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How Advanced ITSM Can Improve Change Management Operations

08/24/2016 by: The SunView Team

Like any other internal process, the change management lifecycle can be broken down step by step. Each of these duties, done in succession or independent of each other, comprise the day in the life of a typical DevOps team or an individual IT technician with little variation.

While the pattern may stay the same as time marches on, the tools related to the accomplishment of these tasks will not. If past precedent holds, these technologies will innovate at an increasingly rapid rate. Not just the equipment IT departments use to resolve ITSM issues or maintain the status quo, but also the assets under their purview. With that in mind, let's take a look at the change management lifecycle as we know it today and how organizations can leverage new and existing technologies to improve operations.

First, we filter
Long before a Request for Change actually earns its namesake, it should undergo a thorough vetting process to determine its value to the business. A company may determine value or merit of the change based on any number of key metrics, but ultimately they need to decide whether they should pay their highly skilled technicians to filter through the changes or handle them manually.

Self-service and automated applications at the start of the change management life cycle can have a profound effect on IT workloads as well as the costs for maintaining them. Going as far back as 2004, Gartner reported the addition of automated password reset features to one unnamed organization's ITSM process yielded a $600,000 reduction in operating costs in a single year. More than a decade later, what business would dare rely solely on email exchanges to sort out customer or internal password resets? It's just plain inefficient. We may not have known that then, but we know it now.

However, that doesn't mean one step above such a system will do the trick. RFCs will rise commensurate with innovations in smart technology capable of filing service requests automatically. Although not every request converts to real change, businesses need greater, more diverse self-service options to preempt a wider variety of low-level, low-value tickets to prevent their IT teams from spending too much time on changes that won't yield a substantial return.

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Second, we collaborate
When a true RFC reaches the top of the bucket, the change advisory board sets everything in motion. That said, not every RFC requires a red rubber approval stamp administered by hand. Sure, all crucial configuration changes ought to have the blessing of CIOs, CTOs or any other executive/tenured manager charged with their oversight. But just because one CAB member approves of one change, that doesn't necessarily mean he or she needs to sign off on identical or similar changes. If the precedent has been set, ITSM teams should anticipate said member's response and echo it across future changes.

Furthermore, CAB officials may prioritize certain requests for change over others, which in part speaks to the importance of reactive versus proactive ITSM lifecycle. When a service request from a customer indicates a gap in the configuration in need of mending, CABs will mark the change as an emergency and push it through as fast as possible. But at this point, the business at large may already be at risk. Wouldn't it be better to possess the resource availability to catch flaws or areas of improvement thanks to process optimization? Built-in authorizations make that happen.

Like we said earlier, CAB members aren't rubber stamp robots. To strategize, however, they require accurate visibility into change tickets as they arrive, with the means to communicate their thoughts to each other and the power to make smart changes with minimal effort.

Third, we act
With planning stages complete, it's time to execute. Change management suites are excellent organizational tools, but they're also powerful engines for integrating changes safely, quickly and completely:

  • Easy integration with legacy assets: The right change management suite merges seamlessly with directory and email services, as well as third-party APIs, to keep integration short and utilization high.
  • Codeless customization: Change managers and DevOps teams need to apply changes to the platform on the fly, without the need of custom programming slowing them down.
  • Mobile-ready platform: Today's technicians work from desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets - who knows what other mobile technology tomorrow will bring? Be prepared by choosing a mobile-friendly change management suite so change can happen anywhere.

Fourth, we review
Human error is - and may forever be - the leading cause of ITSM run afoul. Yet because modern business depends so heavily on virtual assets in innumerable ways, even small missteps can result in massive cybersecurity threats, data leakage, service interruption, an inexorable hemorrhaging of customers and regulatory noncompliance.

Although it sounds like the obvious answer, carefully combing over changes isn't the answer. ITSM under a microscope, even with the most advanced technology and practices, completely loses its much-needed agility. Automated features like dependency mapping though a CMDB and regression testing reduce resource expenditures on checking proposed changes to configurations. They also dive deeper than any human could, making connections between assets that would almost certainly go unseen to even the most adept technicians.

Finally, we report
Regulations over data security have grown more stringent by the day. Many businesses, some which had very little oversight in the past, must now back up their ITSM architecture and processes with detailed proof of its compliance at a moment's notice - and not simply for its own edification.

Does this mean repetitive duties like data entry and exporting reports should fall with force into the lap of IT? We think not. Rather, the power to compile and format disparate information should come standard on any advanced change management software. Customizable dashboards are only half of the picture - those tools work well in the moment, but IT teams require tools that mitigate increased workloads from stricter financial and data management reporting. With push-button solutions, change managers keep regulators happy with fewer resources without ever jeopardizing their brands or their reputations.