Crap Factoid Alert: CMDB savings of more than $1 million per year

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This is a CATEGORY 1 Crap Factoid alert from Chokey the Chimp at the IT Skeptic's Crap Factoid Warning Service. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Be on EXTREME danger alert for CF "CMDB savings of more than $1 million per year". BMC and Forrester are shovelling it. [Update: the IT Skeptic's own assessment of the numbers here.]

[Updated June 2009: the paper, entitled "The Total Economic Impact of the BMC Atrium CMDB Solution" is here.]

This Crap Factoid has all the attributes of a very severe one

  • "millions dollars save"
  • "CMDB"
  • well known analyst [Forrester. Just be grateful it wasn't Gartner or Chokey would be recommending evacuation]

Most readers and quoters of this paper will overlook the fact that it is commissioned by a vendor of CMDBs (BMC), and that the sample is 26 clients "provided by BMC":

a Forrester representative conducted in-person, roundtable interviews with 35 key individuals (e.g., IT directors/managers or more senior representatives) from 26 organizations to better understand the value of the BMC Atrium CMDB. Seventy
percent of the interviewed organizations had been using the BMC Atrium CMDB for seven to 30 months; 30% had been using it for six months or less.

The IT Skeptic has blogged before about the validity of asking the decision-makers "just how much have you saved on your investment in this technology?" and calling that research.

But there is worse hidden in the paper. The million-dollar number being crowed about is "the net present value (NPV) of savings the sample composite organization realized over a three-year period" yet the organisations interviewed had been using the tool for a maximum of 30 months, so this number has to be projected not actual dollars. [A bean-counter among you might like to comment on the validity of a discount rate of 12% to calculate PV and NPV - seems high to me].

We also know it is a projection because the figure being trumpeted is a "best case" and the "risk adjusted" figure is less than a million which won't cause anywhere near the same excitement (marketers need the m-word).

And the figure is over three years but is already being quoted as per year.

The crap gets even deeper when you look at the costs: $263k over three years. A hundred k a year to install, configure and populate and maintain a CMDB? **** off! The only in-house costs is "12 senior IT and business stakeholders spending 33% of their time over three months planning the implementation".

Then there is $100k for BMC to do "design, discovery, and population of CIs". In an existing BMC environment.

No money for integration/federation/reconciliation. No money for processes. No money for staff training other than the ITIL sheep-dip. No money for ongoing ownership or maintenance.

But it gets worse. Take a close look in the paper at page 12: license costs ZERO because they got the CMDB with the cornflakes of their much larger investment in BMC tools. This is at the very least obfuscation and possibly worse. How many readers think this is a fair presentation of the costs of the CMDB?

The icing on the crap-cake is the suggestion that "the BMC Atrium CMDB could facilitate and accelerate the adoption of ITIL standards". BMC just can't resist this silver-bullet, technology-fix-to-a-process-problem bullshit that they have peddled before.

I'm appalled that any company that considers itself a fair trader can produce this bull. And I'll be shocked by any BMC employee who looks me in the eye and quotes it.

Despite all that, this CF is going to spread widely and do serious damage. Be aware.


It's criminal but customers expect it

Cary King already asked "questionable claims accepted as normal puffery that is to be expected?" I say yes. Most savvy customers know that marketing pitches containing this kind of fertiliser are full of nonsense. They will freely use it to persuade less savvy decision makers and budget holders, and more power to them.

In a sense. Of course it dumbs down, or demeans, the whole industry, and especially the trade press. (Publishing such claims as "research" is just another piece of puffery that savvy customers know all about.)


crud credulosity

I've not met many people in this industry savvy about statistics and science. The majority of those I meet believe this crud. And even those smart enough to know better seldom have the time to think about it. I don't think it is quoted cynically, I think it is mostly quoted credulously.

selective savviness

Hmm. There certainly are credulous people ... but I tend to find them mostly in the vendors. I've been on the sales side of these things, and my colleagues in-country would leap at this kind of thing from "head office" and make press releases, slap it into proposal etc. So did I, of course, but cynically and with my fingers crossed behind my back. *ahem*

Maybe South African customers are more conditioned to expect and recognise marketing lies? :)

eta: very few people anywhere properly understand statistics, and not many get scientific method. I'd agree with that. When I say "savvy" I mean people can spot marketing bs without necessarily needing to prove that it's bs.

ITIL useless

No wonder our economy is in the toilet. With ITIL you need 50 managers for every process. These prodcuts, CMDB or otherwise all demand micromanagement of every little process. Then it chokes the living **** out of prodcutivity let alone innovation. What is the collective cost worth.

the usual error

This is a very classic error. ITIL doesn't require anything - it's what people make of it. ITIL simply is a reference document that can guide you in managing IT services. Some of its content is very valuable, some content is less valuable, and - sadly - the documentation lacks a good architecture (and certainly a good management). But it doesn't claim to have that architecture, so what's the point? ITIL claims less more than offering guidance for a set of "good practices". This simply makes ITIL a valuable reference document on some management issues that many IT shops are confronted with. But to *implement* this guidance you need more - and that's exactly what discriminates a competent consultant from the ignorant believer.

Caveat Emptor

I wonder how others respond to this.

When vendors, or consultants, make questionable claims does it reduce their credibility?

Or, are questionable claims accepted as normal puffery that is to be expected?

And, does the perception of this sort of thing depend on whether you're already a customer of that particular vendor or a customer of some other vendor?

Cary King
Minerva Enterprises
Managing Partner

BS Management

Yeah, BMC has been shoveling it for years now. Shortly before I left, they started a big initiative called, "Business Service Management". A few of us in our local office tried to figure out what it all meant (how our products or focus would change), but it turned out to just be a lot of hot air. After that, we started referring to it as "B.S. Management". You can probably figure out what that stood for. :)

Yes, I've thought "B.S.

Yes, I've thought "B.S. Management" too :) :) :)

(Punt reference in my blog? Naaa ... let's keep it clean)

Hand out the parachutes

I think Chokey can hand out the parachutes. :-)

Did you see there was a PinkVerify V3 with BMC having the first shoe-in?

Good feedback already from

Good feedback already from the author of the news article referred to. Chris seems to be one of the better IT journalists around - he's actually looking for an objective view, not just processing press releases.

As well as correcting the "per year" bit he says:

I was uncomfortable about this story form the beginning, thus the "disclosure" note near the top. But I just hadn't seen much ROI info on CMDBs and figured at least it was a start to a conversation among companies thinking about investing in them.

I've had some really thoughtful offline responses to this story already, including the view that so much of CMDB information has not been proven in production situations that there is no way accurate projections on ROI and business viability can be made. On paper, they sure look interesting.

Also, we need to remember that this whole research job is designed to offer as best a projection as possible on ROI, and nothing else.

Forrester Research is a firm I trust to get at the truth, so when I saw they were doing the study, I felt a little better. But still, having a company (BMC) pay for research it really wants to see is a conflict of interest no matter how you look at it. You usually get what you pay for, and BMC did just that.


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