If there’s one takeaway from the 2017 holiday season, it’s that there has been an explosion in the popularity and adoption of Internet-connected devices among American consumers. Interestingly, the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is similarly on the rise in industrial applications. In fact, Gartner predicts there will be nearly 21 billion connected “things” in use worldwide by 2020, and that 7.6 billion of those will be a combination of cross-industry and vertical market units — impressive numbers that should catch the attention of every CIO.
From weight scales and robotics in manufacturing plants to smart security, smart buildings and smart transportation initiatives, IT leaders in nearly every vertical market will soon be inundated with the management of both the data from these devices as well as the management of the devices themselves, each of which require the same lifecycle management as any other IT equipment. This can be an overwhelming realization for CIOs who don’t have an adequate configuration management strategy for their current IT environments, the foundation upon which all future digital strategies — Internet-connected or otherwise — will be built.
“If you have the right framework in place, your organization can evolve as its digital transformation takes shape,” says Mike Alley, Service Management Principal, Logicalis US. “But you can’t take full advantage of the Internet of Things — or the developing digital age — without a strong overall service management strategy which includes configuration management as a key component. Configuration management is one of the top ITIL processes, and while people talk a lot about it, it is the least implemented, yet perhaps the most foundational. If you don’t get configuration management right, you can’t build what you need to create a true digital strategy on top of it.”
Configuration management is the process by which IT tracks and manages each configuration item (CI) within that organization — from individual pieces of the IT infrastructure such as servers or network routers to IT services or policies — throughout that CI’s lifecycle, acquisition to disposal. In the operational phase, this includes designing and implementing processes for continuously gathering data and updating the configuration management database (CMDB) with each CI’s current status — both in-house and cloud-based — as well as the relationships it has with other CIs and the impact each device has on key business processes.
To build a solid foundation and ensure IT is being aligned with the business’ needs, CIOs also need a strong configuration management governance model. The right model will have a defined framework and set of implementation and operational policies that includes roles and responsibilities, guiding principles, defined controls and key performance indicators, and it will have the support and endorsement of upper management.
Many IT professionals have developed the idea that creating this kind of configuration management strategy is too difficult, time consuming and costly, although Logicalis experts say, in the long run, not having one will have an even higher cost as organizations miss out on the emergence of the next digital age and the competitive benefits it has to offer.
To assess the strength of an organization’s existing configuration management strategy, Logicalis experts suggest CIOs ask themselves these three telltale questions:
1. Who in our organization is responsible for configuration management?
It’s a simple question — and either there’s a quick answer or there isn’t. If you cannot identify who holds this responsibility in your organization, the organization is not ready for a true digital transformation — and the next two questions are not worth asking.
2. Do I have a complete list of my organization’s configuration items – including those in the cloud?
The basis of configuration management is having and maintaining an accurate and complete list of all CIs that work together to build IT services and meet business needs. Imagine, for example, there is a group of servers and network equipment that an online retailer’s shipping department relies upon. In a well-ordered CMDB, the organization’s CIO can map the relationships between CIs and key business services. If the organization wants to replace two servers, without a complete CMDB, IT might miss that the shipping department’s database resides on one of them, resulting in chaos for the business if that server were replaced during a busy holiday season.
Having a complete list of CIs gives IT the ability to assess risk for change management or prioritize remedies in the event of an outage. Without that list, IT is solely dependent on the knowledge held precariously in the heads of a handful of experienced IT team members.
3. Do I feel confident we can manage the influx of IoT devices we will need to fully embrace the digital age over the next five years?
As the whole concept of “digital” becomes increasingly more important, organizations will either embrace the IoT and its associated CI infrastructure or they won’t remain competitive — it’s that basic. If a you ask yourself this question and the answer is no, there’s a definite crack in your organization’s IT foundation.
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