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What is Change Management and why should I care?

What is Change Management and why should I care?

The more or less textbook definition of Change Management is: the processes, tools, people and the techniques to effectively manage change to achieve a required business outcome. What does this mean exactly? Well to some extent that depends on who you talk to. It might mean one thing to an Executive, and something completely different to one of the grunts on the pointy end of the stick who has to do the actual work.

Let’s break this down into more manageable chunks and take a look at the respective pieces. In that context the first question is “What is a change?”.

A change is an event that is:

·         Approved by management

·         Implemented with  minimal and accepted risk to existing IT infrastructure

·         Provides increased value to the business from the use of the new or enhanced IT systemssoftwareinfrastructure

Change must be realistic, achievable and measurable. Everything can be measured with metrics of some sort, be it increased performance, reduced costs, reduction of FTE staff, etc… Of course negative impacts can also be measured, and should be, as part of the change management process.

Changes in the IT infrastructure may be due to reactive responses to problems or externally imposed requirements, or proactively from seeking  to improve efficiency and to enable business initiatives. Change is the one global constant within the IT world, and you can either manage it, or let it manage you.

Change management is responsible for any process involving:

·         Hardware

·         System software

·         All documentation and procedures associated with the running, support and maintenance of live systems.

As you can see this is a very broad-spread spectrum of items to take into consideration. Everything from IP phones to desktops/laptops to servers, switches, routers, etc, are covered. How on earth does someone handle this in any sort of systematic and logical fashion? The answer, of course, is to follow the change management process.

What is the process?

Any proposed change to the environment must be approved in the change management process. While change management makes the process happen, the decision authority is the Change Advisory Board (CAB), which generally is composed of people from multiple departments/functions within the organization.

The main activities of the CAB are:

·         Filtering changes

·         Managing changes and the change process

·         Chairing the CAB and the CAB/Emergency committee

·         Reviewing and closing of Requests for Change (RFCs)

·         Management reporting and providing management information

Choose the CAB membership wisely. The members of this committee can either streamline the change process, or hopelessly bog it down in minutia and trivial bureaucracy. Many organizations that implement change management for the first time make the mistake of locking things down so tightly that getting any RFC through committee becomes a nightmare. Kingdom building is always a danger with such an entity and is to be discouraged at all costs.

Yes, there needs to be controls put in place. And yes, loose cannons are not to be tolerated. However, there needs to be a balance that accommodates both good process and controls, and the ability to actually get work done. There will always be those who chafe at any imposition of a new procedure that “interferes” with implementing changes to systems. The challenge is to show them that having a structured change control process doesn’t mean having to wait three weeks to swap out the power supply on a server.

From a management perspective, good change control provides visibility and accountability into the day-to-day operations of the various departments in IT. It also should minimize, or mitigate, any downtime associated with changes to the corporate environment. Additionally, it provides a better method for Emergency RFC approvals than the traditional “call around till you find someone who will approve it” approach.

As you can see there is much to take into consideration when looking at change control, much more than I can cover in this short blog. Many good resources are available both on the Internet and in physical book format. I encourage you to take the time to familiarize yourself with at least some of this material before instituting a new Change Control into your environment, or deciding how to fine-tune an existing committee. It is certainly time well spent.

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