Technology is continuously being improved, upgraded and transformed, most times for the better as systems are streamlined, bugs are repaired, and enhancements are unveiled. While those updates are often necessary, rolling them out to an entire company in a timely, effective, and prioritized way is not always easy. Through successful Change Management practices—abiding by “standardized methods, processes, and procedures which are used for all changes”—companies can efficiently introduce new technology in a precise, well-controlled way.
We recently caught up with two of our Crossfuze IT Change Management experts, Don Frank and Samson Chilampath. Together they shared their philosophy on the vital importance of and how to effectively implement successful Change Management. By following best practices, including establishing a strict pattern of conducting due diligence, establishing a priority list and creating a traceability system, rolling out a Change Management system can become a positive experience for IT departments.
Q: What are the key steps of effective Change Management? A: First comes due diligence where systems must be tested and prepared for change. Then there needs to be a prioritization and scheduling process. This is an effective way to see how everything stacks up together. There’s one more, too, which is a big one. It’s traceability. A lot of organizations that don’t truly understand the intricacies of Change Management, might do a good job with the first two steps, but fall short on tracking changes. We have worked with clients that decided to build Change Management workflows into ServiceNow, from scratch. It’s been a real challenge. We have also seen struggles when a client is using something very simple, such as email with attachments, then try to transition to a system, automated workflow like the one that is used in the ServiceNow Change Management. They’ve nailed the first two steps I talked about. But what’s been happening at that third stage is that when a change request comes in, and the change is completed, it’s not being communicated to everyone involved. This means they are not keeping track of a change’s lifecycle. Therefore won’t know if further issues crop up or have a historical log of data that could be analyzed to help prevent and resolve change issues in the future.
Q: How have we helped them overcome these issues? A: We have helped them to overhaul their service as a whole, using the Crossfuze Change Management Turnkey to speed up the process and implement best practices across multiple avenues of service. So instead of them having to figure out how specific industry-backed services are mapped to improve service overall, the Turnkey does that for them.
Q: How does Change Management support/compliment IT Service Management as a whole? A: If you look at the pyramid of Incident-Problem-Change, Change is at the top where there’s probably the least amount of tickets compared to Problem and Incident. However, it can also affect the most people if the Change goes poorly. An upgrade to a server or a business service, whether it be to email or application servers, can affect the way people get services within the organization on a daily basis.
Q: What is the first step a company should take to implement Change Management? A: First, you need to review your current Change Process. Determine what works and what could use improvement. If you’re using a tool for your Change Management Process, perform a GAP Analysis to determine where it is helping your process and where it is hindering it. If you’re implementing Change Management in ServiceNow, then you need to understand how a Turnkey solution might improve your process and streamline your implementation. Every organization is different, so while Turnkeys are the best practice, they aren’t going to be 100 percent reflective of your unique organizational setup. Be sure to set expectations ahead of time, thoroughly document those expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Next, IT Managers should make sure everyone in the company fully understands Change Management and their individual role. Consider the client I just worked with. The Change Manager knew the company’s processes, but the Service Desk Manager did not. The IT Director even had a different view of how their Change Management process worked. This illustrates the importance of comprehensive training sessions as a company prepares to roll out Change Management. Another item to consider when preparing for implementation is an understanding of the different categories of change:
- Normal change, day-to-day change that people approve
- Standard change which is a slimmed-down version of normal change or something that has become routine
- Emergency change, which occurs when something goes down, such as an outage, and immediate emergency action is required
Once you fully understand the differentiation, the IT Manager(s) can better communicate Change Management to the entire company.
Q: What are the most common problems IT teams face when implementing Change Management? A: With any implementation, there are going to be issues or concerns that you may not have thought of. We try to recommend that a company address as many use cases as possible beforehand and then have those scenarios reflected in multiple versions of scripts. Whether it be a positive script where you’re looking for a certain action or a negative test script where there is a rejection of a change, you want to be able to address every possibility.
