There are various topics for which this discussion regularly comes up, however the arguments for and against do not drastically change. In regards to the Configuration Management System (CMS) or CMDB, the topics tend to be with respect to;
- Initial Population
- Regular Updates
- Verification of updates
- Periodic Audit of system
As mentioned, the reason for contemplating one or the other is less of an issue than the thought process that you must go through to decide which is best for you. When deciding, you must take into consideration the aspects listed below plus possibly some others which you may encounter that are unique to your situation. Many of these you will remember from Part 1: Auto Discovery of this series:
- Cost of Technology implementation versus Staffing costs
- Volume of changes in your environment
- Overall IT Department size under management
- Regulatory requirements
In general, what you tend to be comparing between the two is a higher upfront cost and capability from technology versus a lower cost and capability when using human resources. Your particular environment may not have high volume or criticality demands as others so it’s possible that you could get away with only using human resources but that would imply a very small IT shop with low volumes of changes which should make you even question the basis for looking at implementing an enterprise CMS. What you’re seeking out is the break point where continuing to execute the CMS plan with human resources is no longer viable because you cannot meet your needs due to cost and scaling of resources.
Instead of using a lot of words to describe all the different scenarios, below are two simple graphs to demonstrate how your particular scenarios will push you to rely on one approach more than the other. The vertical axis labeled as “Capability” but could represent ‘Cost’, ‘Regulatory Demand’, ‘Frequency for Verification’ or ‘Scope/Scale’. It is a generic quantification measure that is being compared to the ‘Volume of Change’ on the horizontal axis. There are some key assumptions being made in the graphs in order to maintain simplicity. Obviously, a real business and IT operation is not this simplistic so you will need to extrapolate and adapt the imagery to your environment.
- The efficiency of your Human Resources is already maximized and productivity cannot be significantly increased with the same number of resources.
- The number of Human Resources and “Volume of Changes” does not change over time and is consistent 24 hours per day.
- The technology solution has a set capability unless the additional technology is introduced and if introduced, the increase is not linear but in magnitude. Also, the cost to increase the magnitude of capability is not linear for traditional technologies. We are not taking into account SaaS or Cloud computing models in the first two graphics.
- SaaS/Cloud technology implementations deliver a linear capability as volume of change increases
It would be nice to believe that there is a clear-cut line where you use one versus the other but the reality is that you will most likely need to use both manual and technological solutions in some fashion and combination at different points in time. The ratio of one to the other is what will vary from organization to organization and as your scope expands or budgets shrink. The graphs are not intended to be interpreted as actual metrics but merely as indications of how the influence of different factors might cause you to use more technology than human labor or visa-versa. Ultimately, you will need to find the most efficient balance for your organization.
Again, the thing to remember with regard to the graphs above is that they are not specific measures but only representations of typical trends when compared to the volume of change. If for example, your labor costs are low for entry level work but rise drastically for more experienced resources, the green curve representing “Manual effort” will become much steeper in relation to the “Volume of Change” axis. This is because it’s assumed that the complexity of changes will naturally increase because of the volume and hence you would need more experienced resources. Another example is where the rate of change is so fast that it is not possible or realistic to execute to function with human resources. In these cases, the need to increase the use of technology solutions is higher out of sheer necessity since the Human Resources cannot meet the requirements.
There are always difficult choices to make when deciding whether to use technology in place of human resources. There is a balance that we must strike that makes sense for the organization in meeting its needs while still also doing right by the individuals that might be displaced. Ultimately, however, we are required to deliver services to our business partners and we must do so at the specified level of quality and for an acceptable cost. We can only do this by finding the right mix of Human Resources and Technological solutions.