Outsourced functions require mgmt. best practices

* Is your outsourcer making use of industry best practices and solid mgmt. tools?

Many organizations outsource IT operations because they just want the benefits without the hassle. Others have the internal capability, but find it more cost effective to outsource certain functions. Regardless of your internal capabilities or your reasons for outsourcing, you should want to know that your outsourcer is making use of industry best practices, solid management tools, and working smart to be cost effective.

These days that includes incorporating Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices and a configuration management database (CMDB). ITIL and CMDB share common benefits including breaking down technology silos to align IT with the business, providing long-term cost savings to IT and improving the quality of IT services. They also share common challenges since they are both enterprise wide strategic initiatives that take years to implement and their success depends heavily on integration.

A CMDB can do for IT operations what an ERP system like SAP or PeopleSoft does for business operations. It centralizes and correlates overlapping data that are important for a variety of processes and puts everyone on the same page. And like ERP implementations, CMDB implementations need to be well thought out, strategically planned and gracefully executed. But it is worth it.

The benefits of implementing a CMDB include:

* Decreases time to resolve technical problems.

* Breaks down barriers between technology silos.

* Allows automation and advanced analytics to be implemented.

* Facilitates an enterprise IT dashboard.

* Reduces long-term costs of IT service.

One of the leaders in creating CMDB technology, BMC has created an integrated ecosystem with the rest of its product suite for IT management. BMC detailed the following best practices for implementing a CMDB:

* Provide a scalable and maintainable source of record for IT by utilizing a Federated Data Model.

Following a federated approach, a CMDB should only store configuration items (CI) and their relationships within the CMDB. CIs are entities that have configurable attributes, and include more than just infrastructure components - such as servers, desktops, and routers - but also include logical items such as services, processes, and people.

* Use configurable business rules and reconciliation policies to merge data into a single, reliable dataset.

To ensure accurate reconciliation of configurations, a CMDB must have an efficient, repeatable mechanism to merge data from multiple discovery sources using business rules and logic to determine which data sources take precedence over others as well as how and when to merge data. In addition, the reconciliation process must provide the ability to compare the reconciled data with the CMDB, to determine if configurations discovered within the environment remain in their desired, approved states.

* Provide IT process users with a graphical interface to visualize the federated CMDB environment.

While the CMDB provides the capabilities to store and manage information within the IT infrastructure, the true value of a CMDB lies with the ability of IT process users to leverage gathered data in a meaningful way. To address this, a CMDB must provide a graphical interface that allows users to search for and view CIs and their relationships, and instantly link to federated data stored in external repositories.

* Focus on integrations and the surrounding eco-system.

A CMDB is only as valuable as the eco-system that integrates with the solution.

A CMDB is an underlying tool for IT management that can provide direct benefits to the business.

Whether you manage significant internal IT operations or have outsourced most or all of your IT operations, your business will benefit from IT operations supported by a CMDB. Ask your outsourcer if where they stand on implementing this technology. If you have significant multisourced arrangements, you will have quite a job on your hands to coordinate your own internal operations with those of your outsourcer.

If you would like information on creating a strategic plan for implementing a CMDB, please contact me.


Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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