Change management, change tracking, change control, simple words that mean so many different things to people.
Most companies have some process to manage changes to their environment. Some even have an idea why they do it. Yeah, I did say most and not all, because the processes and the extent to which they are followed is often quite lacking in the wild.
At it’s most basic, a change process is used to implement changes in an environment. So is that any change? Or just the ones people will notice? Is change even planned? Who decides if and when it gets done? These and a host of other questions will help define your process.
Why do we even need a change process? I know what’s best for my environment. Right? It’s only a server reboot. All the users have to do is sign back in. What’s that like, 10 seconds?
Hopefully, your environment, is working and functioning properly. You probably want to keep it that way. So answer honestly, were any of your last outages caused by an action or inaction on your part.
When it comes down to it, what’s the main reason you have this job? Is it to keep the computer systems up and running? Is it to replace hardware as it fails? Deploy the newest, most awesome technology? Answer user questions?
Contrarily to popular belief the answer is none of the above. The main reason you’re there, is to help the users do whatever it is that makes the business money. Plain and simple, everything you do, is in support of that objective. Right?
Sure, you probably want to keep the systems up and running. You’re going to have to replace hardware that fails. And yes, users will have many questions. All of these tasks, support the users and their processes. Wait, which is what exactly? What do they do?
The first thing to figure out is, who you’re working for and what they do. I know it sounds ridiculous, but do you know what tasks your users perform daily? Once you know your business, it’s processes, and the resources it uses to make money, then and only then can you understand how the things you do affect the business.
Rebooting that server at 11 am doesn’t seem that big a deal to you. For your users, it may mean 10 mins to log back in and pull up all the applications needed to even begin working again. Or the poor MIS person doing reports for senior management that has to restart a report generation process that will take an additional 2 hours to finish than promised.
Carefully examine, what and when, you do things that may affect your users and their processes. Can you design a better process or infrastructure that allows you to complete your objectives with out affecting theirs?
Knowing the processes that make your business succeed, and focusing on not blowing them up is probably a good start to your process.
The people who are ‘slowed down’ by following a change process are the same ones that describe planning as unnecessary. I’ve worked for a large international organization that had a very stringent change process, sign offs, and 100+ person conference calls, which at any time anyone could put a hold the change until issues or conflicts with other changes or production are discussed.
However, it doesn’t have to involve complex forms, approvals, and endless conference calls. It doesn’t have to be that way. Keep it simple. Keep it in one place. In one place and email doesn’t count.
That’s right, I said email doesn’t count. We’ll save the discussion of whether email is still a valid form of business communication for another post.
But Ten emails in your inbox of thousands, spanning the last 7 days. Who remembers what intern Tommy sent on Monday about a SQL server rebooting and compares it to the email from network Jamie saying she is replacing some physical switches in the data center this weekend. So it turns out, that weekend falls on the end of quarter and the whole accounting department is working to finish quarter reports for the board meeting on Monday.
Maybe at first, it’s only a collaborative spreadsheet that everyone has access to submit changes by a certain day of the week. Require everyone to review the list and ask questions by another day. Then a quick call prior to the maintenance windows ‘Go or No Go’.
The important thing is everyone’s on the same page.
Learn from the process and change it over time to suit your environment. Just remember your main reason for being there.