BSM provides a solid understanding of business impact in terms of costs, user experience, service status and more-helping IT understand its contribution to business success. More details on how BSM enables the SKMS will follow in a future article.

Why the SKMS is Significant

Why the Service Knowledge Management System is significant

In any organization, everyone at every level of the organization is a decision maker-whether you are at the operational level, a manager, a process owner or a business executive. SKMS takes a wider base of knowledge to include user experience, company performance figures impacted or other business impact information, staff experience and more-as long as the information and knowledge captured in the SKMS ultimately brings "wisdom" or common sense to the different users mentioned for decision-making.

By providing information for IT and the business, SKMS enables IT to further integrate itself with the business. Moreover, having logical, central repositories of knowledge promotes collaboration and thereby helps eliminate the siloed approach to IT service management. In return, it improves IT operations efficiency. This truly gives different technology groups a common visualization platform for all parties involved in delivering services, as well as those benefiting from the services. For a start, teams from IT governance, quality, asset and configuration, service desk and service delivery can have access to tailored views respective to their function.

Final thought

"Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences." -Norman Cousins

When the quality of IT decision-making is improved, and users are more knowledgeable or wise to effectively meet business requirements, this increases the value received by the business and customers from every dollar spent on IT.

Linh C. Ho is Director of Product Marketing at OpTier Inc. Prior to OpTier, Linh was senior product marketing manager at Compuware, as well as at Proxima Technology. Linh has over 10 years in the IT service management market. Linh is a co-author of two itSMF books: "Global Best Practices for IT Management" and "Six Sigma for IT Management." Linh also served on the review team for several itSMF books, including ITIL V3 Foundations. She has written articles and spoken at conferences on the topics of Six Sigma, ITIL and IT service management. Linh is certified ITIL v3 and a Six Sigma Champion. She holds an Honors Baccalaureate in Commerce; International Business Management and Management Information Systems from the University of Ottawa. She can be reached at

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