It has become common knowledge that when systems go down, applications stall and networks fail it's usually due to unknown, undocumented or unauthorised changes to network and systems configurations -- and not because of technology failures.

In fact, it has been estimated by numerous industry watchers that up to 80 percent of application performance problems and network downtime can be attributed to some configuration change or error. And because of that, IT managers need to get on board and put proper policies and tools in place around change, configuration and release management, Gartner says.

The industry research firm in late 2006 surveyed close to 100 people at its Data Centre Conference in Las Vegas about their use of change, configuration and release management tools and technologies. The results show that IT managers' efforts today remain separate and unequal among the three IT disciplines, which will provide optimum results going forward. And Gartner found that IT organisations want to purchase tools before standardising processes to address these issues -- another potential pitfall of successful change, configuration and release management initiatives.

For example, about one-third of respondents said they are using technical domain configuration management tools. Another 22 percent said they have domain configuration tools as well as IT change management efforts under way. And some 17 percent had technical domain configuration tools, an IT change management initiative and a manual configuration repository. 10 percent said they have a configuration management database, or CMDB, in addition to configuration and IT change management tools and about 20 percent also had release management in place.

The results show that IT organisations are thinking about putting these tools in place, but Gartner notes that a maturing of approaches and processes must take place for enterprise companies to reap the real rewards of this trio of technologies.

"Change, configuration and release management can only be executed with limited success as solo initiatives," a Gartner report reads. The research firm writes that IT organisations must form "a team to approach all three of these processes in a co-ordinated manner" and to ensure success "IT organisations must invest in process policies and standards - before acquiring tools for process automation."