ITSM Basics: How to Do Configuration Management

One of the biggest challenges in IT Service Management (ITSM), is the outcome from the absence of a well-defined configuration management process. Properly implemented configuration management helps you resolve incidents by identifying what is broken. It can also prevent them by assisting change owners to assess their changes properly.

The IT service architecture can be extensive and complex. If not properly understood, you put your organization to risk. Configuration management is essential to maintain order and keep all hardware, software, and IT services perform at optimum levels.

The Importance of Configuration Management
Senior managers might avoid implementing Configuration Management Systems (CMSs), due to its cost. But they don’t notice the money being consumed by delays in restoring business and IT services; implementing changes without knowing its impact on the services and the potential for business; managing and optimization; the IT estate costs; and managing complex releases without understanding the complete impact.

There might be an additional loss on downtime, as a result of failed changes/releases; fines resulting from failed software license audits, service credit offered to irate customers; and customer churn. Effective configuration management can take care of changes without adversely affecting the business.

Awareness 
It is extremely important to create awareness about configuration management and its usage, for everyone who has a vested interest, including network owners, system managers, etc. The configuration management team must be capable of supplying the accurate current status to the teams solving problems, and those planning changes. Similarly, whenever the team makes changes to production, it should be communicated to the configuration team, in order to update the CMS or configuration management database (CMDB). Communication is all that matters.

Configuration Management
Getting started:
Configuration management starts with a plan. You need to focus on the following areas:

Planning:
Configuration management will be the basis of services and service delivery. We need a plan to get that right.
1. Scope of the plan: There are different levels to consider the scope of the plan.
Configuration Items (CIs)– These are the building blocks critical for your services. They include routers, servers, software platforms, and their underpinning systems. It involves a lot of time, money and effort to manage these effectively. Focus on the key services to prevent your CMS or CMDB from getting updated.
Asset Items– These cover Laptops, PCs, anything that helps you keep track of for financial reasons.
Inventory Items– Small and peripheral stuff such as mice, keyboards, etc.

2. Consistency: Your plan has to set out naming conventions that are unique for the CIs. Each CI may be generated by the CMDB, an asset tag, or by a site. For example, MSserver-Manchester-Level3, helps a service desk analyst understand that a Windows server at Manchester site was unavailable and it needs support from the 3rd line support team. This level of information helps the service desk analyst notify the server of the issue to all its users. It also assigns the ticket directly to the correct support team, saving certain functional escalations along the way.

3. Scalability: Whenever you map out your key services, document only the critical details needed to provide support and management. You can add more details later when you expand your infrastructure.

Identification/ Baselining: 
Baselining is like taking a snapshot of your infrastructure, to understand what you have and where it lies at a certain point in time. When you are baselining, begin with one service and map all of its components. Centrally store the information within your ITSM tool, having an integrated CMS or CMDB. Consider and agree upon the person who can update your CMS/CMDB during baselining. It may be your configuration manager or the technical teams.

Change Control:
Configuration management functions hand-in-hand with change management. In terms of ITSM software/ toolsets and records, ensure that your configuration items (CIs) are linked to services. This makes it easy for the person who raises a request for a change to select a service, to carry all the underpinning CIs into the request. Configuration management personnel should attend change advisory board (CAB) meetings if necessary, to ensure that the CMS/CMDB is updated to reflect all change activity. It is even better to include a change ticket to ensure a successful update of CMS/CMDB before the change gets closed.

Status Accounting:
This part pinpoints the status of the CI in terms of its lifecycle against the previous baseline. You must ensure that you have an acceptable list of lifecycle statuses in your configuration management policy. This ensures that each stage that the CIs go through is documented, agreed and understood. These stages include:
● Planned
● Order raised
● Delivered
● Test environment
● Live environment
● Retired
● Disposal

Verification and Auditing:
This stage is also called “trust but verify”. This audit process is required to ensure whether whatever we have in our CMS/CMDB matches whatever we have in real life. Use a tool, carry out physical checks, and audit for regulatory requirements, certifications, or legal requirements. Several spot checks are carried out monthly for critical services, while a full internal audit is taken every year.
Configuration audits should ensure that:
● All CIs in production match number-wise and in specifications to that entered in the CMS/CMDB
● Support documentation to describe the CIs accurately
● All change requests linked to CI are approved and closed, and all CMS/CMDB updates captured
● Naming conventions are consistent
Proper implementation of CMS capability can save your money, time and resources. Its speeds up resolution of problems as well as prevent them, change-wise.

Guest Post by Vaishali Gopi, FreshWorks Inc.

Contact:
Vaishali Gopi
Digital Marketing Associate
email: vaishali.gopi@freshworks.com
website: www.freshworks.com

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