CMDB, portfolio management, and enterprise architecture are all individually capable of bringing significant value. When used in combination, however, they are all strengthened. These solutions can be the beginning pieces of creating a more holistic view of the enterprise.
To level-set, let's first define these solutions, according to Wikipedia:
Use CMDB to populate a portfolio management tool
If you're starting (or re-starting) an enterprise architecture practice, then you're probably focused on gaining quick wins to demonstrate value and build momentum. To accomplish this, it’s essential that the architects have reliable data, and the first goal should be to establish that trust-worthy single source of truth. While it’s possible to begin building a common repository from scratch, that can become time-consuming, and you run a risk of falling behind. With proper tooling, however, there are easier ways to begin populating your repository.
One way to populate the repository is by importing spreadsheets full of data about business capabilities, infrastructure, applications, and technology. If you trust that data then you can absolutely use it, but some (perhaps most) companies aren't able to keep that list up to date (it is common for that data to become unreliable or incomplete over time). If you're using a CMDB the data stored there should be used. This is a great way to populate the repository quickly and to begin pursuing quick wins.
Because a CMDB contains data about hardware and software it is a natural fit with the lifecycle and impact analysis-focused IT portfolio management solutions. Without portfolio management, a CMDB is little more than a glorified spreadsheet because they lack the business value that portfolio management does so well. The CMDB is more closely related to operations whereas portfolio management should help with the overall strategy.
Combine all three to realize greater value
A modern CMDB should contain features and functionalities like software discovery tools, the CMDB technology database itself, as well as service and change management. Portfolio management enlightens the database with information about the lifecycle, business value, and financial impact. It provides a view that the business can actually use. Information gathered in the CMDB doesn't usually have much meaning for the business. Finally, enterprise architecture and the tooling itself should aid the strategy and bring about greater Business-IT alignment, well-defined technology standards, project roadmaps, and reference architecture models.
To summarize, the CMDB is an operational tool that can jump-start the data collection for your repository, the portfolio management solution helps you to rationalize and make sense of your portfolio, while an enterprise architecture tool helps drive the strategy. An enterprise architecture practice can prepare the company for continuous change and embrace an agile approach. Enterprise architecture becomes an asset to manage the complexity of your business transformation.
The purpose of this short article is to help discern the high-level differences between CMDB, portfolio management, and enterprise architecture. As you can see, each of the three solutions has their own value, but when you share the data and insights from each solution you're left with something greater than the sum of its parts; a more holistic view of your assets and how to strategically bring about change and innovation.