What is IT change management? | The importance of the IT change management process

10 min read
14-Sep-2022 16:08:55

What is IT change management?

Change management, or change enablement, is the process that helps you to effectively implement any transitions or transformations you make in your organization’s IT environments, ensuring they’re carried out successfully and incidents or risks involved are minimized. So, continually assessing what changes are necessary, how they'll be implemented, and how they’ll be communicated to everyone are paramount.

With the correct set of practices and culture, change management enables effective handling of all the changes you implement in your IT infrastructure. In conjunction with the other ITSM processes, it helps the IT department to roll out, maintain, and improve internal services for everyone.

In this article, let’s explore how these different processes work together and why change management is so important.

What is a ‘change’?

A change is any modification you make that can affect your IT services, either directly or indirectly. This can include any additions or removals you implement and covers any alterations to documentation, processes, software/hardware, etc.

Every day, change is being implemented in the organization, but what kind of changes are they?

Types of change

Depending on the urgency and scale of the change, it generally falls into one of these three types.

Standard change

Most changes will fall under this category. These are the low-risk, pre-approved changes that are frequently executed and already have a well-established process. Adding memory or storage or installing approved software to a laptop are examples of standard change. Due to their frequency and minimum risk, standard changes don’t usually need to go through an assessment or approval process.

Normal change

Normal change might sound deceptively similar to standard change, but there’s actually quite a big difference. Normal changes don’t have a pre-approved process, are non-repeatable, and can involve some risks. While not urgent, they are still important to the improvement or upkeep of the related IT service. Normal changes will need to go into the assessment and approval processes first before scheduling and implementation.

Examples of normal changes include migrating applications from on-premise to cloud servers, switching website hosting, and updating documentation.

Emergency change

As you may expect, this is when immediate action is required. Most likely, a threat or error has occurred that needs to be mitigated quickly. It’s often the case when a service is severely impacted, affecting customers or employees.

These changes are prioritized, as the longer the issue is left unresolved, the higher the risk it could accumulate. Implementing a security patch after a breach is one such example of an emergency change.

Why is IT change management important?

Reliable IT service is essential to the smooth operations of the business, along with IT’s ability to adapt to the organization’s changing needs and requirements. This can’t be achieved without good IT change management. With a clear process, organizations can benefit from:

1. Better understanding of what change is required

Change projects fail when people don’t understand the need for them. A change management process eliminates this confusion and provides everyone with a clear view of what change is needed and how it should be approached.

2. Efficient allocation of resources

Without a defined direction, it’s too easy to lose time, effort, and money in activities that don’t add value to the business. You can minimize waste with a well-crafted change management program and ensure your resources are put to good use.

3. Minimized resistance to change

A part of change management is related to dealing with resistance. A defined process helps the organization take the necessary steps in answering people’s doubts and anxieties regarding changes that will occur, promoting the benefits, and encouraging adoption. A step-by-step approach to this will boost confidence across the business and everyone can become more open to the changes.

4. Effective communication strategy

Without change management, adequate communication will be difficult to perform. How can you properly communicate changes that will take place to the wider business when the whole process is disorganized? Good change management not only enables IT teams to consider how best to apply changes, but also communicate them to everyone in the organization.

5. Quicker response to issues and challenges

With your roles, processes, and tools defined, your teams are better placed to tackle any obstacles that can affect your IT services. If a change is required to resolve an incident, everyone would know what to do in such an event and act swiftly and accordingly. This quick action reduces the negative impact felt across the business.

What are the challenges of IT change management?

There are certainly many benefits to IT change management, but it’s not without its challenges. IT teams face many difficulties that can easily hinder the implementation of successful change management.

1. Ever-increasing end-user expectations

The world of work is constantly shifting and evolving, and in line with this, are user expectations. End-users expect continuous, high-quality service within easy reach. As technologies become more sophisticated, the work required to meet such expectations is only increasing.

2. Tight budgets

Despite rising demands to deliver great service, IT teams are under constant pressure to deliver more with less. ‘How can we make the most of what we have,’ is a question they must grapple with every day.

3. Resistance against change

It’s not surprising that those affected by changes might be reluctant to them. For them, a change can mean big disruptions, either in the form of extra work or interruptions to their daily workflow. Overcoming this resistance is a must for successful change implementation.

4. Conflicting views

Different stakeholders will hold different views about what makes for a successful change project, depending on their roles and the benefits they can gain. So, managing these different priorities and defining what success looks like is not as clear-cut as you’d hope.

IT change management and other ITIL processes

Various processes need to work together to successfully adopt change. So, how do these different ITIL practices relate to change management?

Change management and problem management

Change management minimizes the risks involved when rolling out a change, but in the case a problem occurs during a change, problem management can help identify the issue and find solutions to mitigate it. On the flip side, a change request can be triggered by the problem management team to resolve an issue they’re working on.

Change management and service portfolio management

Service portfolio management ensures the organization has the right mix of services needed to meet business objectives. Having this birds’ eye view of your IT services helps you get a better sense of how changes impact the rest of the infrastructure. Additionally, a change can be requested through the service portfolio management process if a need is found.

Change management and release management

These two processes are very closely linked that they can easily be mistaken as one and the same. But while change management involves the assessment and approval of changes, release management deals with the actual delivery of approved changes. This means that while a release can involve one or more changes, not every change causes a release.

Change management and knowledge management

As changes are made across the organization’s IT, the knowledge database must reflect these changes too. Therefore, aligning the two processes is crucial to ensure IT service-related information is accurate.

Change management and security management

Maintaining security is of utmost importance to businesses, so change and security teams must work together to understand the impacts and risks changes can have on the organization’s IT security.

