Importance of Foundation Data

Is your foundation in a perfect shape? Don’t lie. And it doesn’t have to be perfect of course, but keeping your foundation data in good shape, will ensure that other things can work as planned.

What do I mean by “foundation data”? Many IT Service Management systems such as ServiceNow refer to common data tables which are shared between multiple applications, processes or use cases as foundation data. Usually, this refers to users, organizational structures, cost centers, locations and, groups for example.

According to the term itself, Foundation data can create a foundation for good service automation and management. And without a strong foundation, you can not really get the most out of your investment on ITSM systems.

“Without a strong foundation, you can not really get the most out of your investment on ITSM systems.”

In this story, I will show you a simple data model for user data and give examples of different use cases that could fail due to issues in foundation data. In the end, I will also tell you what can be done to prevent such issues.

Example Foundation Data Model for Users

Simple User data model with organizational structures, location, groups, and managers.

The example data model above is still rather simple but includes lots of important and useful information about the user and its relationships to organizational structures, locations, groups, and managers.

Foundation data matters – different use cases

Approvals

Foundation data is often used for approvals. Small purchases or orders can be approved by the line manager, while after a certain level, an upper-level approval is required from the Department head for example.

Line manager approval

Manager information on User records can be invalid in many ways. Maybe it’s simply missing or selected Manager is no longer in the house and has been deactivated.

Department head level approvals

The same issues apply to higher level approval requests. Now there are just more details that can be wrong, starting from the Department link between User and a Department.

Reporting

Probably the most important reason for having consistent and up-to-date foundation data is to enable proper reporting. Most if not all activities managed within an ITSM system is referencing Users as Customers, Assignees, and Managers. Being able to report tasks, assets and other key information based on various organizational aspects is crucial to proper management and decision making.

Organizational structures are often used in reporting

I could bring up so many examples related to reporting, but let’s leave it to this one now and move on. My other favorite reporting related data model is Service Portfolio and how a CMDB should be connected to services but talk about that in another story.

Service subscriptions

ServiceNow like some other ITSM systems have excellent capabilities related to managing which users are using or subscribing different services. This may not be used that much, but it should be. Especially at (IT) Service Provider organizations.

Users can subscribe to the services via many different routes

When you try to create a common Service Portal to all your customers and end users the Service subscriptions can play a major role in how the portal works and which services and catalog items are available to the current user in the portal.

Roles and permissions

It is recommended to use Groups to manage roles and permissions to different users in ServiceNow. This way group memberships can also impact licensing. Making sure that users belong to the right groups may not be that simple but some easy controls can be established to make sure that certain belong to at least some groups which are still active and connected to different roles.

Users can subscribe to the services via many different routes

From the use cases above (and many more that were not listed here) we can easily sum up that foundation data is important. And maybe organizations should put more focus and effort into keeping their FD up-to-date.

Data Content Manager can help to ensure quality data

With Data Content Manager (DCM), one can draw a blueprint matching with data models shown above and simply run an audit to check how accurate and up-to-date your current foundation data is. Audit results can be shown per audited record (a user) or Blueprint element (“Head of” link between Department and User for example) to see which data to fix.

Create blueprint - Audit data - Fix deviations

DCM also includes a concept of “Unique Audit Message” which can be very helpful in identifying which issues to resolve first. For example, a “Missing Department head” for a big department would have a higher “weight” than invalid manager information for a single user.

If you want to know more about DCM, please contact me, book a demo, or take a look at one of the introduction videos on our YouTube channel.

Mikko Juola

Mikko Juola

Mikko is the Product Manager for Data Content Manager, a NowCertified ServiceNow application.

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