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Asset Management or Configuration Management - Which Do I Need?

I once heard an IT manager say… “We do not need Service Asset and Configuration Management”!  We have Asset Management and we can add a few more fields of information for IT in that database.”  Is this true?  Would this give the service provider the same value as a Service Asset and Configuration Management Process and System? 

Asset Management
Most organizations have a process that tracks and reports the value and ownership of fixed assets throughout their lifecycle. This process is usually called Fixed Asset Management or Financial Asset Management.  Activities in traditional Asset Management include such things as documenting the cost of the asset and projected life of the asset.  Other bits of data captured might be the cost of maintaining the asset.  For the most part this is financial information.  Being able to determine the depreciation of an asset is year over year, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Investment (ROI) are key.  Fixed Asset Management maintains an asset database or register that records financial information about all of the organization’s assets.

Configuration Management
For an IT service provider the Service Asset and Configuration Management process is supported by a data store that contains information required to ensure a business or service outcome.  A key differentiator between the Asset Register and a Configuration Management System (CMS) is “RELATIONSHIPS”.    Each of the items tracked in order to manage that service are referred to as a Configuration Item (CI).  If I have an application CI then perhaps I would link that to the server that the application sits on.  The server CI could be linked to the network that supports the server and so on.  We end up with a tiered hierarchical structure of all CI’s that support the IT service.  These relationships from one CI to another allow the IT service provider to determine impact of components one to another but most importantly the impact of a component or CI to a service or business outcome.  Change control, version control, root cause analysis and more are supported by the data and information contained in the CMS.  Other types of CI’s can be tracked and reported upon such as the service level agreements, customer contracts, and processes necessary to support a service. These things cannot be achieved via traditional Asset Management alone.  How your organization’s CMS is created and the level of detail for each configuration and CI captured will be dependent on requirements for business outcomes and consumer productivity.  When considering the design and architecture for a Configuration Management System it is critical to not think of your CMS or Configuration Management Database (CMDB) as a project.  These projects usually do not return value expected and tend to have data that grows out of control.  Experience has proven that if we look at the “WHY” or the business/consumer objectives greater value will result.  For example, it is better to have an incident management project that requires configuration management data.  Or, it is better to have a change/release management initiative that requires configuration management data and information.  A federated CMDB or group of related databases in a CMS is generally preferred for greater efficiency.

Which is Required?

Many service providers are looking to improve the tracking of their assets.   Understanding traditional or Fixed Asset Management vs. Service Asset and Configuration Management is important.  It is very common to integrate our traditional or fixed asset management data as a subset of this overall Service Asset and Configuration Management System.  The Service Asset and Configuration Management Process and system will mature over time.  Start small, scope and adopt and adapt your system as you move forward.  Looking at a specific purpose for the data and information for assets and for configuration items not only allows the architect to scope the effort but most importantly will allow your system to deliver tremendous business value.

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