If you are the person that gets the calls from the business, the CIO, the CEO or any other senior executive when something isn’t working you are going to want a solid change management process backing you up.  Although all processes are important, what differentiates a mediocre IT organization and a very efficient and effective one is the maturity and efficiency of their change management process.

I want to drill down in detail on this topic because it represents the health and strength of your organization.  This is all about respect.  Respect for peers, the company, the environment and the leadership.  You will not always be present when people will need to act.  How they act is a direct reflection on the leadership of the organization.   The goal is to heighten the level of respect so that when mistakes happen, they are just mistakes.

Each change faces these questions:  Why should we make the change?  Who needs to know?  Who’s impacted?  What’s the benefit?  What’s the risk?  What’s the cost?  When should we do it?  Who should do it?  What precautions should we take?  What training is required?  How do we support the change?  What if this doesn’t go as planned?   When the people in the organization maintain a high level of respect, they will ensure that those questions get answered for you.

Another key aspect beyond respect is that the process owner of change management needs to maintain the vision of change management:  That the primary objective in change management is to address the needs of the business:  Help the business be responsive to the market and increase revenue and profit.  Changes will need to be made to update tools, update applications, implement new applications, update equipment, test some assumptions, try new things, etc.  The change management process is there to help make these changes in a way to maximize availability during the process of transition, perform the work expeditiously and ensure proper knowledge exists in order to ensure supportability.

From a simplified view, these are the basic steps to change management? 

1.       Understand the business value of the change and collaborate appropriately to obtain buy-in

2.       Identify who is impacted by the change and ensure appropriate coordination occurs

3.       Schedule when the change will go in

4.       ‘Plan’ out how the change will be deployed and what the back out plans are in case the change doesn’t go right

5.       Test the change

6.       Deploy the change

7.       Validate that the change works as intended

8.       Updating appropriate documentation/system configuration/users 

Those 8 steps are simple enough and, at times, they can all be completed within a very short time.   Some steps can be omitted as in the case of simply replacing a redundant hard drive in a rack.  However, always use discretion as you determine when and what steps you are skipping.  The reason you would skip a step is because the step is not adding any value, rather than you don’t have time to perform the step. 

Often I see environments that have changes being made in the production environment and the only person aware of those changes are the people making the change.   This becomes apparent as outages occur and you eventually identify that the change was the problem.  This can occur when you have an overdesigned process, or an infrastructure group that is not responsive, or ‘change management’ has been distributed to various groups.    

When you find yourself in the situation where not everyone is following your change process, stop and simplify.  It’s more important to have a simplified process that everyone uses and all are aware of the changes being made than it is to have a process perfectly documented, perfectly engineered with numerous checkpoints that no one is following!! 

 


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