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Archive for April, 2012

The CMDB as we know it, is Dead

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Goodbye old friend.  I won’t miss my old CMDB.

Many in the ITSM community as well as the IT community at large have embraced the concept of the CMDB only to have their hopes and dreams shattered as they tried to implement one in their worlds.  There are hundreds of presentations and papers available that explain why they failed: Lack of process, scope creep, lack of business buy in, etc…  are very common causes of failure… at least in these papers.

I however would like to point the finger at a different failure source – The vendors.

I know that this isn’t a popular view as these kind ladies and gentlemen have graciously tried to solve your CMDB problems by getting you to spend many thousands of dollars (sometimes millions of dollars) on software and consultants to implement their Utopian visions of IT Service Management bliss in your environments.  They have painted pictures of a perfect world where if you buy their software,  downtime will be reduced to near zero,  your customers’ productivity rates will rise to unbelievable levels, your IT costs will evaporate and you,  the IT guy or gal will be showered with absolute goodness from the business leaders who now declare in their quarterly meetings that “IT saved the day for us”; “Because of IT, we were able to not just meet but exceed every financial and regulatory goal that we had”

After these massive failures,  many vendors (even some of the same ones) have tried to simply your CMDB lives… They’ve analyzed project data,  they’ve formed focus groups and they have reached out to you, the customer to help come up with a better way.  In many cases, this better way has been to simplify the CMDB, make it easy by adding in expensive auto-magical-discovery tools that always get it right.  They’ve re-designed their databases to remove just about every shred of promised functionality and turn the CMDB into the very spreadsheets that you as the IT person already have too many of…albeit wrapped around a fancy web 2.0 interface.

Is this solving the problem or is this just an opportunity to start another sales cycle?

ITSM people are a very passionate bunch.  They believe in the promise that a well run IT shop can not just help a company keep the lights on,  IT can help move that company forward.  Good IT can help shorten sales cycles, reduce development, manufacturing and logistics costs, and <gasp> make the average employee a little happier and a little more productive.   These passionate IT folks are right.  They can change the world but only if they embrace a little bit of change themselves or more to the point, force their vendors to change.

Forcing your vendors to change isn’t easy.  Software development and support costs a fair amount of money.  Marketing and sales cost a lot of money.  It doesn’t matter if you’re selling software, hardware or perfume, radically changing your product costs a lot of money.  Not just the development and engineering folks… there is a substantial cost in changing your message.  How do you go to your customers who in many cases have spent millions with you and tell them that the things that they purchased last year weren’t really that good and as such,  we redesigned it to actually work.  The update is free to you however,  we need to sell you a two year consulting project in order to move to this revolutionary new version.  This is the conundrum of being in the software business.

I’ve been lucky enough to start a new job recently.   I was kind of/sort of looking to change roles and had thought about a few companies that were established players in the ITSM market but the thought of learning, selling and more importantly,  having to believe in a product set that didn’t really do what the marketing guys said it would do didn’t really sound that appealing to me.  I have to really believe in something in order to ask someone to spend money on it.  Not just a few bucks either,  in a lot of cases we’re talking about several hundred thousand dollar investments that people were going to bet their reputations on in order to justify buying.  I couldn’t do it.

Enter ITinvolve.

I got a blast from the past phone call from a guy that I had worked with several years ago that I really respected.  He had just taken a job at this new startup and brought up my name in a meeting as someone that might be a good fit for the company.  I checked out some collateral and did a little market research and liked what I saw enough to want a follow on meeting. As it turned out,  I knew the majority of the guys involved and more importantly,  respected them.

We setup a dinner date and I continued doing my research.  I showed up with a few questions and was promised a demo of the not yet released product.  We caught up over dinner and talked about our families (we have kids that about the same ages), work history since the last time we were together and the normal type of stuff.   Now it was demo time.

The guys walked me through the product at a local Starbucks.  We went through all of the features and ways that folks would interact with the product and I must say,  I was excited.  I thought back to my days of installing servers, doing 48 hour DR exercises and trying to figure out how to try to “do more with less” and I thought wow,  if I had this eight years ago I probably would have stayed in IT operations.  It was that cool.

Here was a group of guys that had the same mistrust of vendors that I had, saw what was going on and thought that there had to be a better way.  More importantly,  they created a better way.  Building a product from scratch, they had the opportunity to see what was working,  what wasn’t working  as well as taking a “how should it work’ approach and made something cool.

