CMDB and CMS – the industry-created myth
It is pernicious the way the vendors and analysts talk as if CMDB is a given. In fact it is more than a given, it is “the heart and soul of service management” apparently, according to an email about an itSMF Brighttalk. No it isn’t. 95% of sites don’t have a CMDB. Perhaps that explains why service management is so heartless and soulless. And now it is happening with CMS - which by the way doesn't exist. [Updated January 2010]
We only have a need for CMDB because ITIL V2 and the industry around it created a need by banging on about it ad nauseum. It is a nice-to-have geek toy. Almost all the world does without it.
Warning; the term has been debased as always – in fact worse than most. “CMDB” gets slapped on anything that can see anything. So now everybody has something called a CMDB even though it isn't, just like we all have “knowledge management”.
And you know what? It is happening again: the vendor industry (and their parasitic analysts) are creating a new myth: the CMS.
There are just enough attempts at CMDB around the world for the horror stories to start flowing in of wasted money and unrealized expectations. Ah, but CMDB is so last century. Your problem is you need a CMS instead – a federation of CMDBs.
There is one problem with this vendor pitch: there is no such thing as a CMS. I will review the book The CMDB Imperative one of these days, if I ever finish it. It is a good book, for those who have drunk the CMDB KoolAid. Let me share one quote from it for you now. This book is widely referenced as the authorative book on CMDB. Glenn O’Donnell and Carlos Casanova are experts on the subject (and great guys too – I hate to disagree with them over anything). So when they say there is no such thing as a CMS, you should listen. And they do say it. I quote from the book, p189
…federation will be adopted slowly by most vendors… There is no such thing as out-of-the-box integration, at least not yet. This is sometimes even the case across a single vendor’s toolset… No vendor is yet able to deliver the CMS you need” (copyright 2009)
I bet if someone had written a book like this when ITIL V2 came out they would have been saying the same thing about CMDB – it didn’t exist. The industry has spent a decade convincing us we all need a CMDB and the software vendors developed to meet the created demand. Except the reality is showing CMDB is NOT essential and does NOT deliver enough value to compete for funds. Hardly anyone has one - a real one. So now the industry needs a new product drum to bang. Enter CMS.
(As an aside; I thought ITIL was supposed to be documenting generally accepted or good or proven or best practice. Not floating some untested technical wet dream).
We only got hammered with CMDB because service desk tools were becoming a commodity. The industry is incapable of selling real value through services. They have to have a technology product to wedge the customer’s door open. It is all about selling boxes.
So don’t fall for all this endless crap about CMDB and CMS. It is just an industry-created fad to generate easy revenue by selling you something instead of actually helping you do something useful.
And don’t you go along with it. Stop trying to buy a boxed answer to your people problems. Culture and behaviour change takes effort: new tools don’t fix process and new processes don’t fix people. Changing or improving anything in IT is about changing people. Not some quick fix like CMDB or CMS from the snake oil salesmen.
A new book on the market is Service Management For Dummies (it's in the queue for me to review, behind two others. Sorry can't seem to get time), written by Judith Hurwitz, Robin Bloor, Marcia Kaufman and Fern Halper, some familiar names in the ITSM world.
I refer readers to page 98, 99, 104 and 105:
It would be much better if all [service management ] applications used the same data standards and shared a database that was the single source of of the truth. that idea is a nice one but it belongs in Cloud Cuckoo Land....The only viable solution is a federated one... With the current state of technology  you can't buy any product that constitutes service management integration infrastructure in a box... service management will be better automated and better served when the sharing of service management data can be automated reliably.
...no service management application specifically gathers a comprehensive set of information about all data files...
The processes involved in populating and maintaining a CMDB...to make a comprehensive accurate set of data available to all ...service management applications...and to staff members. With the current state of technology, this process isn't well automated so you can expect to see significant improvements as time passes.
So what is it that the vendors are clamouring to sell us now?