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How Good are you at Change Management?


How Good are you at Change Management?


People tend to think that they're pretty good at change management, as seen from the data compiled by Forrester last year. It seems that IT professionals tend to rank themselves pretty well in the change management and release management processes, letting IT people think that they're doing pretty well here. 

It turns out that they're really not. 

from Does ITSM still have relevance in the empowered BT era?

Change Results in Incidents

In a similar study, Forrester asked another question about how many of their incidents can be related to changes, which is a pretty good barometer for how well they're doing at change management.

from New Study Yields Eye-Opening IT Service Management Benefits

Respondents that felt that less than 10% of their incidents are the results of change is a good state to be in. However that's only 20% of the respondents! More disturbing is that 49% of the respondents rate their change caused incidents in the unacceptable range. Moreover, 9% are really pretty bad off. But you know what? Even that 9% is better off than this 22% of people who don't know. If you don't know that what's causing issues, then you've got some real problems. This indicates how the state of change management is not looking good at all.

"And the real issue is that people have limited visibility. Some of the indicators were wrong, the complexity in the system itself limited their ability to really understand what was going on. And in the IT world, boy doesn't this sound familiar."

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester

Threat of Complexity

The main question is why do IT professionals think they're good at change management, when they're not?


  • Compliance with the change management process. This is not anywhere near as good as it should be. Everybody seems to have a change management process, they're just not following it very well. Or if they are then there's something just wrong with the process.
  • Visibility. This is the 3 mile island issue (see Complexity and Change Management Failure). IT managers just don't know and they've got to find out what's going on. They need some visibility into what's happening otherwise change management will continue to be a problem.

Process compliance is either not enforced very well, or to make matters even worse, enforced too much. Too much draconian control over the change management process is doesn't work either. The issue is that IT has the process, yet enforcing that process is pretty hard to do. IT teams are ready to revolt when you try to enforce the process. People don't like being told what to do. And that's kinda what we're doing with the change management process. 

Unauthorized changes continue to happen and those unauthorized changes continue to cause damage to the services that IT is trying to deliver. And what does IT do? Lock it down even harder. This is vicious cycle spiraling downward that has to be stopped. 

"IT needs to look at change management as more flexible discipline, letting it be both nimble and still governed. The issue here is about governance and that's a big differentiator. Where you have good governance, process compliance will be good as well. This means giving people the incentive to do the right thing, not forcing them to do the right thing."

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester

Make Change Work

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester Research's Principal Analyst, was our guest presenter in our Work webinar. An amazing crowd attended to hear his impressive insights on how IT Analytics can help validate changes and increase the rate of change success. The webinar highlighted key findings from the recent Forrester report, Turn Big Data Inward With IT Analytics.
About the Author
Martin Perlin