CMDB System Metrics - Part Two: External Metrics and ROI
July 17, 2014

Dennis Drogseth

Share this

In last month's blog I discussed some of the more critical internal metrics for moving forward with a CMDB System initiative in three major categories: scope, accuracy and efficiency. While these internal metrics or milestones may not seem to be strong selling points in themselves, they do provide a critical set of parameters for managing and optimizing a CMDB initiative. Moreover, they will remain relevant areas of focus and governance even as the broader CMDB System progresses well beyond the tipping point of showing value.

Today's blog will center on some examples of we call "external metrics" based on use cases, as well as on planning meaningful ROI metrics in conjunction with specific use-case benefits. (For a more in depth look at the various dimensions of these use cases, see my earlier blog: CMDB System Use Cases.

Change Impact Management and Change Automation is perhaps the single most central use case for the CMDB. Value here is provided primarily in terms of IT efficiencies, and in terms of non-disrupted services. In more sophisticated deployments, values can come from applying advanced, if/then analytics for proactively deciding when, where and how a change should be implemented.

A few examples of some relevant metrics here are:

■ Reduction in number of unapproved changes detected

■ Reduction in number of change collisions

■ Reduction in number of failed changes and re-do's

■ Reduction of changes negatively impacting service performance

■ Reduced cycle time to review, approve and implement changes

Asset Management and Financial Optimization is another prominent CMDB System use case and perhaps the most popular, especially for first-phase CMDB deployments.

Some examples of metrics to consider here are:

■ Completeness of mapping of assets to owners

■ Completeness of mapping of assets to customers

■ Cost savings from improved compliance with SW/ licensing agreements

■ Faster ability to provision (existing/ new) services to customers based on more informed insights on asset interdependencies

■ Improved ability to integrate and retire new assets in terms of time efficiency, cost efficiency and service impact (downtime or latency)

■ Effectiveness in meeting security/compliance audits

■ Efficiency in managing assets across their lifecycles — reduction in the number of unplanned incidents, etc.

The quote below provides insight on how change management and financial optimization benefits can coincide — in this case in a service provider environment.

"Over the past three years, we've tied the CMDB into the change process, and then made sure that it would be supportive of the financial processes and financial systems; and over the course of three years we successfully disputed $2.5M out of a $9.0M spend."
US Managed Service Provider and Systems Integrator

While Service Impact and Performance Management may not seem like a very natural fit for traditional CMDBs, this use case is becoming more prevalent with the rise of real-time capabilities in application discovery and dependency mapping tools, improved levels of automation in updating CMDBs, and the rise in integrated analytics.

Some examples of metrics here include:

■ Reduced downtime

■ Reduced Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR)

■ Improved Mean-Time-Between-Failure (MTBF)

■ Reduction in number of trouble tickets

■ Reduced number/seriousness of SLA breaches

■ Reduction in the number of repeat failures (recurring problems)

■ Savings in capex costs from capacity optimization

■ Savings in vendor (outside dependency) costs from capacity optimization.

The metrics for performance-related improvements are somewhat easier to quantify and often more dramatic than in other use cases — as highlighted in the quote below:

"We were throwing money willy nilly at our service assurance effort without rhyme or reason. We have reduced outages by 40% through our CMDB System, which has brought us 300% ROI in three years."
US Healthcare/ services organization


In most CMDB System adoptions, "return on investment" is far from a trivial discussion. One primary rule is to keep your "costs" well defined and specific to the CMDB System project from both an OpEx and a CapEx perspective.

For instance, don't include monitoring tools — even those that are purchased once a "trusted source" assessment reveals critical gaps. Nor should you include the help desk costs, or analytics investments, or active configuration management (release management) capabilities that may accompany a CMDB System initiative.

As a general rule, costs associated with software and services should be directed at data capture, transformation and exchange, reconciliation and synchronization, along with discovery. This list can include discovery capabilities for topology and interdependencies directed specifically at populating the CMDB, as well as application dependency mapping. Other important considerations are the OpEx and CapEx costs for integrating federated sources.

Finally you should map out OpEx resource costs that usually include a team of individuals providing process guidance, communication and socialization, data management skills and domain expertise when needed to support unique integrations. These costs and time allotments will vary depending on whether you're in proof of concept mode, initial deployment, or full production.

One last word of caution: External, or use-case metrics are exactly where you can expect to show ROI value. But succeeding in these areas will require more than just the CMDB investment. So even while you improve in these areas, be realistic in how you present these values, and be prepared at times for nay-sayers to claim, "no it wasn't the CMDB — it was Tom's new server configuration software that did it."

What you're doing with a CMDB System is preparing the way for all of IT to function more efficiently, as the CMDB enables better access to information, better analysis, and better collaboration across IT — just like a superhighway can enable a car to travel at faster speeds across country than a pot-holed, country road. But too often the highways are forgotten for the glitz of the new sports car that can now travel at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour without any worries except an errant truck or, of course, the police. So, ironically, it's in the areas of bringing greatest tangible value that your CMDB System may seem most anonymous.

Dennis Drogseth is VP at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)
Share this