Q: How does Change Management impact business decisions? A: Changes should not be noticed by end users and they should be completed incognito where the “customer” doesn’t even know a change is happening. If they do notice, it should be a “quality-of-life” improvement for them. In the Change Control Process, when conducting review and approval, if it appears that a business service will be adversely affected in a way that will negatively affect users, the change should be carefully considered and possibly pushed back for further development, testing and approval. If the review process proves the company is ready for the change, then the Change Manager must turn to the prioritization process. The Crossfuze Change Management Turnkey actually has a function called “Conflict” within the Change record itself. When the record is scheduled, there’s a Conflict Engine that runs in the background and checks if other items that are related to your change are scheduled at the same time and may be impacting each other. As an example, let’s say we need to add a hard drive to the email server because we want to increase the disk space. That change will go on at 10 p.m. But we also have a change scheduled to upgrade the user interface of web mail at the same time. With change management these two potentially conflicting upgrades must be prioritized so you can complete the most important change first, while also reducing conflict. If you were to run the web mail interface change at the same time as the hard drive change and you had something go wrong, you would have to look in two places to locate that problem versus only one. If you’re prioritizing both upgrades, doing the hard drive change first because that’s going to be a better benefit to the customer. As a result, you remove the conflict and reduce your risk, which at its core is what Change Management is all about.
Q: What tricks or tips can you share to help IT teams? A: Make sure you have a Change Management process defined and approved by all stakeholders before implementing Change Management in any automation systems, like ServiceNow. Make sure you understand how your business and process will work within your platform of choice and the benefits it will drive. When you add our Turnkey to the mix, the more you understand our solution—its capabilities and its features as well as industry best practices built in—the easier it will be to understand the recommendations that we are going to offer up, as well as the time your organization may need to implement Change Management. One recent customer thought, “Hey, we’re just going to put this in and it will be easy-peasy!”. The learning curve with a new Change Management process can be drastic for a less mature organization, and not fully understanding the process could lead to something being missed during the requirements gathering process. If something is missed and not discovered until it is released and in use, imagine the re-do process, not a good thought right? A lot of what we encounter is the result of our client not fully understanding the Turnkey’s full range of features and how the solution aligns with their process. With the Turnkey, a lot of those features are pre-built. There’s a workflow and there’s a process. Once you identify the type of change you need to select, the Turnkey does a really good job of walking you through the process. Our Turnkey lays out a 90 percent base to get a client where they want to be early on out of the implementation gate. This creates speed-to-value. With a Turnkey, there is no “start from scratch” needed. You get a head start from day one.
Q: What are some of the long-term effects if Change Management isn’t coded correctly? A: There’s two major effects, increased risk and incurring additional costs. For example, there could be resistance to adopting the new Change Management solution due to lack of confidence or perceived benefit in the solution. People resist change by nature so it needs to be rock solid to drive 100 percent participation across all groups within IT. Another example is the risk of causing a service interruption due to the change that is not adequately planned, communicated, or reviewed. From a cost perspective, project initiatives can be delayed or put on hold due to Change Management challenges which drives up the cost of a project to the organization as additional internal and potentially external resources will be needed to take the project to completion. These problems can be mitigated with the Change Management Turnkey.
Q: When is Change Management not so important? A: I would say always have Change Management just because of traceability and due diligence. If you’re a small organization with a small inventory and you’re rarely doing changes, then Change Management might not be as important. Probably 95 percent of organizations out there, however, would want to have Change Management. Also, with Change Management programs, it really depends on a customer’s maturity. Sometimes they are not able to implement; they just want a basic ticketing system. It’s not that they don’t want to implement Change Management, it’s that they either can’t afford to do it right now, or they don’t have the time and resources to devote to building it out. They know it’s a best practice, but “right now” may not be the right time. Final Thoughts… Change Management is a lot more difficult than people think it is. While people think they know how their Change Management process works, when trying to follow best practices without investing in a Change Management system, they often face multiple challenges; challenges that can affect the entire company. By selecting a platform like ServiceNow and adding the functionality of the Crossfuze Change Management Turnkey, with its enhanced features, step-by-step processes, and fail-safes, companies soon realize that there is no better alternative to effective Change Management.
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