Configuration Management: the Key to Effective System Management

A program originally developed in the 1950s in the U.S. Department of Defense to track changes in the development of complex systems is now known as configuration management. This essential IT management process, which monitors, checks and changes individual configuration elements of an IT system to enable companies to operate successfully, is a central component of ITSM.

Configuration Management: Definition and Goals

Configuration management, also known as ITIL configuration management, is a process that involves the management of changes to systems, hardware, software, technical products or assets in an organization. It provides data that is important for all ITSM processes.

This data …

  • … is used in detecting and processing incidents.
  • … is useful in estimating the impact of an incident.
  • … helps to identify malfunctioning equipment.
  • … helps to identify users and processes that may be affected by a problem.

This enables controlling various aspects of a product or system in a company, such as hardware, software, networks and documents.

Configuration management is therefore particularly important for IT products and services, as these often consist of a large number of components and dependencies that need to be regularly monitored and updated.

Configuration Management

The purpose here is to ensure that all components of a system or service are always up to date, remain compatible with each other, and work properly. This should minimize errors, increase the reliability of the system and improve efficiency within the company. It also helps ensure that policies and standards are followed properly.

The graphic below illustrates how Configuration Management fits into IT Service Management:

Important terms related to Configuration Management

Configuration management helps to identify, organize and control systems. Especially two terms are important in this context:

  • Configuration Items (CIs) that are fundamental building blocks or elements within the system, and
  • the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), where all this information is stored.

The following section explains these and other important terms.

Configuration Item (CI)

A configuration item (CI) is a unit or component in the IT infrastructure.

These units can be hardware such as servers and PCs, but also software, documentation, contracts, technical equipment, machines and larger corporate assets.

CIs include all important information about an IT component and are stored in a central configuration management database (CMDB). A CMDB includes baselines, versions, components, attributes and relations.


IT systems consist of IT assets that differ in complexity. An asset is a term for a resource of a company. If an asset is configurable and has relevant dependencies to other items, it is added to the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) as a Configuration Item (CI). CIs form the basis for configuration management to track and manage relations and dependencies between different IT components.

Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

The CMDB contains all the relevant information about a CI, for example, that the current version of a particular software is 2.0.

The CMDB thus provides useful information to various stakeholders. Release Management can see which software is installed in which version, and Problem Management can track errors with the help of the documentation. Accounting can check the number of software licenses, to name just three examples.

Configuration Management System (CMS)

Relevant data resulting from the CIs is stored in a configuration management system. The system has many interfaces to all other ITSM processes. Incident Management is an important interface here.

For example, CMS notes the area of responsibility of the support team for each incident category. The status of faulty CIs is documented via tickets, which can be created by the user or automatically. Tickets are processed like CIs, which allows linking attributes, current status and attached information.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

SLA stands for Service Level Agreement in the context of an IT service. It is used to ensure that the quality or the scope of a service is defined in a contract and can be evaluated later on. You can then create a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the service scope.

Advantages of Configuration Management

Configuration Management helps development teams keep an overview of complex software systems and their components. Using tools that automatically manage and monitor updates to configuration data unlocks many benefits.

Improved control and transparency

Configuration management provides a complete overview of the IT environment and all related components. This allows IT teams to quickly identify what hardware and software is included in the infrastructure and what configurations are applied to it.

Effective Management of Changes

Configuration management tools make it easier to manage changes to the IT infrastructure by providing automated workflows that ensure changes are made correctly.

Maximizing Efficiency

Configuration management helps IT teams operate the IT infrastructure more efficiently by identifying and correcting outdated, underperforming and non-compliant configurations. It also helps in prioritizing operations.

Automation and Monitoring

With a configuration management tool, you can identify CIs automatically and create a database. In addition, the tool supports you in the efficient management of your data. Integrated monitoring continuously records status information and changes, so your CIs are always up to date.

Improved Security

Configuration management also helps to make the IT infrastructure more secure by enabling patches and updates to be automatically deployed to all affected systems and by prioritizing corrective actions.

Increased System Stability

Configuration management enables faster recovery of systems after a failure by giving IT teams access to a complete view of the IT infrastructure and its configurations.

Compliance and Tracking

Configuration management gives IT teams the possibility to document and track changes in the IT infrastructure. This enables them to meet the defined compliance level agreements and, in retrospect, to track who made which changes.

Overall, configuration management can help IT teams operate their IT infrastructure more effectively, efficiently and securely by …

  • enabling central control and transparency,
  • simplifying the management of changes,
  • maximizing efficiency,
  • increasing system stability,
  • and ensuring compliance and tracking.

Configuration Management Tools

Configuration management is about avoiding problems in the first place, minimizing risks, improving the ability to provide information and keeping systems in the desired state at all times.

In the past, this was done manually or with special scripts programmed by system administrators. However, this manual monitoring and maintenance is no longer state of the art. Special software solutions now automate this work.

Configuration management via software therefore saves time and costs, reduces complexity and helps to avoid errors. REALTECH offers an intelligent solution for this in the ITSM tool SmartITSM: Our proven configuration management software, which includes the following functions:

  • Smart configuration management with always up-to-date inventory of relevant configuration data thanks to our smart CMDB
  • Automatic identification of configuration items from various sources, such as Microsoft SCCM, LDAP, AD, etc.
  • Graphical overview of CI relations
  • Clear structures thanks to CMDB data model with CI categories, types and attributes
  • A single point of truth (SPoT) that gives you a central database containing all relevant information about your IT assets

However, our SmartITSM Solution not only offers an efficient Configuration Management Tool, as a user you also benefit from the following software applications around SmartITSM:

Would you like to learn more about SmartITSM?

Perfect! Just book your free demo here or write to us.

How to implement Configuration Management successfully

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the practical side of configuration management and give you 8 simple tips if you are planning to establish configuration management in your company.

1. Define goals and requirements

Define clear goals and requirements for your configuration management system and create a list of required features and capabilities.

2. Select the right tools and platforms

Choose the appropriate tools and platforms that meet your needs and integrate with existing systems.

3. Identify and classify assets

Identify assets and components of your systems, classify them and group them according to their properties and characteristics.

4. Creation of a configuration database

Create a central configuration database that manages all assets and configurations and enables automation of changes.

5. Set up workflows and processes

Set up required workflows and processes to implement changes in a controlled and secure manner.

6. Train the users

Train configuration management system users to ensure they can use the system effectively and receive support from IT teams.

7. Review and update regularly

Regularly review and update your configuration database and processes to ensure they meet current standards and best practices.

8. Choose a proper team

It is also important to have a dedicated team that has a clear roadmap for implementing the configuration management system and is flexible enough to react to changes.

Conclusion: Configuration Management

In conclusion, configuration management is essential for IT teams to manage and operate the IT infrastructure effectively. Without a solid configuration management system, IT teams may not be able to quickly respond to issues and ensure the security and efficiency of their systems.

FAQs: Configuration Management

A configuration manager is responsible for monitoring and managing IT configurations in an organization. Responsibilities include managing and documenting configuration data, reviewing and approving configuration changes, and coordinating collaboration with other IT departments.

There are several good reasons why an organization should implement configuration management:

  • Improved IT infrastructure management
  • Higher efficiency
  • Better Control
  • Higher security
  • Improved compliance

A CMDB is a data pool that stores all information about the configuration of elements within an organization. The IT organization determines exactly what should flow into the CMDB database.

A Configuration Management Database (CMDB) should contain the following elements:

  • Configuration Items (CI)
  • CI attributes
  • Relations between CIs
  • Configuration history of the CIs