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Congratulations, You've Inherited a Management Tool! Now What?

Dec 13, 2007

Hank Marquis

Change Management

Change management is the process of accelerating what your team does everyday and is good at, and slowing down the rest. The most common misstep here is to forget the accelerating part and focus on the slowing down part.

Good change management seeks to empower staff to do what they are good at. This requires a knowledge base, tracking tools and process. This is what you have been building.

Incident management lets you see what your team does on a daily basis. You can see what they are good at, and what they are not so good at. Use this knowledge to create standard changes—standard operating procedures saying what your staff can do without asking permission as long as they use the system and process.

Use the tool’s change logging features to track change requests from users and route the requests to the appropriate team. Record notes about the changes in the tool so that other members can read and understand the various points of view and develop their own understanding of risks. Staff will feel empowered, repair time will decrease and you will have more time to focus more resources on the balance of those changes that need slowing down.

Divide all changes into two categories: “standard” and “managed”. Standard changes have rules around them such as hours of the day, affected users, technical skills requirements and so on. Be sure to enforce tracking of the number of standard changes made by staff. Also realize that what is appropriate as a standard change today may not be valid in six months or a year. You must be vigilant with standard changes. Make sure every standard change is recorded in the tool.

For the rest of changes split them into three categories: minor, significant and major. You or your designate can approve minor changes without a team. Significant changes should go through an approval process that includes examination and recommendations by a team that includes IT, customers, users, vendors and anyone else the change affects. Major changes should be routed to an executive committee for strategic approval, and then go through the same process as significant changes.

Taking control over your change management process results in dramatic improvements in IT quality and customer satisfaction. Many studies show that about 70% of all IT outages are caused by IT workers making unplanned or unmanaged changes. This form of change management is a proven solution.


Process subsumes product, it’s really that simple. How you use a tool and why you use it are the drivers for tool usage and selection. While you can’t always choose your tool, you can almost always choose your process. Sound process survives tool implementation and is a cultural shift that makes your organization more resilient and sustainable.

These simple steps based on the guidance in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) for incident and change management processes will help you improve IT service quality and reduce your work staff workload.

Over time you can layer on problem management, release and configuration management for even more visible benefits. Oh yes, as a side benefit, you just might find that the existing tool isn’t really all that bad and that the investment in the tool is salvageable. Senior management will really like that one!

Hank Marquis is director of IT Service Management Consulting at Enterprise Management Associates based in Boulder, Colo. Marquis has more than 25 years of hands-on experience in IT operations, management, governance and operational frameworks. Visit his blog and podcasts at www.hankmarquis.info.