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Change Management Challenges in Today's Complex IT Landscape


Change Management Challenges in Today's Complex IT Landscape


Times have changed. The IT landscape has grown in complexity supporting a wider range of technologies and platforms, and accelerated release schedules.

Change is a fact of life for IT Operations. Change takes place at every level of the infrastructure stack and impacts nearly every part of the business. IT operations takes responsibility for maintaining production infrastructures to ensure best performance and high availability. However, IT is under pressure, bombarded by many change requests to complex inter-dependent systems under intense demands of business to release. A typical environment includes thousands of different system configuration parameters to handle.  Each parameter, if mis-configured, can result in painful downtime or a critical incident. When any little change can be the impetus for a high impact incident, it is not surprising to experience painful stabilization periods after releases and even production outages. Due to this, the main cause of slowdown in IT infrastructures is from changes.  

Meanwhile, end users today expect nothing less than a system that is always available. This is put at risk when IT operations is under pressure to release changes,  that need to be accepted and deployed, while frequently IT Operations is  even unaware of the background, content and impact.  Release, Deployment and IT Operations teams are faced with the added challenge of ensuring accurate error-free application deployments  and  software deployments and appropriate system configuration during promotion and deployment, taking into account system configurations that are inherently different between pre-prod and production. Introduction of changes into IT infrastructure is today considered to be one of the leading causes of system downtime, with as much as 10% of all changes having to be rolled back due to irreconcilable issues. 

Though unplanned outages are  incident management  issues, they are, more importantly, business issues. Unplanned outages never produce revenue for the company experiencing them. Limiting downtime or abolishing it completely are still the dreams of an IT organization. Yet the increasingly agile nature of application and infrastructure change requests, leaves IT operations at a loss as they are inundated by change requests that run the gamut from the critical and high priority to the minor and unimportant.

Change control really touches every part of the organization. And  change management  can bring huge value because it has so much impact in so many different. 

IT operations teams face the strain of constant change requests, further compounded by increasingly complex environments that need to be kept available and operating at high performance continuously.

The New Reality Impacts IT Performance

A number of factors impact change control and change management. As software systems, the development process, and resources become more distributed, this reality contributes to less visibility and adds to the management challenge.  Agile software development methodologies have driven the number of releases radically higher. The increase of release events now means an increased pressure on  release management  teams, and further compounding the task of IT Operations to maintain stability while tracking and executing new releases. An evolutionary and ever increasing complexity of platforms on which these systems run, makes it certain there are many active pieces that must operate seamlessly to assure the success and ongoing value of an application.

Improving Change Management and Release Management

A number of capabilities can be applied to improve change management and release management. Accelerated frequency of releases is taking place right now. Yet, often, the pace is increased at the expense of quality. To challenge is to maintain this momentum of increasing the frequency of releases and changes,  while maintaining quality. This is important for environment stability, maintaining an optimal balance between control of changes and speed of release – resulting in less failures and no need for stabilization periods.

Sophisticated change management capabilities, can reduce the risk of downtime, like automatically keeping track of changes and analyzing their impact. By arming IT with the ability to dig deep down, even to see configuration events at a granular level, then IT is better positioned to meet the mandate of maintaining today's complex infrastructures. Furthermore, tracking the consistency of these changes across diverse environments, can ensure a smooth release cycle. Applying the ability to compare environments down to a detailed level, identify the smallest changes and differences, and intelligently evaluate these changes can reduce the issues that put environment stability at risk.

Improvement can be felt across the board to the change control and release management process, by automating both the manual collection and moreso the intense scrutiny of environment and system configurations, to ensure that the release is transitioned as expected. This fast pace of changes limits the visibility of IT operators, while an automated capabilities can enable the tracking of all release content, assuring integrity in environments. This will bring certainty to releases, reducing the high-impact risks associated with them.

Automating the discovery of critical changes offers benefits to operations, quickly providing actionable information for taking key decisions on. Automation steps in where the human element can not keep up, eliminating user oversights. A manual processes would limit you to hunting down release problems after the release into production, creating slowdowns and effecting users. Automated change management allows for early detection, so IT teams can take a proactive approach to both minimizing and ultimately to eliminating problems.

About the Author
Alex Gutman and Martin Perlin