What is Change Management?

Managing IT changes in an organization: what it is, how to place it in your IT services strategy, and what benefits for business it brings

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To change to survive

Change is inevitable in a company that strives to remain competitive in the ever-evolving modern world. You must adapt constantly: try new marketing channels, apply new hiring strategies, and update your software. To all these challenges, a new trend has recently been added – digital transformation. If you attract most of your clients via online channels, and suddenly your website goes down, no doubt you will be worried. If your cybersecurity is outdated, your network will be attacked one day. And if your computer system shuts down, suppliers won’t be able to submit invoices. When the core elements of your business move to IT, maintaining IT infrastructure becomes a key priority. And implementing a modern IT infrastructure is a task that requires constant change. One of the ways to do this is by introducing a change management process.

Change and change management

Let’s define a change and the IT change management process. IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), the most widely used framework for IT service management, refers to change as “the addition, modification or removal of anything that could have an effect on IT services.” The nature of organizational changes is controversial. On the one hand, the purpose of any change is to move from the status quo toward something better. However, on the other hand, carrying out changes always requires significant administrative resources. Moreover, their results may cause turbulence in the organization. All in all, changes may disrupt the IT service delivery in its current form. So the change management process is a practice that ventures implementing changes in the IT infrastructure while maintaining high-quality and reliable IT services.

Examples of changes

According to ITIL, the change management process includes any modifications that might affect IT services. Let’s show what is behind this definition. Such changes may include the following:

  • Switching to a new cloud storage provider,
  • Adding a new feature in the inventory app,
  • Payroll software database upgrade.

IT change management isn’t responsible for company-wide changes, such as new internal policies and organizational changes. But the wider-reaching changes often come with requesting changes from the IT team. Users, company executives, IT support specialists, and change managers can initiate a change by creating a request for change, also called a change request. This document contains the information necessary for the initial review of the change. And a unit storing all information about the change throughout its lifecycle is called a change record.

Types of IT changes

ITIL divides changes into three groups: standard, normal, and emergency changes. Each of the three types requires a specific approach to assessing and implementing the change request.

Standard Changes

This type of change is used for necessary IT maintenance changes, such as adding memory to servers or updating systems security software packages. Standard changes are repeat and low-risk changes that you can approve in advance. The tasks for implementing such a change are well-known, simple procedures. Therefore, using change models to implement standard changes has become a best practice. Thanks to the relative ease of using change models, many companies automate procedures behind standard changes.

Emergency Changes

Emergency changes are changes applied to prevent a direct threat or minimize damage to the organization’s IT system. You shouldn’t use the emergency changes procedure too often. Due to a simplified change impact assessment process and generally less formal requirements for implementation, emergency changes are more likely to result in errors and service downtimes. Examples of these changes include implementing security patches as a reaction to a cyberattack or measures following a server crash.

Once again, “emergency” in this context doesn’t mean urgent. Instead, to count as an emergency change, a change should focus on a situation that is potentially extremely harmful to the IT infrastructure.

Normal Changes

All other changes fall into this last group. Normal changes are less critical for the business or IT system than emergency ones. Yet, unlike standard changes, they’re too unpredictable, and you can’t prepare for them in advance. Normal changes usually go through a complete change lifecycle, with all the due risk and impact assessments. Examples of normal changes include changing the main data center provider or transforming the structure of your official website. To speed up the implementation of a normal change, it should be logged as urgent in the change record.

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Change management lifecycle

Below, we describe a typical change lifecycle. The change lifecycle that ITIL describes mentions every detail of the change management process. Unlike ITIL, we’d like to describe the change management lifecycle in a way that lets you grasp the concept:

  1. Change request creation & basic review,
  2. Change request review and approval,
  3. Change planning,
  4. Change implementation,
  5. Change review and closure.

This is a lifecycle that works for normal changes primarily. For emergency changes, teams may skip some steps because there is no time for deep analysis. And for standard changes, ITIL recommends automating many of the stages, which usually also slightly transforms the lifecycle.

Change request creation & basic review

The process begins when a user or an IT specialist realizes the need for a change. The possible change request forms are a service desk ticket, an email to the change management team, or a dedicated online form. The change management team should register every request it receives.

An initial change request review may happen at this stage. It ensures that the request is filled in correctly. To get a green light at this stage, the change request should describe the proposed change, its expected benefits, and risks. If it’s crucial for your processes to have more uniform change requests, you can use a form that asks for more detail.

Change request review and approval

In this stage, the Change Advisory Board (CAB) reviews the RfC to assess its impact, risks, and resource requirements. The CAB may approve, reject, or request modifications to the RFC based on their assessment. Some key factors for them are the expected benefits and risks of the change, the projected service outage (PSO), and the remediation plan.

Change planning

Once the CAB has approved the change, it’s time to create a plan. This stage includes scheduling, resource allocation, and the selection of testing and documentation tools.

Change implementation

This stage may involve testing, developing, deploying, and communicating the change to affected parties. The change is monitored to ensure it meets its objectives and to identify any issues that may arise.

Change review and closure

After implementation, the authorized manager or a team reviews the change to ensure it has met its goals and resolved the critical issues.

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Change management and other ITIL processes

The connection between change management and other ITIL processes is two-way. On the one hand, change management helps other processes perform well. On the other hand, change management also relies on other ITIL processes to fulfill its objectives. Let’s look at how change management interfaces with configuration management and problem management.

Change management and configuration management

Configuration Management Database (CMDB) is an ITIL term for a tool that stores accurate and up-to-date information about the organization’s IT assets and their relationships. The IT assets that the CMDB monitors are called configuration items (CIs). This includes hardware, software, documentation, and other components of the IT infrastructure. The CMDB helps change management in several ways:

  1. Configuration management helps organizations understand the impact of planned changes on their infrastructure and services. By analyzing the relationships between configuration items, change management can identify potential risks associated with a proposed change.
  2. Moreover, configuration management can verify that changes have been implemented as planned by checking if the configuration information is accurate. And highlight the unintended results or unauthorized changes. This makes change tracking easier.

Change management and problem management

Change management assists problem management by bringing to an end what problem management has started. It controls and coordinates any changes required to resolve a problem.

Benefits of change management

There are various ways in which change management can make a business perform better and grow.

Increasing the ability to roll out changes without risking other operations

As we already said, change management’s main purpose is to introduce changes to the company’s IT infrastructure without compromising the quality and reliability of IT services. When achieving this, change management leads to reduced downtime and happier end-users.

Improving the change success rate

Organizations can minimize the risk of failed changes by structuring the change management process. This is possible thanks to careful planning, impact assessment, and testing before implementation. This results in a higher success rate for changes.

Reducing the number of unauthorized changes

By implementing a robust change management process, organizations effectively control access to IT systems, ensuring that only authorized personnel can introduce changes. Moreover, a multi-stage assessment process reduces the risk of a failed change.

Enhancing transparency thanks to scheduled changes

An established change management process makes important updates predictable. This helps employees and stakeholders always be prepared for a system outage or a big release.

Alloy Software solutions are designed to streamline change management, enabling businesses to innovate and grow while maintaining operational excellence. By investing in our comprehensive ITSM tools, you can harness the power of effective change management to drive positive transformation, improve service quality, and ultimately stay competitive in today’s dynamic business landscape.

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