Business service management vendor Managed Objects has announced that it has developed an innovative concept called myCMDB (configuration management database), which is currently in beta test with a selection of Managed Objects customers.
IT service management and BSM play no small part in the quality of information that is held in a CMDB. Ensuring the validity and accuracy of this information is a management task that typically requires an administrator-type role, even for organisations with just a few thousand end-user devices.
The myCMDB concept uses the social networking approach of forming groups of individuals that share a common interest, which in the case of end users could be all of those in a particular role, geography, or department. Although individuals can be a part of several different groups, they can only join by invite, thereby ensuring that each group consists of only those individuals identified as directly impacted by any change.
The idea of using this community-based approach introduces a number of interesting concepts and challenges.
First, the commonly held belief is that the best person to confirm the accuracy of information is the user of the equipment. This idea has some merit provided that the information verification process can be made simple and easy to use. It cannot pre-suppose that the end-user understands the technical description of an asset, let alone a configuration item. Therefore some common language must be used that enables both IT and the end-user to understand what it is they are talking about.
Second, as individuals change roles, the community must dynamically change in-line. The social networking principles must be maintained in this instance. There is no point devolving responsibility to the individual to maintain their own records if a central department manages the community register. This must be automatically managed by the business rules, designed so that community selection is driven from the HR system, for example.
Third, the concept of trust is implicit in this social model for asset management. However, behaviours may require some assistance, making the transition from a hierarchical management model to a more individually responsible social model. The use of incentives and sanctions may be required to ensure all individuals record the assets in use accurately and honestly. However, taking this model to the same level as Wikipedia, where anybody can update the information, is not currently considered as viable or desirable.
Finally, using this community approach, the impact of any change can be communicated directly to those that it will affect. The issue is: how will the knock-on effect be communicated? In some circumstances the loss of a service by one group causes downstream problems for other groups. Therefore, bridges between communities must be built in a full impact analysis scenario, and the downstream groups only informed when/if the problem will definitely impact them. Otherwise these groups could become swamped with messages and as a result end-users will stop using the tool.
This new social model for managing information collection and dissemination based on communities is a radical but interesting idea. The visionaries will see many other opportunities for this model, while others may consider it to be no more than a gimmick and point out many of the problems that its use raises.
However, this approach provides an opportunity for IT to break down the barriers that have previously existed between IT and its customers, and by using a community-based approach it can make IT more realistic to the end user in terms of cost and value.