This is the final blog in our three-part series on “Successful IT Change Management.” Last time, we talked about how you can build consensus and momentum around change in order to build a foundation for IT Change Management. In this blog, we’ll get to brass tacks with three strategies for IT Change Management in the digital business.
These days IT doesn’t just respond to change—IT leads the charge in driving innovation, from the introduction of new technologies to the wholesale reinvention of the organization and its activities. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. If IT can’t operationalize change and ensure its effective adoption, the days of the business are numbered. Let’s look at the challenges this poses—and a few strategies for overcoming them.
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Easier makes it harder
Shadow IT and consumerization have become so pervasive that they hardly merit their own terms—they’re just the way things are done at many organizations, as the seeming simplicity of technologies of all kinds lead users to take matters into their own hands. Non-IT department managers purchase systems directly to address their business needs. Employees bring their own devices to the office and assume they’ll work. You’re no longer in full control of technology purchasing—but you’re still accountable for the health and integrity of critical business systems. Even within IT, new technologies and deployment models also hide away most of the complexities of their implementations, making it that much harder to identify and quantify the risks they may pose.
Not only that—those new technologies also make significant change easier than ever, so that modifications that once needed substantial resources and expertise are now all too casually undertaken by non-IT staff. And the stakes associated with major changes to key business systems are higher than ever; a tiny error, inadvertently introduced, can lead to devastating business impact and millions of dollars in losses.
In this light, no business can afford to simply hope for the best when critical systems are upgraded (though many take that risk anyway). The only responsible course is to develop a robust and repeatable approach to change and release management—one that takes into account the relentless pace of modern commerce and the highly distributed and adaptable nature of modern business systems. To maintain business agility while retaining some semblance of control, your strategy must take into account three areas: education, process, and automation.
Reducing risk through education
While most IT professionals understand the importance of undertaking technology change in a controlled and managed way—even if they don’t always do the right thing—it’s the rare non-IT professional who gives much thought to maintaining the integrity of a system being adapted. Now, as business owners become more empowered to make technology change, many of the more progressive IT departments have started to introduce home-brewed educational courses designed to give non-IT employees a basic understanding of risk assessment, planning, monitoring, and roll-back best practices. In addition to showing how challenging and risky IT change can be, such sessions can make lines of business more willing to let IT take the lead instead.
Formalizing change through process
ITIL® may have fallen out of fashion a bit among many IT organizations, but there’s still a lot to be said for a formalized and structured approach to change and release management. Moving a change request or configuration release through a carefully planned and documented planning, scheduling, testing, and production process can offer great peace of mind and greatly reduce the possibility of severe disruption to your critical business services. It doesn’t have to be heavy or restrictive; simply adopting the key steps in the assessment and planning phases can lead to a tremendous increase in important metrics. The only challenge is to do it at scale and speed.
Automating to keep up
The blistering speed of digital business makes automation essential—it’s your only hope of meeting expectations for scalability, agility, and control, and of maintaining industrial-strength repeatability and efficiency. Automation also delivers huge benefits throughout the change and release management lifecycles. You can introduce automated modeling and visualization of complex hybrid infrastructures to make planning more robust. You can accelerate a still rigorous change management and approval process with effective process automation Automation can also be used to execute a huge variety of tasks across the entire technology environment, from mainframes to mobile configuration changes, from network devices to Docker containers, virtual machines, and cloud environments. Moreover, complex automated changes can now be coordinated across all of these platforms as part of an integrated program within a formal Change Management structure.
At BMC, we’re constantly focused on tools and best practices to help IT organizations manage change effectively—it’s at the core of our mission. We invite you to continue this conversation in the comments below. You’re also welcome to test drive our BMC Change Management solution any time you like with a free trial of Remedy with Smart IT. Give it a try and see how it can fit into your agenda for change.