To a new Change Manager...

A customer has recently asked for ‘advice to give to a brand-new Change Manager, and what they are supposed to do’, and that is the subject of this post (possibly inspired by this post?). The organisation in question is quite small, with less than 10 IT staff, but does have a significant IT infrastructure to support. They are part-way through an ITSM programme at their company.

First of all, it is important to ask the question ‘why are we implementing Change Management?’ and if you can, prioritise the answers you give. Don’t recite the ITIL books as a holy text, if your company is experiencing problems or issues around IT change then use these problems as guides and checks for yourselves. For example, you might answer:

‘We implement changes and sometimes they work OK, other times they cause more problems than they solve’

‘We don’t estimate costs and time very well’

‘We seem to choose the worst possible time from the business’s point of view’

….and so on – I’m sure you get the idea. Keep these problems/issues and use them to validate any Change process you implement. After all, it should solve them.

Before giving an advice to our new Change Manager, let’s have a look at some aspects we would expect Change processes to include. I think the bear minimum would be:

  • Impact assessment
  • Reason for implementing the Change
  • Cost of Change, and it’s expected duration
  • Back out plan

This list is not exhaustive. You could also have test plan, acceptance criteria, risk assessment and others – but as a minimum, for a smaller company, this would be my list.

Impact Assessment

This is where the Change Manager writes down the potential impact of the Change. The sort of thing you are interested in is which services to users could be affected, and how long they might be affected for. You might include some assessment of risk into that impact assessment.

If you look at this more closely, you’ll find I’m saying ‘take a change that might be proposed on a particular computer system and assess the impact on the services we offer to users’ – and you need to complete this task with a degree of certainty.

The Change Manager needs to think: how do I do this? The best answer is to use the Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB) – an essential underpinning technology for Change Management. This post is not about the CMDB so if you want to find out more about this use the blog search facility on the right: there are many articles in this blog.

If you don’t have a CMDB then it’s going to be tough work – maybe you’ll be forced to ask some very clever person ‘who knows’ but I’d say that you cannot expect to have reliable Change if this is how you work because people make mistakes. In my experience before I joined Serio this is a very common state of affairs.

Advice for Change Manager: Don’t take on the role without a CMDB unless a CMDB is just around the corner, or you have some other reliable means of assessing impact.

Back-Out Plan

This is your escape route if things go wrong – ‘how to we restore the system if the unexpected happens’. Sometimes your technical staff may say ‘no back out plan is needed’ or ‘no back out plan is possible’.

Advice for Change Manager: Don’t be fobbed-off. Always ask for a realistic and costed back-out plan.

I’ll continue this post later and look at some of the tasks Change Managers typically do.

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