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Change Manager Challenges

Change Manager Challenges March 4, 2021

by: Greg Smith

Within ITSM, Change Managers are unique to their peers.  They regularly face challenges different to those of a Problem Manager or Incident Manager.  In my article Change Manager – 4 Key Attributes, I describe four key attributes a Change Manager should demonstrate to be successful. Below illustrates how those attributes are put to the test with three challenges Change Managers regularly face.

1. “It takes me longer to submit a change than it does for me to do the work.”

Every Change Manager has heard of this gem more than once. And I’d venture a guess that every person in IT has said or thought this same thing (though only the brave ones will say it to the Change Manager). A Change Manager’s role is not to tie people up with red-tape, it’s to protect the production environment by minimizing the risks introduced by changes. This requires a level of formality and checks to ensure the change has minimal risk and will be successfully implemented. But the reality is some changes are at low risk with a history of success. A Change Manager should facilitate these types of changes being handled as standard changes to minimize the effort, paperwork, and approval required via following the normal change process.

2. “The business wants this change in immediately, so it needs to be an emergency change.”

While there is some level of formality with emergency changes, they’re rarely tested prior to implementation and are often approved off an email or a quick “go-ahead” text from a Senior Leader. It is when we are rushed that we make mistakes such as forgetting something as we run out the door or failing to recognize the typos and the unfortunate auto-correct when we hurriedly finish off a text as a meeting is starting. In true emergency change situations, a Change Manager accepts this increased level of risk because the change is meant to correct or prevent a critical issue (which has a guaranteed impact). A successful Change Manager needs to be prepared for these scenarios and identify true emergency situations. If a change is to be urgently implemented bypassing the normal change process, steps should be taken to prepare the Service Desk for potential issues as well as to prepare the business partners and the Change Requester of the benefits (i.e., reduced risk) of following the normal change process in the future.

3. Identifying the right changes to discuss and key people to attend CAB.

Change Advisory Board meetings are a delicate balance of ensuring the right changes are being reviewed and ensuring the related attendees are there to answer questions and challenges as needed. Failure to achieve this balance means meetings that drag on and waste hours of resource time or meetings that end with more questions remaining than answered.

The first step is to identify which changes are to be discussed. Not all normal changes need to be discussed at CAB. Initially, target those changes with higher risk, extended implementation (and/or validation) times, high visibility and/or customer impact, and collaboration with multiple groups (including testers). The remaining changes will still be on the forward schedule of change and questions can be raised as needed outside of CAB.

Once you have identified the changes to discuss at CAB, selecting the attendees becomes clearer. Invite those who are implementing the changes being discussed, and key management representatives from IT departments to provide a holistic view of potential impact and risk when advising the Change Manager. Don’t forget the Service Desk representative! Business stakeholders or representatives can be invited to CAB based on the changes being reviewed and your organization’s culture of IT and Business Integration.

BONUS CHALLENGE: Getting your ITSM peers to follow the Change Management process.

Seriously ITSM Process Managers, we know your processes are important and great things come from them, but when a change is to be implemented to resolve an incident or fix the root cause of a problem, the Change Management process still needs to be followed. And please do not ask the Change Manager how the process can be skirted or suggest that “technically it’s not really a change per se”!

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