This is a fair question, and we will start our answer with a narrative of a company that didn’t have this process planned. A few years ago, their IT team decided to roll out a new automated software system for their company to use. They created a database, built a number of automations, and designed what they believed was a perfect system that will deliver a flawless process.
It may have been a great system on paper, however in real time, on the operational level, it was a complete fiasco. Communications between the IT team and the company employees were poor, and lacked trust. The lack of explanation and briefings made lots of employees outside the IT department concerned.
They were stressed about being automated out of a job, which is not the objective of a good IT process. Proper IT processes are meant to protect and enable jobs, and furthermore empower employees.
On top of the distrustful ambience between departments, the ITIL Change Management software didn’t deliver the expected results. Employees frequently found out that the entire system crashed, leading to hours of downtime while waiting for the system to come back online.
Productivity and morale levels dropped, while the IT team worked overtime to balance the ship. Within two years of launching their system, the company was out of business. This is one case in which an ITIL Change Management process, software, practices, were not planned and executed correctly, and the impact was collateral, business wise.
Unfortunately for them, they lacked an effective ITIL Change Management process that is based on the best and proven practices. This could have generated an employee buy-in reaction, when everyone are dedicated to the cause, and pave the way for a smooth software launch. So before we’ll dig in to the best practices of ITIL Change Management processes and scenario, we’ll briefly define what it is.
Like other Information Technology Infrastructure Library solutions, Change Management is a process that makes it easier for organizations to make changes to their IT infrastructure. It creates a framework that helps organizations request, prioritize, authorize, approve, schedule, and implement changes.
It is both an overall process, and a collection of processes, that are geared towards the benefit of the organization, its employees, stakeholders, business partners and customers. ITIL Change Management has many over-lapping touch points in operational and business teams a like. Asset management, problem management, risk assessment, and the human interactions on your team to name but a few.
It allows to manage changes throughout the entire lifecycle of an organization. It uses knowledge bases and data to control risk and limit disruptions that my stem from the changes that are being implemented.
Change management can be either reactive, or proactive, either way it is carried successfully with the same standards. Whether you are a medium size business, a start up, or an established corporation, there’s hardly a chance not to encounter an ITIL Change Management scenario and decisions.
Every change will have a different impact and different stakeholders. For example, moving from on-premises software to cloud software might require the input from direct users, IT members, and security teams. Changing a Human Resources process on the other hand, might require an input from every team in the company, because there is always a realistic chance of a need to onboard new employees.
There are three primary objectives to ITIL change management.
The first objective is to take control and manage all changes. This relates to the whole life cycle of the organization.
The second objective is to minimize and prevent friction. This is dependent on structure and process, so the changes are not conducted haphazardly across an organization.
The third one may sound general, however is of a core importance, benefit. An ITIL Change Management process is meant to benefit the entire organization, and not just the Information Technology teams, or the remote helpdesks.
Additionally, ITIL helps organizations get better at implementing changes. Controlling the process for change, through tools like Request for Change (RFC) tickets, provides the IT team with the information they need at the beginning of the process to fully understand the scope of the project.
Lastly, ITIL change management enables continuous improvement. Through the structured process, organizations can roll out the necessary changes without impacting existing operations.
Overall, this means that changes can be made thoughtfully, with improved communications and roll outs. Infrastructure changes can be made with fewer disruptions caused, while reducing risks and down time.
This is a practice that many organizations of various sizes use during a successful ITIL Change Management process. A typical process will have 6 stages. They may sound trivial at first, however distinguishing between them is a key to completing them successfully. Some names of processes and stages may change across international organizations of various sizes, however the principals and cores of the process flow remain the same:
On the operational level, a team or a member in the organization submits a change ticket. This is usually referred to as RFC/Request For a Change Ticket. Once it arrives at the service desk, the ticket contains basic information about the requested change, as well as setting a priority level for the change.
This is probably the most important stage in any Change Management. This is the phase in which impact analysis, rollout plans, back out plans, and expected downtime are measured. This stage also allows to document and pitch the necessity of the change to the stakeholders of an organization. Proper planning can lead to the next stage, approval.
Before any work can start on the project, it needs to be approved by the Change Advisory Board (CAB). CABs change based on the required change and involve stakeholders who may be affected by the proposed changes.
Once the change is approved, the project can be implemented. Using project management tools, team members who are involved in the process are assigned tasks, and carry them out to get the project done.
Once the change has been completed, a team looks over the project to see if there were any changes from the approved plan. They work together to iron out any problems, and once they are finished, they can send the project to closure.
The last step in the change, closure involves the project manager recording whether the project was successful, a failure, or incomplete.
According to ITIL, there are three primary categories of changes:
Standard Changes are fairly simple and don’t need much involvement. They are often preapproved and done quite frequently. Examples of this type of change include updating software patches or lifecycle hardware replacement. While a risk assessment does need to be completed for the first time this happens, subsequent changes don’t require it.
Emergency Changes are things that need to be done as soon as possible. They are usually unexpected and are most commonly brought about due to security lapses or breakdowns. Organizations need to establish an Emergency Change Advisory Board (ECAB) to deal with these situations.
Normal Changes, they are defined by most organizations as ones that are not standard emergency. They allow the team to work together, following the structured process flow. Examples include migrations, software changes, or moving on-premises data to the cloud.
Here are a few best practices to ensure your changes go smoothly, and that risks are minimized.
Particularly during the planning stage, it can be really useful to talk with users about the process or software that is being changed. They have firsthand knowledge of the issues that are trying to be resolved and can provide insight that will impact moving the project forward. In many companies these frontline users will be in the Customer Support department for instance.
Effective communications with people directly and indirectly involved is a frequent factor in successful change operations. Be sure to communicate why the change is happening, expectations, and how the change will impact employees.
While Change Management and Project Management are separate, the two disciplines cross tracks. Working collaboratively with the project team has shown to meet or exceed project objectives.
ITIL change management practices create smooth processes for implementing change. It requires buy-in from key stakeholders, ensures that there is alignment among teams, and involves oversight committees to ensure that the changes satisfy its requirements.
Introduce change management processes before your next project. Talk to us to learn how