Change Management

Change Management is the process of requesting, determining attainability, planning, implementing and evaluation of changes to a system. It has two main goals: supporting the processing of changes and enabling traceability of changes. Companies business and IT ecosystems are becoming more complex. - with more dependencies and more frequent changes.

Why is it Important?

 

Improve risk management

every change you make introduces the risk of breaking something in your environment. Change management helps you understand these risks and make informed decisions on what changes to implement,

 

Enable coordination and tracking of changes

IT environments are complex and have a lot of changes that need to be applied. Change management helps with the coordination of individual changes to avoid conflicts and minimize deployment downtimes for users.

 

Facilitate communications between technical teams and users

Some changes don’t result in feature impacts for users, but many do. Change management helps ensure users are aware of changes taking place to ensure they are prepared to take advantage of them.

Benefits of Change Management Software

Change management processes enable change to occur in a safe and controlled manner by ensuring risks and impacts are sufficiently assessed. It is often paired with a change governance structure for making informed decisions about what changes to allow to be deployed, and what changes need additional analysis or risk mitigation to be acceptable to the organization.

In addition to providing a consistent means of evaluating and enabling changes to the IT environment, change management also provides a means of tracking change effectiveness and providing traceability to defects related to change. This capability is an important part of companies’ problem management and root-cause analysis processes as many problems are introduced as a result of changes.

For enterprise organizations with global business operations and large volumes of changes that need to be applied to their IT environments, Change Management serves an additional role of schedule coordination amongst change requests. Often, changes have dependencies on one another. Change management includes the process of coordinating individual changes in alignment with these dependencies. It is also responsible for scheduling change window at times that minimize impact to business processes and system users.

Things to Know About Change Management

Everyone deals with changes of one type or another and has their own idea of what change management is. Understanding the context of the situation is essential to make sure everyone is on the same page. There are a common set of activities (capturing requests, assessing their impact and prioritizing and dispositioning) that are a part of every change management process, whether you are talking about requirements, behavior, business process or IT systems changes. Even though a lot of things will be similar, there are some very important differentiators that you should understand to make your understanding of the change management context complete.

Multiple change management processes within your organization

Most organizations have multiple change management processes and systems to support individual functions. Project managers may have a process for requirements change. Engineers may have a process for managing version changes in source code. Operations may have different change processes for data, software and hardware. The degree of interaction and integration among change management functions will vary but the goals are always the same: enabling change to happen effectively and managing risk.

Automation & Data Quality

Change management efficiency is heavily influenced by the degree of automation that supports the process. It is manual activities which make processes seem slow, complex and frustrate people. Data is essential to change management. Each change has a lifecycle and the quality of change management data plays a large role in determining how smoothly a change can progress through the change lifecycle. Manual data entry is the source of most of the errors in change data and automation is the best way to prevent those errors from being introduced.

Agile Delivery

Many companies are adopting Agile, Scrum and DevOps methodologies. These delivery methods take an integrated, closed-loop approach to change management as a means of accelerating time-to-value. DevOps continuous improvement and continuous delivery (CI/CD) processes highlight the need for frictionless integration between the software change management activities and supporting systems. This is what enable application development teams to support the accelerating “speed of business.”

3rd Party Components

3rd party components need to be given just as much change management scrutiny as those changes coming from project teams inside your organization. For businesses that use SaaS and 3rd party software components, the biggest change management challenges are:

  • Understanding what new features are included in a build package or version from the supplier,
  • Assessing the impact of the changes on other systems in the IT environment and
  • Managing risk

Everyone deals with change and has a different perspective on what change management is. By understanding the commonalities and the differences, you will be better prepared to select the best change management framework and change management software to meet your organization’s needs.

ITIL Change Management

The most common change management framework is the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). In ITIL, change management is a part of the “Service Transition” phase which is responsible for: “Transitioning something newly developed from the Service Design phase into Service Operation.” ITIL treats change management as an interfacing process that takes place as a small but important part of the development process.

