Chokeholds in the Change Management Process
For CIOs today, there's definitely no escaping change. The term, change management, could legitimately be applied to every time an IT project is initiated that have a clear line to business.
Business wants changes to happen faster. So what are some ways that a CIO can speed up the change management process to keep pace with the demands of business? This is one of the main questions addressed in the recent 2 part piece Eliminating change management process chokeholds, published in TechTarget's SearchCIO, in an interview with IT services strategy expert and CIO adviser Derek Lonsdale.
However, IT is under incredible pressure, bombarded by many change requests for complex inter-dependent systems under the intense demands of business to release - now. When any little change can end up being the impetus for a high impact incident, it is not surprising for organization to experience painful stabilization periods after releases, and even production outages.
Why does change management lead to the failure of so many IT projects? What causes them to be particularly vulnerable and what can be done about it?
Automate Change Management
In the article, Lonsdale says, 'One way to overcome the bureaucracy of change management: Have a higher ratio of standard changes.'
We recently explored the nature of taking on high volumes of changes inEntering The Change Twilight Zone And How To Overcome It, saying that "It is simply impossible to monitor and evaluate every single configuration point in a support stack using purely manual processes. You would need a workforce that is the population of something like Cleveland (p. 478,403) just to perform the necessary system review. I&O teams need effective change management to know what is happening in their environments."
A great example of proactive change management came up at a customer implementation. We described this in Manufacturing Happiness? How A Customer Improved Stability and Radically Cut Unplanned Changes. We saw that "When the Evolven application, began to e-mail change management reports every morning across the organization, the operations team was surprised to discover the amount of daily changes had rapidly decreased. Following a quick investigation into the issue, they found that developers, infrastructure administrators and other application stack stakeholders simply avoided unnecessary changes since with Evolven's configuration monitoring capabilities they would become visible and raise questions."
Make Change Management a Continuous Improvement Process
Lonsdale explains that continuous improvement should be ingrained in the change management process team.
We explored how this approach can be adopted in IT Operations in our piece, The Crucial Role DevOps Plays In Change & Configuration Management, suggesting that " as agile change becomes a regular part of the life of IT, this situation requires special treatment, and the changes need special care. The best way to handle these changes is by having its own team, DevOps. They can escort the change throughout its lifecycle - from inception to deployment as well as follow the changes that Operations makes to the infrastructure communicating the impact to Development. Today IT Ops is just the intermediary for implementing a change from development into production. DevOps elevates IT Ops to be an integral part of the process. Change management is an essential part of IT life and right now the change lifecycle has a major gap in it that DevOps can help close."
Speed Up the Change Management Process
Lonsdale added how IT is generally left disconnected from business, that only "When asked, IT has a lot of suggestions, but they still tend to be more focused on managing IT rather than managing services."
We looked at this area in our recent article, Cloud Management Needs Context, where we explored how cloud is providing the platform to meet the pressure and demands of business, yet producing tons of less important changes. As we noted that, "Dealing with scale, rapid change and impermanence could quickly lead to a processing overhead for humans when managing cloud environments. In cloud-based operations, change and configuration management really becomes even more relevant. Since configurations are changed programmatically (through automated mechanisms). System Management tools need to correlate collected monitoring information to the deployment assets in order to understand the context of the trends and changes, required to manage the infrastructure effectively." .
Tackling Change Management Strategy Challenges
The SearchCIO article looks at the following ways to deal with change management issues today.
- Define what a change is. A poorly defined change management process leads to way too many low-priority changes going to the advisory board.
- Define emergency change request. If you have a lot of emergency change-requests going before your advisory board, your project managers are doing something wrong.
- Automate change management. The approval process has to be automated.
- Before a change hits the advisory board, complete all approvals and admin processes.