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CMS Pitfalls – 4 to navigate around (or through)

btmiller ‎01-23-2014 01:01 PM - edited ‎09-25-2015 08:40 PM

When it comes time to implement your Configuration Management System (CMS) or Configuration Management Database (CMDB), things can take a turn in the wrong direction rather fast. Without proper planning in place ahead of the project or program, you might find yourself struggling last minute in trying to figure out how to jump through some hoops.


Just imagine how much easier it would have been if someone had simply told you what to avoid or to be aware of early on.


I want to give you a simple guide to avoid those unnecessary pitfalls within CMS and CMDB.  I’m going to do a four-part blog series covering what I consider to be the most troublesome areas I have personally experienced when implementing a CMS or CMDB.


These are the four major areas we will cover for potential disaster to navigate around if you want your initiative to be successful: Scope Creep, Security, Politics and Organization Structure.



Scope Creep


Part one will cover Scope Creep and is easily one of the most exciting areas to get into trouble on a project. Once you identify the various Configuration Item (CI’s) types your discovery tool is able to facilitate, the temptation is all too large to not go out and play. (Imagine a kid with a new toy. They are so excited that they break it.)  


If we are being honest here, there is a clear “geek factor” associated with this one and it is just too easy these days to turn on discovery without having a plan in place for how to consume the data being brought back. Your mission statement for Configuration Management should help here, i.e. don’t discover what you won’t consume, period.



Discovery Security


Part two will dive into the security aspect of gaining access to the right data. The reality here is that we as IT professionals want it all—and we should face this challenge head on. We want our cake in the way of data, and we want to eat it too. That means it is going to take some serious effort on our part!


If only we knew what the right ports were to the application or database. Oh, and we have to submit proper change management requests to gain access to the application or the database. We have to remember to update those firewall rules or access control lists along the way. Bottom line, security is your partner in this exercise and should be engaged early on and throughout the journey here. Don’t make an enemy with your ITSEC team or it could put a serious hamper on your discovery tool by confusing it as a type of malware. Yes, this actually happens and to avoid that situation, trust should be fostered, not demanded. Dare I even mention trying to gain root access?


So, we should be mindful of how we go about doing this before, during, and post-implementation. 




Part three will involve politics in the initiative. This can range from something as simple as disagreement over the prioritization of what to discover to the actual clashing of personalities to the point where ownership becomes a battle to the death. Let’s face it, working in IT can be pretty challenging when it comes to politics.


Having the right sponsor in your corner can make or break your goals when you need access to those production services that are tier one financial. Playing in the sandbox with others becomes an exercise in how to get along and share nicely with others.  So, politics can be a pretty wild ride and it should be fun to share a story or two while keeping the focus on making sure we all work toward the end goal: a consumable CMS or CMDB.


Organizational Structure


The last part I plan on covering is the organizational alignment and structure topics. In other words, making sure that you have the right players engaged to cover all aspects of the data within a CMS or CMDB is a challenge in itself. This could entail how to build a virtual team covering discovery for: Database, Applications, Networking, Virtual/Physical Services, etc. What about making sure you have the optimal team to build and maintain your tool and processes for Configuration Management versus just getting to the right subject matter experts in a specific domain? There is so much to consider here when it comes to your goals and how talent makes them obtainable.


Both of these topics are made even more difficult by the size of your organization; what makes sense for an enterprise-scale IT department may not work for a smaller or medium-sized IT department of a company. There is lots of opportunity here to share and discuss on this topic.


Keep calm and carry on


To summarize, my end goal here is to provide you with nuggets of wisdom—not just what hazards to avoid and step around. I want to get you thinking whether you are effective at your current set of goals or initiatives for your CMS or CMDB. There is so much thought leadership here around these topics already, but it often takes people who have been in the trenches to point out the obvious areas where we can all do better.


I’m just one person with an opinion and a blog to share it on. Here at HP we actually have a very large virtual team of experts who participate online in places like the Linkedin HP CMS Group to guide and support you. All the right players are there for your most difficult questions. So, let’s keep calm and carry on by collaborating together through potential hazards which lay ahead.

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