The goal of ITIL Change Management is: “to ensure that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes, in order to minimize the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality, and consequently improve the day-to-day operations of the organization.” The desired outcome is improved operations and standardized procedures are the means to achieving that outcome.

Within the ITIL change management process are the following 9 sub-processes:

While ITIL’s definition of change management emphasizes the traditional role it has played, it is seen by many as too narrowly focused to support agile methods. They argue that change management processes must look at change holistically throughout the requirements and delivery lifecycle. This is one of the core friction points between legacy ITIL interpretations and modern agile thinking. In recent years, there has been an attempt to re-interpret ITIL to be more complementary to modern methods such as agile, scrum and DevOps. ITIL change management processes are at the heart of the discussion.

Agile Change Management

In agile software development, change management is framed differently than in traditional ITIL frameworks. Agile change management focuses less on coordinating many changes happening at the same time (and the compounded risk that model presents). In Agile projects, the change scope is broken up into smaller chunks that are delivered independently instead of a big bundle. This change in framing shifts the responsibility for change management activities from a centralized function to project teams and product owners. The risk of production impacts (by not doing centralized change management) is mitigated by the delivery team’s ability to respond quickly should a production issue occur.

Initial agile methodologies focused on the development of features, not the implementation activities where change management plays its biggest role. Experience in agile software delivery has taught us that application development is not complete until the end-user’s needs are fulfilled. Overall delivery speed is often metered by the ability of the users and business functions to consume the changes being produced more than the speed at which project teams develop the changes.

It makes sense that agile project teams are now taking an active role in the installation, configuration, integration and setup activities that IT functions perform after they receive software builds from developers. Modern agile considers change management across the agile closed-loop lifecycle as a continuous flow of requirements, responses, changes and impacts.

Change management software enables agile methods through rules-based automation and process orchestration in the same way it supports legacy ITIL approaches:

Streamlining workflows

change related workflows are optimized for speed and throughput to reduce friction in the release and deployment processes. This makes it easier and faster for developers to release changes to users.

Data collection

Agile processes are often supported by sophisticated tooling. Collecting change related data automatically from these tools reduces the amount of data entry required to promote a change to production.

Decision support

Change management requires an assessment of change risk and coordination of change timing to minimize impacts to users. Change management software facilitates this process by collecting the data needed for decision makers to assess and approve changes effectively.

The biggest difference in how change management software supports agile is the assignment of change approval authority to project managers and product owners instead of centralized change management functions. This limits centralized review to changes with cross-functional impacts and/or high-risk profiles. In most modern organizations, change management software is essential to enabling agile delivery while at the same time managing risk-exposure for the organization.

Simplifying Complex and Frustrating Change Management Processes

The IT staff and business users in many organizations complain that Change Management processes are complex, frustrating and too slow to support the speed of change required for modern businesses to be successful. The good news is that there are some effective techniques that can be employed to simplify a complex and frustrating change management process when IT delivers software into production.

3 key reasons why change management processes seem complex

Lack of fully automated workflows

Dependent on employees to request, approve analyse and Time can vary depending on the volume of requests.

Manual documentation

Required as part of the process, Dependency on other IT systems and Time consuming

Complex decision structures

Dependency on approver/board for approval, Need to identify the right group for approvals and Multiple levels of approvals

Change Management Software can play a big role in resolving this complexity. Automated, real-time workflows can provide scalability to the change management process by reducing the amount of manual orchestration that is necessary. Queueing requests only when necessary. Integration with other IT systems to collect change request data and compile the supporting information needed to analyze and approve changes minimizes the need for data entry by both requestors and change management staff.

Change templates (pre-approved change requests) and rules-based decision-making enabled by the change management software can further simplify the change management experience by streamlining the process for common (low-risk) changes. Automated CAB approval processes along with better definition of change approval authority enable change requests to require fewer approvals.