What is the IT change management process?

Change management teams must be able to carefully assess proposed changes and all the risks involved, without sacrificing agility to quickly implement and establish needed changes. With this in mind, the IT change management process involves the following steps.

1. Request change

The change management process is kicked off when someone requests a change. This can take the form of one of the two:

a. Request for Change (RFC)

A Request for Change (RFC) is a formal request outlining what is the change needed, the impact it will have, and any involved risks to be considered. The information provided here will help the party reviewing the change determine the priority to be given to the request.

b. Change Proposal

The change proposal is usually raised through the service portfolio management process and usually contains a bid to introduce a new service or a big change. It will most likely include a business case explaining the need, as well as a proposed timeline and action plan for implementation.

2. Review change

Each change request is then reviewed and prioritized. A request can be rejected if there’s insufficient information. Rejected requests can then be closed at this point if needed.

3. Evaluate change

Requested changes that pass the review move on to the evaluation stage. This is when the impact, risks, and benefits to the IT services are closely evaluated. Depending on the scale and urgency of the change, a Change Advisory Board (CAB) can also be involved at the evaluation stage. This board consists of various stakeholders who oversee the assessment and authorization of changes in the organization.

4. Approve change

Aside from standard changes with their pre-authorized processes, all changes must be approved first before any implementation takes place. Who approves a change largely depends on the type of change, its scale, and the anticipated risks involved.

5. Implement change

After receiving the appropriate authorization, the change can then be rolled out. This includes scheduling when the change will take place and assigning the relevant tasks. The change team might also coordinate with the release and deployment team in implementing the changes.

6. Close change request

With the change complete, it’s time to assess whether it has achieved what it’s meant to do from the request. Once they’ve confirmed it has, the change request can then be closed. There are some cases though where it’s not successful, in which case, a remediation plan can be initiated.

Best practices for effective IT change management

Constant change when it comes to IT is the norm now, making a successful change management process even more important. To increase the rate of success and enhance the change management process, here are some best practices to consider.

1. Keep things simple

Change management already involves multiple steps, so don’t complicate things that don’t need to be complex, otherwise, everything is put on hold, and productivity is impacted. Documentation and multiple approval stages, while essential, can make for a time-consuming and inefficient experience. So, why not eliminate the mundane, manual work that takes your team away from doing real work?

Take advantage of automation to cut down on manual tasks, consolidate your data into one system, and cut down the approval cycle where and when possible. By taking the complexity out, you help everyone eliminate wasted energy and streamline operations.

2. Promote collaboration

As mentioned earlier, change management involves many moving parts, so collaboration is key. Incident, problem, change, and release teams can’t work in silos, as developments in each can have an impact on the others.

Ensuring everyone understands their roles and each other’s and taking advantage of your tools to communicate effectively between teams are just some of the ways you can actively promote collaboration.

3. Leverage data

Drive improvements in your change management process from the information you’ve gathered. KPI metrics of your changes enable you to spot trends and can highlight potential areas of growth. Regardless of what tool you use, many are equipped with monitoring and reporting capabilities. Determine what actionable metrics will help improve your change management, track them and use them when planning out your enhancements.

4. Rethink your communication strategy

How are you communicating changes across the organization? How are change requests being sent? While people have different ways to communicate, inconsistent methods can mean important messaging can be missed, so when changes happen people are taken by surprise.

A good communication strategy is crucial to reducing resistance to change. When people know what’s going on, the right expectations can be set and everyone can prepare accordingly.

5. Don’t bite more than you can chew

Quite often, we would see small changes bundled together and deployed into one big release. While this can save time and be more efficient in some cases, this heightens the risk of multiple incidents and problems happening at once. The difficulty with bundled changes is it can be difficult to pinpoint where the actual issue lies, meaning more time and effort are needed to resolve it.

Where possible, implement changes that you can easily manage if things go south.

Choosing your IT change management software

We’ve gone over what is change management, its benefits, and the processes involved. Change management covers a wide scope, interlinking with many processes, so finding the right software to support these is crucial.

Here are some features to consider when looking for your IT change management software.

· Smart automation

Reduce the manual work involved in key change activities with the help of smart automation capabilities. For example, with the right tool, you can set up automated approval workflows that will send the request to the right people for review.

· Knowledge database

Having a go-to place for service desk teams and end-users alike for important information regarding changes means people can resolve their own issues should they be affected by a change. For example, if a known problem is related to a change, service desk agents can find the workaround through knowledge articles.

· Continuous tracking and automated alerts

You can keep track of the health of your IT environments with continuous tracking. Setting up automated alerts and notifications enables you to quickly pick up potential issues or irregularities in your changes and resolve them swiftly.

· Smooth integration with other ITSM processes

This is even more crucial if you’re choosing a standalone solution. As we’ve seen, change management works closely with many other ITSM processes, so it’s a given that your chosen solution should be able to support these interactions.

· Powerful reporting capabilities

How do you know if your implemented change is achieving the set objectives? You should be able to easily track and report on the impact and performance of your changes. So, features that enable you to generate reports with a useful, detailed breakdown of the data you need are a must.

For more top considerations when evaluating IT change management or ITSM solutions, check out our free buyer’s guide.

Successfully adopt change with IFS assyst

Delivering great Moments of Service is what we do. Reduce resistance and effortlessly adopt change in your organization with IFS assyst. Helping hundreds of enterprises transform their ITSM and ESM capabilities, IFS assyst can provide complete visibility and control over your IT infrastructure and streamline your IT change management processes.

See how your organization can get started by booking a free online demo today!

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