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What is IT Change Management? The Process for Effective Change

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IT change management is a major challenge for IT teams in modern enterprises. This is because change is happening all the time. Nearly every business change – big or small – will require technical changes to be made. From simple changes to providing equipment for new starters, to complex changes to IT processes, services or policies.

Every change to your IT estate can affect the overall operations of your entire enterprise. And so, an effective process for change is essential. Get it right and your business will run smoothly. Get it wrong, and it could be a disaster.

This article explores every aspect of IT change management, from the importance and benefits of effective change to the process and challenges of managing and enabling IT changes.

What is IT Change Management?

IT change management is an IT Service Management (ITSM) process. It enables your organisation to more easily address and deliver change requests to your IT infrastructure whilst controlling risk and keeping disruptions to a minimum. IT change management encompasses the best practices designed to help prioritise, authorise, schedule, execute and manage any changes to IT systems.

In order to manage change, you have to be aware of change. The change has to be identified and logged when it happens, and the data associated with the revision must be forwarded into the business’s configuration management database (CMDB), as well as your ITSM and DevOps systems in real time.

Why is IT Change Management important?

IT change management is important because IT infrastructure sits at the heart of the business. Every day, your employees rely on technology to do their job. Without stable, reliable, and consistent IT services, your business will struggle to run efficiently, or even worse, come to a standstill. Your IT infrastructure must be monitored, managed, and updated on a regular basis. However, service and system updates, new solutions, and process modifications introduce change.

Why does this matter? Because every change you make presents potential risks and problems to your IT infrastructure. This in turn leads to disrupted services, system downtime, and reduced productivity of your staff. Effective IT change management is important in reducing the disruption and failure that comes with poorly planned change.

Scenarios for IT Change Management

The goal of change management is to build a defined path that enables IT teams to keep up with the speed and frequency of changes that occur within a modern IT estate.  

For example, IT change management helps organisations do the following:

  • Prioritise changes, distribute resources, gather information, and establish effective approval processes.
  • Design and apply reliable testing and vetting of proposed changes, and manage change processes using definitive frameworks.
  • Create clear documentation and reports for necessary stakeholders.
  • Deliver a smooth and streamlined change process that keeps service downtime to a minimum while also providing value to end users more quickly.

What are the different classes of change?

IT change management classifies all changes as either standard, emergency or normal. This helps ensure a seamless transition, establishing a set of processes to direct and monitor IT changes from approach to closure. Each class of changes is managed in a different way and often rely heavily on automation wherever possible.

Standard changes – These represent low-risk, routine changes that simply follow an established procedure and are a part of the normal lifecycle of the known technology. The implementation process and risks are known upfront, and these changes are managed according to already established policies.  

Normal changes – Any changes that are not classed as standard or emergency changes. These changes however must also go through a change process before they can be approved and implemented. Normal changes are often further categorised as minor and low risk, significant, or major and high-risk.

Emergency changes – These changes require immediate attention and must be performed as soon as possible. Often unexpected, emergency changes must be resolved as a priority in order to minimise any possible negative effects. An example of an emergency change would be fixing a large security breach by applying a patch to an entire workforce.

What are the benefits of IT Change Management?

Helps businesses streamline and control IT changes

As technology advances, markets adapt, and businesses grow, changes to IT infrastructure become a constant requirement. IT changes can be difficult, risky and time consuming without the right process. IT change management gives business’s more control of how changes are implemented, allowing for effective planning, administration, testing, and monitoring. This helps reduce the risk and increase the accuracy of all changes made.

Improves transparency of change and related activities

With effective change management processes, all change requests and resources can be tracked. This not only allows for a more organised and manageable approach to IT changes, but it also improves communication with stakeholders, and eliminates unauthorised changes. With established and defined frameworks, processes, and responsibilities, businesses can easily track the progress of changes to its IT infrastructure. They can even optimise change implementation across the organisation.

Service disruptions and risk are minimised

IT changes are inevitable, but that doesn’t have to mean technology downtime in your business while changes are made. IT change management establishes the defined processes, frameworks, and responsibilities that ensure a smooth and streamlined change delivery for specific processes. This keeps service downtime and risks to a minimum, while also providing value to end users more quickly.

What is the process for managing and enabling effective change?

As we’ve established, IT change management is an important and demanding task. Therefore, many organisations have a clear step by step process in place to ensure things go smoothly.

Having clear, definitive steps to follow reduces the disruption and failure that comes with poorly planned change.

Typical change management process steps include:

  • Requesting a change
  • Reviewing the change request
  • Approval of change request
  • Building a comprehensive project plan for the change
  • Reviewing and refining the plan
  • Schedule the implementation of the change
  • Trialling and testing the change
  • Assessing and reporting on the outcome of the change

IT Change Management challenges

While IT change management can bring many benefits and added value to a business, it’s also important to discuss the challenges it can bring too. Change management can lead to prohibitive costs. Depending on the size of the organisation, the state of the IT infrastructure, and the scope of the proposed changes, IT change management processes can potentially be expensive to deploy.

Furthermore, although change management is implemented to optimise systems and processes, it can sometimes result in a reduction to process speed. Incorporating a sequence of intricate processes may slow down the overall time to delivery. Another challenge of change management is when changes are unsuccessful. If there is a poor change management process in place, then this can lead to a high number of failed changes, which wastes time, money, and resources.

It’s essential to find the right change processes that aligns with your ITSM systems in order to deliver seamless changes without disruption, failure, or unexpected costs.

The element within the broader arenas of ITSM and ITIL

ITSM helps improve efficiency and productivity by implementing processes, defining roles and responsibilities, and utilising automation to effectively manage IT services. This includes things such as incident and problem management, service-level management, configuration management (CMBD), and change management.

Within the ITIL framework, change management is a key part of one of the five lifecycle stages of the ITIL framework. The Service Transition stage helps organisations to plan and manage the change of state of a service in its lifecycle.

Effective IT change management unities teams across ITSM, ITOM, and DevOps. Bringing together these key areas within technology makes optimal change management collaboration possible.

Leverage ITSM best practices

Adopting a high-quality ITSM platform and effect processes for change, problem and incident management makes maintaining effective IT services and delivery easy.

848 is a ServiceNow partner with a dedicated ServiceNow practice and methodology for ITSM. We enable organisations of all sizes to access leading IT Service Management solutions that optimise IT processes and services. Our team of ITSM experts design, configure, build and manage high-quality IT service desk solutions that algin with ITIL frameworks.Begin your journey to optimised IT services with 848 today.