Selecting a Change Management Software Solution

Selecting a change management software solution is not a task to be taken lightly. Change management software is not only an essential part of your company’s ITSM solution but it is also plays a key role in determining how fast your organization can change and how safely those changes can be made. Because change management software doesn’t work independently, selecting the right solution means making sure it aligns to your company’s unique needs

Process Support

Because change management software serves as a bridge between the teams developing changes and the operations that will consume those changes in production, it is important to select a solution that will support the types of development methods that you use within your organization.

  • Does the solution support both traditional change methods and CI/CD approaches at the same time?
  • Can the change management software consume release notes from suppliers and/or development teams?
Integration

Much of the value of change management software comes from its ability to integrate and orchestrate workflows across multiple systems. When selecting a change management software solution, you need to consider how it will integrate with your other systems used for things like project management, engineering and configuration management.

  • Does the solution integrate with automated deployment systems or will you still need to execute the production changes manually?
  • Can the change management software provide status updates back to PM and engineering systems and route any errors that are discovered during deployment?
Crisis Scenarios

It is also important to consider how your change management software will perform both under normal day-to-day operating conditions and in disaster/crisis scenarios.

  • In an emergency, can changes still be deployed if the change management system is down?
  • Will your users be able to access the features they need in the cloud or will they require connectivity to your physical data centers?

Implementing Change Management Software

To realize the full value of your company’s change management software investment, a thoughtful implementation is essential. The two most important things to keep in mind when implementing change management software are:

Every implementation plan will be different based on the unique nature of your company culture, delivery processes, IT environment and change management objectives.

Process Automation

The first area to focus during change management software implementation is process and business rule simplification. Don’t just automate a broken process – it will still be broken. Look for opportunities to optimize your process by eliminating un-necessary steps, reducing the number of process variants through standardization, leveraging templates and automating decision rules to avoid manual data-entry tasks.

Integrate change management software with your engineering and project management tools to provide closed-loop change management processes that span the entire change lifecycle. This is particularly important if your organization leverages (or intends to implement) agile, scrum or DevOps methodologies. Integrations enable project team members to prepare changes without the delays of a separate change request process.

Avoid restricting activities in your change management software to a single user (such as a change control board facilitator). This creates bottlenecks in your change management process. Instead, leverage automation to enable process scalability. If you still think you need to have a person involved, understand the potential capacity constraints and have contingency plans if that person is not available.

Data Hygiene

Ensure you have a plan to manage data hygiene regularly. Over time, as your change management process executes, there will be a lot of transactional data that gets generated. Just because you needed the information to make a decision, doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever.

“Some change related records and approval data may be required for regulatory compliance. It is always best to consult with experts who know the requirements in the regions where your do business for current guidelines”.

Process optimization and planning for data hygiene are both activities that should be performed as part of change management software implementation. It is far better to have clean processes and data to begin with than to have to go back and clean up a mess later.

Take the Next Step

Change does not have to be complicated or time consuming if you have the right tools to support your process. Make sure your change management system and process address your specific needs without slowing down your business with unnecessary overhead. Change is both a necessary evil and the way we help our businesses grow. It is important to make sure what we do and how we do it creates business value but does so in a safe way.

Whether you rely on ITIL change management for rigorous review and approval to provide control and assurance or Agile change management to empower project teams in a closed-loop process Fresh Service can support your automation needs. With workflow automation you can create a consistent experience optimized to your business process. Rules-based decision support and change templates enable routine changes to be automatically approved – enabling your change approvers to focus on higher risk changes where their attention is needed most. APIs to integrate Fresh Service with leading ITSM and Software Engineering systems gives you the ability to create end-to-end experiences eliminate the manual data-entry tasks that frustrates your users.

If your users are frustrated with complex and cumbersome change management processes. If your developers are frustrated because getting their changes deployed in production takes too long. If your change management staff and approvers are feeling overwhelmed by the volume of change requests and data entry activities… Its time to make a change. With Fresh Service, you can focus on your business, not on the process.

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