Change management is one of the main concerns for IT managers. Whether problems occur because changes aren’t being logged properly, or because when they are logged, the testing process isn’t thorough enough.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the need for an effective change management strategy is more urgent than ever.
There’s a long list of potential problems when you don’t have a comprehensive change management process in place. Thankfully, the list of actions needed to mitigate the potential problems is much shorter.
Below we take a look at the key components of change management and highlight practical steps you can implement to achieve immediate results.
Where the problems begin
A company’s IT infrastructure is a complex and interdependent organism. Changing any single aspect can have an impact far greater than just the intended change. Failure to involve all of the relevant people in the planning process can lead to unforeseen side effects. If there is no backup plan in place in case something goes wrong, then everyone in IT has to reach for their metaphorical hose and buckle down for a long stint of putting out digital fires.
What is a change management strategy?
When a change management strategy is formulated correctly, it quickly becomes the go to resource for any IT manager that’s faced with a relevant decision. Prosci describes IT change management as;
‘The process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome.’
Therefore, a change management strategy is a comprehensive set of procedures that facilitate IT change in the most effective manner. While it needs to be comprehensive, it’s important to ensure the strategy doesn’t become too fixated on one area, as merging departments (organizational change management) require change management as much as software updates.
The initial stage of creating change management processes may lead to delays in implementation of changes as you figure out the best way for the planning process to work for your organization.
In order to create an effective strategy there must first be a process that defines the change in a more detailed way. To help you achieve this you should ask:
- Why is the change necessary?
- What is the outcome expected to be?
- Which area does the change impact? (Hardware, communications, system software, system architecture, documentation, procedures, or a combination of several).
- Can you identify any potential negative side effects of the change(s)?
- What will the change cost to implement?
- Does the benefit justify the cost?
- Is there a favorable time to implement the change?
- Who will need to be involved in the implementation?
As you answer these questions, you’ll quickly become aware of the category of change you’re dealing with. There are five main categories that apply to most organizations; standard, minor, normal, major, and emergency changes.
Once you’ve got to the bottom of each of these questions you are armed with the information you need to take your change management to the next stage (the planning process), presuming the answers to these questions don’t highlight any reason not to implement the change.
While every stage of the process is crucial, the planning stage is the part where a strategy is most likely to fail. It’s imperative all departments that could potentially be affected by the implementation are made aware of the upcoming change. This gives everyone involved an opportunity to highlight any potential problems that might have been overlooked by others with less specialized knowledge. Make sure the people most affected by the proposed changes are invested in the project.
The planning stage allows you to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. The ability for the relevant person to make the correct decision is crucial to the smoothness of the implementation.
This stage is where you can develop a backup plan in case the change creates any unforeseen problems.
How to implement IT change management
If the previous stages have been performed correctly and comprehensively, the implementation should be relatively straightforward and go smoothly. The planning process should have created the date, people, roles, and contingency plans for every aspect of the implementation.
Analyzing and reporting
While change management can be long winded and difficult to implement, it can also be one of the most impactful strategies when it comes to increasing your IT maturity. In order to fully utilize your change management strategy you must incorporate the ability to assess and refine the processes.
In order to asses and analyze the processes used you will need to identify several KPIs relevant to your organization’s goals. This will allow you to compare key factors before and after implementation, as well as giving you a broader view of the success rate of changes implemented.
In order to provide a point of reference here are the main points in order.
- An RFC (request for Change) is submitted.
- All of the important questions are asked in order to make an informed decision on the viability of the change.
- If the change is deemed necessary, beneficial, and feasible then the costs and risks can be assessed. This will include the back-up plan.
- Once a change has successfully passed the previous stages it can be passed to the manager for approval. Once approved, it can be added to the schedule of changes.
- The change manager can start to coordinate the execution plan, ensuring all the key personnel and processes are going to be in place at the right time.
- Unless the change failed and needed to be rolled back, then the results should be assessed to gauge the actual benefits of the change.
Comprehensive IT change management is the best way to minimize the high levels of risk associated with performing even minor changes to your organization’s IT infrastructure. No process will completely eliminate the occurrence of errors, but by having a comprehensive strategy in place that incorporates excellent communication while giving all relevant parties a voice, the risks can be dramatically reduced.
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