They took the ITIL V2/3 concept of Knowledge Management (which includes the CMDB) and built it.  It’s not just a CMDB that has a tie into a knowledge base (stringing two existing products together),  it’s built from the ground up around the concept of documenting, building and more importantly,  sharing knowledge.  When I saw the product I thought,  here is a company that get’s it.  They understand how people work and what people need to do their jobs.  They understand what information is needed to make informed decisions concerning the business of IT.

Long live the CMDB! Sorry,  I meant CMI,  Sorry,  I meant Knowledge Management.


Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Another area that we looked at early on was CMDBs. We recognize that CMDBs are very important for better understanding an IT environment, and from a technology perspective, CMDBs became absolutely necessary many years ago. The problem today is trying to keep a CMDB up to date; it’s very difficult to maintain the information in CMDBs. For change management, we need the ability to maintain accurate and up-to-date information about our IT environments. Having that ability results in Sys Admins who can trust the data and use it for their decision-making. Unfortunately, the reality is that right now, they don’t trust the data, so they assume risks just because they don’t know for sure that the data is accurate.

CMDB’s don’t help us view complex object relationships and see how they affect individual users, business services or policies. These tools really don’t even help to ensure that you are communicating with the right people, in the context of the proposed change on a technology object. So, we wanted to fill in these gaps and allow ITinvolve to compliment CMDBs.

We are not trying to replace CMDBs, because they have a place and a role inside IT environments. But we do think that with a product like ITinvolve for Change Management, you can leverage all the information you have in the CMDBs in order to dramatically improve your ability to understand the impacts of changes; that enables your IT staff to be more confident that a change wont take a service down or lead to a negative outcome.















Taking a closer look at Technology Objects

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

One of the things our customers appreciate most about new ITinvolve for Change Management is the way our Technology Objects establish a solid foundation—a single version of the truth—that the IT team can use in assessing the impact of changes.

Information about technology objects is gathered from numerous information sources, including asset management systems, CMDB’s, knowledgebases, and tribal knowledge. As owners manage information about their respective objects, ITinvolve automatically discovers related technology objects enabling IT staff to see how a proposed change could impact the environment.

One of the big advantages of Technology Objects is that when individual IT team members add key information around the objects they own and are responsible for, everyone else on the team shares in their knowledge.

See for yourself by learning about Technology Objects and Perspectives under the product section of our web site and watch the short video that helps explain how it works.


Change Impact Analyzer

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

One of the biggest problems we face in our IT environments is that we often don’t know what kind of potential impacts our changes will have. And understanding the impact of changes is the key to reducing risk. Everything is so interconnected that even one small change can lead to huge problems elsewhere.

Remember that 80% of outages are unforeseen consequences of our changes.

Thankfully, that’s no longer the case—with ITinvolve for Change Management’s Change Impact Analyzer capability.

This powerful tool enables you to assess how a proposed change will affect technology objects in your environment before the change ever takes flight.

Change Impact Analyzer performs three critically important functions:

First, it displays upstream and downstream impacts to physical and virtual objects so you can see how a change might potentially affect those related objects.

Secondly, Change Impact Analyzer reveals impacts to business services, policies, and affected people.

And finally, it enables you to perform effective business risk and security assessment before you make a change, so there’s no guessing, and no unforeseen impacts once you make the change.

Where other services require administrators to determine potential change impacts, Change Impact Analyzer gathers all that information and automatically displays it to anyone who might be affected by the change, so you can effectively collaborate and analyze changes before impacts ever occur.

Leveraging existing investments

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

One of the things that we were initially worried about was that if system administrators have spent years collecting information about technology objects, about knowledge, about policies, automation scripts and all of that, how could we possibly come in and say, “You have to do it all again.”

We wouldn’t do that—if we were them we wouldn’t do that. So we started from that angle—since we wouldn’t do it, we’re not going to ask them to do it either. We invested our time in creating an easy way of exporting information and then linking it to information that you already have. That allows us to create more of a connection system that identifies all of the important pieces of information of a particular service, application, or technology object. We bring the different pieces of information that are collected in other applications and data sources, and link it into our system so that you have one place to find all that knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years—and you can do it very rapidly. That way you don’t have to go on a hunting expedition to find the information when you’re in a crisis moment.

We want to preserve the investments companies have already made, and we want to make it easy for them to import the pieces that make sense for them to align to the objects. And every company and every group and admin will do it differently depending on how much they want to bring in and what kinds of information are important to them. So our whole point was, “Lets preserve the efforts that organizations have invested enormous amounts of money in, and leverage it in our product for the benefit of our customers.”