Change Management Tools Offer Infinite Possibilities at Service Desk

A jumble of colorful words with "Change Management" being the largest in the group

When IT related problems recur, whether intermittently or on an ongoing basis, organizations are faced with two choices: either work around it or enact a permanent solution. Within the ITIL framework, the latter of the two options is called change management. It is defined as “the process responsible for controlling the lifecycle of all changes. The primary objective of change management is to enable beneficial changes to be made, with minimum disruption to IT services.” As a result, more and more service desk outsourcing companies are now offering a change management solution from both a process standpoint and within their own ticketing system to minimize superfluous contacts related to recurring problems. This means collaborating with client management teams in developing a pliable solution within those tools that align with both their interdepartmental workflow and what change management data should be captured and analyzed.

How do most companies approach the change management process? Though the minutiae may vary the core approach is often the same. Essentially, a change is proposed by a change manager who is responsible for seeing it through to its completion, and then the changes are brought forward in a Change Advisory Board (CAB) meeting where they are discussed in an open session for impacts, interdependencies, etc. and then generally approved after that. On the other hand, when organizations are in urgent, companywide impacting DR mode, they have an expedited process that typically involves an emergency CAB requiring only a single approval versus a consensus for example. Severity may even require bypassing the emergency CAB and submitting the change directly from the change manager to the implementation team thus forgoing the need for the CAB to deliberate over the proposed change. This truncated process certainly makes more sense when an infrastructure related culprit is quickly identified and remediation steps equally obvious.

Understandably, smaller IT department teams may also abbreviate their approach to change management. In such instances the change leader, approver, Change Advisory Board member, and the person conducting the impact assessment may be one and the same if not a handful of individuals. So within the ITSM platform or ticketing system, such staff are often called upon to assign a change to themselves for approval. Despite the inconvenience of a few extra clicks, the segregation of responsibilities in the approval process should remain intact within the ITIL framework as it enforces procedural integrity and maintains scalability for when IT departments grow and duties are eventually dispersed. The risk assessment tool, for example, forces the change management team to question what the impacts of the proposed change and consider other areas of the organization they might not have given a second thought.

At the same time, there is room for customization with the rigid framework as the forms within the IT user portal can indeed be tailored to the client’s unique business requirements. For clients wishing to add multiple approval layers or multiple groups beyond IT or multiple impacted assessments, it’s all customizable. In some instances, an organization will involve its QA analysts in the process so they can audit their colleagues’ accuracy and ensure they have appropriate test plans in place, appropriate signatures, and all required documentation included along with confirmation of potential updates before they sign off on the IT team’s proposed change. No matter how intricate the client’s organizational structure, the service desk vendor’s platform should enhance and not hinder the resulting change management workflow.

Indeed change management forms are not one size fits all. What works for the more commonly employed changes related to hardware or network infrastructure may not apply so handily to the software development team rolling out new versions, installing new applications or fixing bugs. For them, not only does the approval process typically include a larger pool of stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts both internal and external and a more extensive test environment, but the form drop-down lists themselves must allow for selecting such related functions as enhancements, new features, coding, version control, integration, etc. And of course, an ITIL v3 verified platform should at a minimum accommodate network infrastructure change management including system upgrades, server patches, storage issues and include appropriate boxes and prompts related approvals, risk assessments, and impacted groups and/or hardware.

In addition to developing customizable forms that align with departmental requirements, capturing all change management data into one ITSM repository is intrinsically a good thing. Unlike with a manual system, there is no need to track down owners for pending action items or approvals as the change management workflow is automated including notifications, status updates, reminder prompts at designated intervals for open change requests. Also, clients can generate and review history reports for Configuration Item (CI) details linked to change, incident and problem management and identify areas of concern such as how many times a network switch has failed or been replaced.

Ultimately, the benefits of comprehensive change management tools stem from the flexibility of what data can be captured and analyzed as well as how it’s disseminated to various departments. ABS DBA Brian Nunziato sums it up. “One of the great things about a customizable ITSM platform is that it can be adapted to manage each client’s unique process flow, departmental requirements, and ‘chain of command.’ Leveraging a single, intuitive resource shared across various departments not only automates and streamlines ITIL based processes but minimizes the learning curve of adapting to multiple incongruous systems. It’s an effective way to keeps IT operational costs low and that’s the sort of change our clients are happy to manage.”