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Change Management and the Service Desk

Mar 14, 2004

ITSM Watch Staff

By Christopher Ciccolini and Michael Jablon

The Solution: Change Management
Implementing processes within a fast-paced IT organization can be a daunting task, and a framework such as Change Management, which extends its purview to end users and business stakeholders, can be especially challenging. Despite the obstacles, which can include creating bureaucracy instead of truly valuable processes and resistance to change, the rewards can be substantial. One of the leading best practice frameworks for Change Management is drawn from the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

The ITIL Change Management sub-discipline is a structured framework for making changes to the IT application or network infrastructure. The Change Management process is designed to:
  • Gather and define requests from multiple constituencies
  • Ensure that changes are reviewed, authorized and prioritized on an enterprise basis
  • Ensure that all potential impacts have been recognized and considered thus reducing the potential for support incidents in the user community
The following diagram depicts a high-level view of the Change Management process:

The eight major stages of Change Management are:
  • Log/Classify - A critical first step in Change Management, this stage establishes the criteria for a change, the business reasons, the expected return on investment, and other related questions to ensure a smooth process. Typically, a Request for Change template is provided to capture change requests in a structured manner. A Change Coordinator may help facilitate the process of documenting and organizing change requests.
  • Assess Risk - A Change Control Board reviews the change request against known risks and assesses the impact of incorporating the change. Change Control Boards typically include senior representatives from various IT disciplines as well as key business stakeholders. A Change Manager typically chairs the meetings and serves as the neutral "owner" of the Change Management process and rules of engagement.
  • Approval - Change requests are approved based on the strategic direction of the business and how the change supports business priorities. When change requests are declined, requestors should be given an explanation to help improve the process going forward. Approved changes are typically documented in a Forward Schedule of Change that is published to the organization.
  • Schedule - The scheduling process must take into consideration the priority of the change to the business as well as current IT commitments and available resources.
  • Build & Test - Although this stage is largely focused on internal IT efforts and processes, the business unit should stay engaged to ensure that requirements are clear and results meet quality expectations. Changes during the build and test phase that impact production (new delivery dates, changes in scope, etc.) should be communicated to the Change Manager as soon as possible.
  • Implementation - During implementation, the Change Management process begins to overlap with IT release management processes and principles, including testing and training.
  • Back-Out Plan - This stage focuses on the criteria for rolling back a change in the event it does not work as planned.
  • Post-Implementation Review - Not all changes are done well, and some changes are done so well that a detailed review is unnecessary. This step ensures that questions are asked about both successes and failures to garner lessons for moving forward.