Change Advisory Meetings - On-Line or Face to Face?

My post today is on the subject of the Change Advisory Board (CAB). For many involved in IT the name alone is enough to send people running to hide under their desks, conjuring up images of Sir Humphrey-type obfuscation and bureaucracy.

Of course, it can be exactly that – if you don’t plan it correctly, or have an effective chairman. Approached with a little planning and common sense most of the pitfalls can be avoided.

I’ll start by discussing it’s role, and then discussing if the work of the CAB should be on-line or in a meeting over tea. I'll post next week with some ideas for how to host the meeting.

In my earlier post, I described some of the things that might constitute a Change Management process. One of these involves the Change Advisory Board. The basic function of the CAB is to bring a business and user focus to IT Change by involving users in the approval, prioritisation and scheduling of IT change.

In Person or On-Line?

I’ll start by a trend I’ve noticed here amongst our customers here at Serio – using web collaboration to execute authorisations and rejections of Changes. For Serio Service Desk users, this means enabling the authorisation of Changes through the web. In this scenario, the CAB never actually meets. Instead, when Changes require authorisation the members of the CAB are emailed, they log-in and either authorise, reject or defer Changes.

The advantages are clear: if frees up time in people’s calendars, work can be undertaken at times that are flexible (as opposed to a meeting which is more rigid) and offers the potential for things to happen more quickly (because we aren’t always waiting for the next meeting).

Despite all this, I nearly always advise customers that I am working with the have old-fashioned, sit down, face to face meetings if at all possible. My reasons for this are that it encourages better inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental relationships, and it gives people a chance to air concerns off the record, or informally, that interaction through email or a system like SerioWeb does not. Also, if gives the Change Manager (who will normally chair the meeting) a chance to gauge mood and understanding (end users can sometimes be reluctant to say ‘I don’t understand this’).

Of course, you may also get free tea, coffee and cakes in a face to face meeting.

If your volumes dictate that On-Line is the only option, try streaming your Changes into something like ‘routine’ and ‘significant’. Allow routine Changes to be done on-line, whilst reserving the significant Changes for meetings.

As I said, I'll post next week about the meetings themselves.