The Asset Journey

01 June 2023

What is an asset and how does it become part of the CMDB? The ITIL description of an asset is “Any financially valuable component that can contribute to the delivery of an IT Product or Service” but how do you select those assets and how do they align with business needs?  The process requires in-depth analysis and review to properly define the asset attributes, and this starts at the project stage, whether it’s a laptop refresh, infrastructure transformation or even a new application in development.  

For example, why would you purchase a server or chose to move operations to the cloud that cannot scale up to meet future capacity requirements?  Or indeed buy laptops that, in two years, will be unable to run the latest operating system?  You wouldn’t!    

Another crucial element is where decisions are made around the procurement of IT assets, and how much influence the IT department has in the decision-making process.  For example, without a clear understanding of an asset’s complete functional business requirements, including performance, capacity, sustainability, etc., many purchasing decisions are made primarily on price.  So, getting an informed view of the complete requirements of an asset is crucial to achieving a fit-for-purpose procurement strategy based on a collaborative approach between procurement and IT departments.   

And the list of required asset attributes is growing longer.  Added to the common standard attributes: Name, ID, Serial Number, Location etc, you are now expected to include additional contextual data like an asset’s Scope 3 carbon footprint.  And before you put your head in your hands about this seemingly impossible task, COzPro can solve this challenge simply and elegantly.  KA2’s award-winning application helps you measure, manage and report on your IT estate’s carbon footprint and compare models or hardware from servers and switches to laptops and keyboards, contributing to decisions on how you purchase, retain and retire your assets.    

So, what happens once decisions are made, and items purchased, delivered, and unpacked?  They must, of course, be entered into the asset database.  This process can happen in a variety of ways.  The most popular is to use a discovery method that populates the asset database automatically, which in principle is good, but this can potentially leave some gaps in your asset register.  For example, you may store some assets for future use or retain components ready for assembly later.  In this case, the asset management team should manually enter the asset into the database with the correct status. Then, when that asset is connected to the network and discovered, it can be matched to the corresponding item within the database.  This process will give you a complete view of your asset data and any items that do not match can be investigated as orphans.   

Somewhat confusingly, in ITIL, an asset can also be a configuration item (CI). According to the ITIL definition, “a configuration item is any component or service asset that needs to be managed to deliver an IT service”. This means that an asset can have both a financial value AND an underlying capability to provide a service, making it a CI. 

Servers are commonly classified as both assets and CIs because they have a financial value as physical hardware and also provide a service by hosting applications or delivering resources. Therefore, they need to be managed as both assets and CIs in order to ensure the successful delivery of IT services.  Once a CI has been created, it is usually linked to an infrastructure /application service, which then links to a service provided to the business, which allows the growth of the CMDB to cover more than just IT.   

So, what is the CMDB (Configuration Management Database)?  It’s a component of Asset and Configuration Management and is a central repository that stores information about CI’s, including their attributes, relationships, and configuration details.  Asset Management is one of the many processes that rely on the CMDB to operate effectively. Each process, including Asset Management, has a separate lifecycle and purpose in the context of managing IT services.   

The purpose of the CMDB is to provide accurate and reliable information about digital services and the infrastructure that supports them.  In essence, it is the content management system (CMS) for ITIL Service Configuration Management.  It not only supports Change Management but also delivers data-driven business outcomes within IT and the business.  A well-maintained CMDB drives positive results by storing all your data in one place, which makes it much easier for employees to find what they need to know, which in turn makes them more productive.  It also improves many other business areas, such as accelerating the time-to-market for new services and reducing service delivery costs.   

Finally, why is any of this important?   Having a clear and accurate view of your assets, understanding when they may or may not be CIs and creating the relationships with the infrastructure and the services they underpin, ensures a complete picture of your IT estate, encompassing lifecycles, finances and controlled Change Management practices.  

And if you want to learn how to implement best practices for your asset journey and improve the associated processes or introduce the ability to view in real-time the complete Scope 3 carbon footprint of a service within the CMDB, please contact one of our ITAM or Sustainability Consultants.