Managing Red Tape: The good, the bad, and the ugly of IT Change Management Processes
Working for a company that provides network professional services to a host of organisations across a variety of industry verticals, I have witnessed first-hand the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sexy when it comes to change management processes. And despite all the best intentions, even the most stringent change management processes can fall short when staff are facing pressure to deliver.
Whether it be a developer bursting in mid- SCN/RFC meeting with a change request scrawled on a post-it note, or the ‘Remediation Plan’ section in a change request document stating if everything goes wrong, the plan is to “fix the problem,” (sound familiar?) clearly there are times when organisations face challenges and resistance when it comes to successfully implementing a change management program.
Most people in our industry understand that the objective of a network change management process is to minimise service downtime. Change management does this by ensuring that requests for changes are documented and then evaluated, planned, prioritised, approved, and implemented in a controlled manner by an authorised board of stakeholders.
All this is to minimise risk. The type of risk depends on the organisation you work for. For a bank this could be a financial loss; a live broadcast organisation could lose pictures off screens; a legal entity could lose sensitive data records, or a Telco could suffer the loss of services. All of the above could violate brand image and cost the business big dollars in down time.
With so much potential risk involved, change management is a no-brainer, right?
Well, yes….. and no. The task of change management is not an easy one.
And unfortunately, too many change management programs fail. Reports vary, stating that between 70% and 80% fail to deliver value. A Forrester report revealed that 52% fail because of resistance. These failures cause wasted costs and increased business risks. 1
Three common barriers arise when it comes to change management:
- Lack of commitment from management: Managers often become frustrated at the lack of results and withdraw their commitment. And as the management team is the major influencer, its commitment (or lack thereof) to a change management process will be transmitted to the employees.
- Complexity: A change management initiative needs to fit culturally with the organisation running it. Often, management goes from one extreme of having no process in place, to the other extreme of having one that is far too large or too complex and not ‘fit for purpose’. Businesses run the risk of trying to enforce too much, too fast, and setting unrealistic goals.
- Time Pressures: The pressure of existing workload demands and perceived lack of staff become even more strained when an organisation is faced with the pressure of a stringent change management program, inevitably causing increased frustration and resistance. And let’s face it—IT staff are not exactly known for their passion for documentation and “red-tape”.
The fact is, there is not a one-size-fits-all change management recipe for all organisations.
Some people would rather do things quickly and run the risk of a potential failure instead of investing their time to implement a 14-step process, with an 8-week lead- time. The secret is to know how to adapt the plan to the circumstances, and then enforce it. After all, looking at the broader organisation context, change management is there to protect the business, and to deliver critical services that staff need to do their jobs successfully. And, if the processes you have in place aren’t working – don’t be afraid to adjust it until it’s perfect. After all, that’s only a change- right?
- Steinberg, R. (2005). Implementing ITIL. Trafford .