IT Change Management can be described, in a nutshell, as a formal set of processes designed to help a business make changes to their information technology system or product in the most efficient, controlled, smooth and successful way possible. This may sound similar to the idea of Organizational Change Management, which is focused on managing people as changes are made to business processes, but IT Change Management is strictly focused on changes to the IT system. While changes to an organization’s IT system may be necessary and can be very beneficial, there is always the potential for a negative impact.
With a strong Change Management Program (CMP) to oversee necessary changes to your organization’s information technology system, it’s possible to get your shop in order and avoid expensive mistakes. It starts with support from senior management that reaches down through every level of the company. With that support in place, your organization should be able to achieve successful IT changes through the following simple steps:
1. Identify and Communicate the Need for Change
The need for change in your information technology system will most likely arise as the result of IT managers spotting an issue or series of issues that must be addressed to prevent future problems, new business decisions or ventures requiring changes, or new government regulations. A formal document highlighting the request for change and what it will entail should be the first step towards a successful CMP.
2. Get Management On Board with the Change
It is essential that everyone accept the change being proposed in order to make a successful transition. The opinions of business management, however, will have the most weight in the end. The decision to make changes within the IT department ultimately lies with senior business management and not with IT management. If IT managers must convince business managers that the change is necessary, it will be their responsibility to highlight the benefits in relation to costs.
3. Get the Project off the Ground
Once the project has been approved, then it’s time to initiate the identified changes to your IT system. The procedures may be predetermined, such as when the server is down or when some other common emergency has occurred, or there may be multiple collaborative efforts, designs, developments and rounds of testing required before the final product is approved.
4. Make Final Reviews
An official change advisory board consisting of high-level professionals with varied areas of expertise should have the final say on whether the changes in question can be implemented. This board will consider the processes required, the governance that must be in place to complete them and any potential risks that may come up as a result. They will also implement the communication strategies, to keep relevant stakeholders informed, and a plan to back out of the changes if necessary.
5. Make the Changes Happen
Once changes to your information technology system have been approved and scheduled, then it’s time to actually make them happen. Implementation of IT system changes should only move forward after a detailed checklist including predefined steps has been established with approval from management and the change advisory board.
6. Communicate the Results to Affected Stakeholders
Advisory board members and all other affected stakeholders should be kept informed about the results of IT system changes. It doesn’t matter whether there were no issues that arose, issues that were quickly corrected, issues that were deemed acceptable, or issues that must be addressed before the changes can be rolled out—the results must be reported all the same. The change advisory board can then report this information to all other affected stakeholders, and store related documentation where it can be quickly accessed if needed. This documentation will be especially relevant in the case of an audit, or if unexpected issues come up later on that must be immediately isolated by the problem manager(s) who originally worked on that component.
7. Review and Assess the IT Change Management Process
It’s always a good idea to review and assess IT Change Management Programs at least annually. This ensures that all required documents are easily accessible and uncorrupted, all required signatures are still there and other information is available if it should ever be needed for reviews and audits.