Why a Dirty CMDB Is so Bad

Populating an asset repository or CMDB with dirty data creates more problems than it solves. Learn how an unreliable CMDB can impact the entire organization and see what steps you can take to improve data quality.

Like many areas of IT operations, one of the cornerstones of successful software asset management is having accurate asset data in a central repository, also known as an asset repository. From a SAM perspective, that means discovering and identifying all devices across the entire IT estate and then accurately identifying the software installed and used on those devices (and, increasingly, the software not on those devices that is still being consumed by the end user, like SaaS products). 

Organizations tend to overlook software asset management CMDBs since a SAM program is unlikely to need the same data found in a mature IT service management tool’s configuration management database. However, organizations should consider the risk of data duplication between a SAM asset repository and a CMDB and the risk of data either being incomplete or inaccurate. An incomplete, inaccurate CMDB is often referred to as being “dirty.”

The issue with dirty data

While a CMDB is most often associated with an IT service management solution and ITIL requirements, the key to creating a solid and valuable CMDB is populating it with current, complete and accurate information tied to the IT assets and users across the network. 

The requirements for maintaining a clean CMDB are similar to a SAM repository. But, it’s harder to achieve than you might think – take a look at some of the reasons below: 

Populating an asset repository or CMDB with dirty data creates more problems than it solves. According to a 2020 Gartner study, 99% of organizations using CMDB tooling that does not confront configuration item data quality gaps will experience visible business disruption. The same study implies that nearly 1/3 of CMDB challenges stem from data completeness or quality concerns.

It’s a matter of trust

The concept of the CMDB is that it should be a single source of truth that is accessed by multiple systems and functions to power effective processes and decision-making across IT and business functions.

However, when CMDB data is bad or dirty, trust in the accuracy and value of the CMDB is quickly eroded, often leading to the failures described above. Unfortunately, once SAM or ITSM provides dirty data to another department or senior management, it is hard for the recipient to trust future data. Even if the data quality is improved, it will still be received with skepticism and perceived as untrustworthy.

Inconsistencies with CMDB data will result in stakeholders not wanting to use the data. It can also lead to your team manually making adjustments, and in turn, creating more data issues from human error.

Having unreliable data can end up costing the organization a lot more time and money than necessary, often requiring managed services or specialized consultants to own and deliver the desired value. Organizations often inefficiently consume resources to improve the quality of the data, instead of trying to find the root cause.

Improving the quality of your data

As a rule of thumb, a common target we see for CMDB and asset repository accuracy is 97%. It is generally accepted that 100% accuracy is near-impossible at any one moment. By having just a 3% margin of error, any inaccurate data will be identified and rectified within a reasonable timeframe with a more realistic risk/reward balance for the organization.

A good place to start when looking to improve the quality and value of the data in the CMDB is to put in place best-of-breed technologies to populate the desired data. Using the example above, in the case of IT assets, this means implementing:

SAM data integration

If all of the requirements outlined above sound familiar, that’s because they are the same requirements that are fundamental to effective software asset management. SAM solutions create and consume this clean multi-platform inventory information every day. But, they can also make that same high-quality inventory data available to third-party systems such as service desks and CMDBs.

Reliable data = improved efficiency 

The service desk relies heavily on having accurate data. IT service managers are customer (employee) facing. The organization relies on them having all the information required for users and associated devices. If the IT help desk uses inaccurate data to support end-users, then the following action they take may be ineffective. Having reliable data within your CMDB, SAM and service management solutions will have a positive impact on your organization that keeps the productivity of the business intact. Remember that IT operations’ core function is to enable organizational productivity that in turn serves the end customer. If a marketing technology goes down, then marketing can’t reach new customers; if sales can’t access their CRM, then they can’t work on opportunities; if finance can’t access reporting, then the company is flying blind.

When the IT service desk is called to act, there is an impact on someone’s productivity. That’s why mean time to repair (MTTR) is a metric that the IT organization tries to keep as low as possible. Having a clean CMDB directly ties to that objective; as well as the other side of the coin of maximizing service availability.

Thanks to reliable data, the service management function can provide an intelligent service to end-users, improving a user’s experience and resolving issues are in an effective and timely manner.

Adding value

Having a proactive relationship between your service management solution and your SAM tool puts you in a prime position to add real value to the organization and align to the CIO’s top transformation goals. With everyone in IT/Infosec’s duty to maintain a secure IT environment, it’s important that the sources of data the organization uses to gain visibility are accurate and trustworthy. 

By using SAM-ready data to populate the CMDB, IT operations reduce the chances of “dirty data” and at the same time extract the value of the CMDB as a single source of truth. Consistent, reliable data moving forward will help banish inconsistencies and prove to other areas of the business that SAM data is king. 

Snow ITSM Enhancer can fuel your CMDB with accurate discovery, inventory and data normalization across more than 700,000 software titles. See how you can put that data into action by integrating it with your ITSM platform, including ServiceNow, BMC, Cherwell, Topdesk and others.