In the world of business, managing technology software and systems is a mission critical task. As more and more operations rely on essential tech, there is little tolerance for lag times, mistakes, or delays of any kind. Because of this, IT leaders and their teams need to stay on top of change management.
Regular changes occur in the world of IT: software updates, system updates, upgrades, swapping out software or platforms, etc. To manage these with finesse — and to not disrupt the flow of business — here are five best practices to follow.
1.Start by Assessing Risk and Then Plan Accordingly
Change management gets a bad rep for being difficult, and this is in part because it impacts a lot of people and the work they do. Any change management should first take an organization’s risk tolerance into account. Knowing that threshold will help IT leaders and planners create a balanced approach for factors like compliance, regulations, downtime allowance, non-negotiables, and rules. For instance, regulations such as GDPR or SOX mean you must take certain steps (not workarounds), which impacts the timeline for change management.
Understanding the broader context in which you are implementing change management best practices is key. Assessing risk will help you factor everything in, creating the right workflows that go through the right approvals in the right timeline. This is something that should be revisited from time to time. The rigor of your processes may be adjusted as you measure risk against new factors and internal and external dynamics. This continuous adaptation ensures you are meeting the right criteria and needs of the company.
2. Let the Data Drive You
Making “data-driven decisions” in business is a sound best practice with wide application. With regards to change management, data-driven decisions require setting tracking metrics, which has numerous benefits:
- Links changes to incidents or issues
- Highlights any trends
- Reveals patterns: norms and aberrations
- Links incidents to individuals or tasks
- Lets you see and manage change requests
Once you have a robust body of data to provide reflective insight into change management, you can use it to support predictive analytics. In other words, based on what has happened during change management, what is likely to happen? Then, you can adjust strategies, classify standards, and even automate many tasks.
3. Over Resource Your Change Management Best Practices
IT departments are always being asked to do more with less, so this best practice may sound more like a “nice to have” than a “need to do now” situation. However, getting 90% of the way through a change management process is about the worst progress you could possibly make. If you aren’t adequately provisioned, it’s because you didn’t adequately plan.
- Roadmap your process (with absolute clarity, specific steps, milestones, and communication)
- Request enough time, budget, and people to get the ideal job done
Leadership may need some convincing to loosen the purse strings, so back up your request with hard data. If you’ve had any change management experience, you’ll have historical information to pull from which should clearly highlight what it takes to get the job done right. If you can add a margin for the inevitable additions you’ll tack on, do it. Account for every phase, and then some. This is truly the only way to overdeliver.
4. Stick to the Methodology
There are various change management methodologies to use, all of which have their merits. As the expert in your own company and context, you’ll know the right one for your team. It’s essential that you choose a particular methodology, then stick to it. If you waver from the protocol, it’s likely you’ll make mistakes, hold up progress, or undermine your own credibility.
5. Refine the Role of the CAB
In many IT contexts, a change advisory board (CAB) is the team in charge of overseeing a company’s change management. They assess the technical implications of change requests and create a roadmap for execution. This has its pros, but also some cons; namely the delay of needing all stakeholders to buy in, getting top-down recommendations only, and navigating numerous inputs and ideas.
Some tips to help overcome the less favorable dynamics of CABs, and, as a result, make the change management process nimbler, are:
- Enlist visible executive sponsorship of the CAB
- Let the CAB set the high-level strategy; developing practices that make change management more efficient and effective
- Go virtual, using video conferences or other communications tactics to get real-time feedback on-demand or as needed
Change Management Best Practices Make or Break Your Business
Change management has been an integral part of the software revolution and a key component of new initiatives and ongoing implementation since the early 2000s. The systems you have in place to manage change can make or break the success of your technical operations. Many companies use agile or similar project management approaches to reduce silos and improve change management. Ultimately, the goal is to create frameworks that accelerate progress while reducing risks or errors.