In one of my former jobs, I was a Senior IT Manager leading a major global manufacturer through a service management transition of tools and services into ServiceNow. In preparation for this global “Big Bang” event, we turned a critical eye toward our CMDB. Was it ready to support Incident & Problem Management? Were we capturing the right CIs? Was the data accurate and up to date? We did a deep dive and what we found was concerning: There were over 25 million CIs in our CMDB and a lot of it was useless.

Company overview

  • Multiple technical centers, manufacturing sites and customer support services in 35+ countries
  • 300+ sites globally
  • 50,000+ PCs supporting 46,000+ IT users
  • 1,500+ engineering apps for 18,000 engineers in 30 countries
  • IT is outsourced to multiple suppliers with multiple CMDBs
  • Heavily invested in legacy infrastructure

The Implementation Plan

  • Months 1-3: Loaded CMDB data from 18 different supplier files manually
  • Months 3-6: Added Discovery
  • Months 6-12: Expanded Tool Adoption 

The Bad Idea Bears Show Up

When the expanded tool adoption started to take hold, that’s when the Bad Idea Bears showed up. They were excited about having a CMDB. They were excited about automatically gathering data. They were so excited they decided to pull in as much data as possible – “Let’s put everything in the CMDB! Yay!”

By Month 18, the company had accumulated over 25 million CIs in their CMDB. Duplicate data, incomplete data, out of date data – the Bad Idea Bears had indeed gathered it all. And when the tool adoption spread even further, the integrity of all that data suddenly came into question. The CMDB started getting a bad reputation across IT for inaccurate and stale data.

The company eventually had to go back to the CMDB drawing board and reconfigure their Discovery Tool, reset CMDB fields & structure and implement a CMDB Governance process. They learned many lessons over their 2 year journey of starting and re-building their CMDB. And while these lessons were gathered while implementing a CMDB in ServiceNow, they are generic enough to apply to any tool hosting your CMDB data.

Tips For Implementing your ServiceNow CMDB

  1. Be Clear – know what you want to implement and why
  2. Don’t Do It Alone – choose a great integration partner and know the industry best practices
  3. Start Simple – prioritize the basics first, then build it out
  4. Drive Accountability – ensure there are data owners and a robust process for delivering data, both manual and discovered
  5. Leverage It – build out CI relationships in the CMBD for broader views on end to end services, performance, and total cost of outages
  6. Stay Healthy – perform yearly health checks on your CMDB data and processes
  7. Set the Standard – establish the CMDB as The Record of Truth
  8. Build the Foundation – have a strategic roadmap for maturing your CMDB and align it to future ServiceNow deployments
  9. Keep It Real – data quality must be an ongoing validation process with continual improvement
  10. Stay in Control – keep control over your CMDB with a strong Governance practice: If you control your data, you control your destiny


It’s best to have a complete strategy in mind before implementing your CMDB. It doesn’t have to be done all at once – you can ease into a robust CMDB in phases aligned with Business Value and other key functionality roll outs. Knowing what you want to do and where you want to go over the long haul is critical in keeping those Bad Idea Bears in check.