Overcome IT Service and Asset Management Configuration Challenges

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Service asset and configuration management (SACM) is the most important process in ITIL®, in my opinion. If you get the process implementation right, the success of service integration with other IT project management processes is a mere formality.

I have interacted with several ITIL® consultants and practitioners over the years, and none are happy with their SACM implementation. They cry about various things that hampered their satisfaction, and in my own implementation experience, I was not too happy either. I found areas where I could have thought it out differently and done things in some other way.

Oh well, we all agreed. It's buried and dead. No point in racking up something that is past us. But, maybe if the lessons learned can be documented, somebody else can get it right, can't they?

In this piece, I will highlight certain common challenges that have surfaced during our experiences and provide some tips that should help implementers stay one step ahead.

Challenges in Implementing SACM

Here are some common challenges:

  1. Lack of time - Managements decide to implement SACM overnight, and want to see it all done within a fortnight. They are ready to get as many resources as possible on this project without giving heed to what it takes to make it happen.

    • If a baby has to be born, 9 months is absolutely necessary. Giving one month with nine mothers instead, will not help the cause.
    • Negotiate your way into getting more time. That's the only way out!

  2. Lack of Budget - Another challenge which has various constraints pulling it left, right and center is the lack of moolah. Implementation of this process is not cheap. It comes at a cost, and rises with the scope.

    • The implementation activity is manual for the most part and human resources are needed, although tools that can automatically discover assets do exist.
    • Educate your clients on what configuration is all about and the activities it entails. A good portion of the budget goes towards procurement of the CMDB and the auto discovery tool.

  3. Lack of Support - As SACM over-arches the entire organization and service management structure, requirement for management support is imperative.

    • It is important to get a buy in from all stakeholders and agreement for full support to make it a success.

  4. Lack of Credible Information - "I don't know. This datacenter was installed some ten years back." This is one of the standard answers you can expect when information is sought. Accurate information is everything, and when you encounter half baked technical teams, you are destined to lose out. This area becomes easier if management is fully behind you.
  5. Lack of a Mature Configuration Manager - The configuration manager owns the process and is tasked with planning, implementing, controlling, auditing and reporting. If you don't get this central figure right, you can guess where the process will head towards.
  6. Lack of Proper Planning - You might end up getting an experienced configuration ​manager, but there is no guarantee that he will get it right. Planning according to me is 50%

    of the total activity, and if you get it on target, success looms large.

    • This is an area where most people go wrong, even the experienced ones. That being said, planning SACM implementation is not an easy task. You would need somebody with a good amount of configuration management and project management experience.

  7. Lack of Tools - Tools are an integral part of processes these days. Without the right set of tools, you and I are doomed. I mentioned about the auto discovery tool earlier, but such tools come with a steep price.

    • Other tools that are used in SACM are configuration management database, agents to read software configuration of assets and agents to obtain compliance related information.
    • An important feature that the selected tool must possess is an easy interface. There will be a number of tools which will need to interface - like the ticketing system, to identify what kind of asset is in question or a reporting tool that is used for pro-active problem management.​

Tips for Implementing SACM

This list is not exhaustive but will guide you in the direction you need to be heading.

1. Pilots

Although I prefer the air hostesses, when it comes to ITIL® implementation, pilots are my choice.

You might be implementing configuration management for large enterprises that boast of hundreds of services and thousands of configuration items (CI), or organizations with a handful of services. Don't start with a big bang approach. Pick up one service as your guinea pig, spend the maximum time planning for this service, implementing it, and noting down the lessons learned.

2. Plan Depth Carefully

How deep you go into a CI is a major decision you need to make, and it rightly judges your vision for the organization in terms of this process. As the saying goes, it must not be too much or too little - but just perfect.

Spend time analyzing how, where and when you would need to dig out information on CIs that would potentially be helpful.

Let's say you need to invoice your customer every month. There are 1000 desktops in scope, with varying configurations, and you have an invoice pattern that depends on the individual components that make a desktop. In this case, you need to break your desktops further in terms of HDDs, RAMs and processors as CIs - to meet the invoicing requirements. But, if your invoicing pattern is constant for all desktop configurations, you can consider every desktop as a CI. That being said, the earlier CI plan would work as well, but the complexity increases, and with it, probability of inaccuracies also shoots up.

Choosing the right depth brings wisdom to the fore.

3. Verify Data

As a part of a data collection exercise, you can expect to be dumped with a number of documents, coming from multiple sources. Don't trust the data to be accurate. Instead, put in an activity to verify every bit of data you receive. Identify other sources who can verify the data for you.

4. Implement Data Management

If you need to successfully gather data, verify it, use it when needed and maintain a list of contacts, you need to build a system to manage data efficiently. It ​is possible that multiple sources will overfeed you with data and that has the potential to drown you even before you're aware of what's happening.

I have been in positions where I have had to filter and analyze data from a number of teams. I created folders on my mailbox to place the mails coming from different sources in separate bins. My project folder had a similar structure. I maintained a master excel tracker which had all the contacts that I needed, and used to-do lists to keep track of pending activities. My system was simple and needed plenty of manual labor. Maybe you can devise something that can make life a lot easier.

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Abhinav Kaiser

Abhinav Kaiser is a veteran in service and in project managements. He advises businesses, organizations and enterprises on how to build service management framework and deliver value. He is currently penning a book on communication in organizations, specifically aimed at IT departments. He holds PMP, ITIL© V3 Expert and Cobit 5.0 certifications and is an accredited ITIL© trainer.