Did you know this? If you have a table full of tasks and try to work through them one by one, you'd probably start with the to-dos that you enjoy. On the other hand, the unpleasant tasks, which you could easily do without, get left behind. This is understandable, but often ends up in stressful last-minute situations.
But have you ever heard of "scary hour"? In her video that went viral, TikTok user Laur Wheeler explains how she uses this "scary hour" to fight procrastination of unpleasant tasks: she sets a timer every day for an hour and completes as many unpleasant tasks as possible. In doing so, she combines two already well-known time management approaches - the "Eat the Frog" method and the "Pomodoro" technique.
IT Change Management is also one of the less popular tasks for some ITSM teams. But instead of trying to manage this in a Scary Hour, you should rely on proven best practices here to successfully integrate Change Management into your daily work routine. In this article, we'll give you ten tips that will make Change Management easier.
First things first: What exactly is IT Change Management again?
Change Management - also known as Change Enablement - is a process designed to minimize interruptions to IT services. More precisely, it is about the interruptions that occur when changes are made to critical systems and services. According to ITIL 4, a change involves adding, changing, or removing something that could directly or indirectly affect services.
IT Change Management must be coordinated across teams in a transparent and traceable manner, because only with good Change Management practices will your ITSM teams be able to deliver updates - and still ensure stability and minimize risk.
If you want to delve deeper into why IT Change Management is so important and what the Change Management process can look like, we recommend our introductory blog article on this very topic.
Tested and proven: These 10 best practices will help you succeed in Change Management.
So let's get down to business: take your Change Management to the next level with these ten best practices from Atlassian:
- Develop an understanding of your organization's risk tolerance and plan accordingly.
- Use data-driven risk assessment to continually adjust your Change Management practices.
- Make Change Management as simple as possible.
- Rethink the traditional CAB model.
- Deploy smaller releases incrementally to ensure your changes work.
- Treat ITIL as guidelines, not binding rules.
- Prioritize collaboration.
- Use modern DevOps processes like chaos engineering and resilience engineering to your advantage.
- Use tools to automate and optimize your processes.
- Choose tools that your development teams are familiar with and enjoy working with.
In the following sections, we'll take a look at each of these tips and go into more detail about what they mean and how you can implement the tip in your organization.
1. Develop an understanding of your company's risk tolerance and plan accordingly
What is your company's risk tolerance? There is, of course, no blanket answer to this. After all, every company is different, has its own culture, and must adapt to certain regulatory requirements. Accordingly, you should also tailor your company's Change Management practices to the extent to which it is willing or allowed to take risks.
For example, if organizations must comply with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this necessarily entails approvals and obligations. This, in turn, slows down the process in places and creates rigid workflows. Over time, companies can re-evaluate the situation and adjust their processes to reflect the current level of risk.
You can easily implement this adjustment in Jira Service Management. Flexibly align approval processes and workflows with your organization's new requirements or automate low-risk processes.
2. Use data-driven risk assessment to continuously adjust your Change Management practices
But how do you know when to adjust your Change Management practices? That's where data comes in - how could it be any other way? Data is the key to tracking the links between changes and incidents. For example, you can predict which types of changes, services, and teams are least likely to be affected by an incident. Accordingly, you can assess the risk here as lower and downgrade more change requests to less stringent approval workflows.
In this way, according to Gartner's adaptive Change Management process, organizations can work to classify more and more normal changes as standard - and have them pre-authorized and automated accordingly.
Using these steps, standard changes can be automated:
- Review your changes over the last few months.
- What were the most frequent changes?
- Which changes are "standard" changes?
- Which services do they affect?
- Which changes were successful?
- On average, how long did it take to implement these changes?
- Which changes were requested by development teams?
- Select three to five standard changes to automate.
- In your service management software, create self-service request types for the standard changes.
- Use text to clarify the purpose and scope of the standard change request.
- Fill in important fields, such as the system, application, or service to be changed.
- Create automation rules to automatically approve changes, change statuses, and notify employees of updates.
- Educate and train your IT staff and development teams on this new feature.
- Monitor performance in the coming months.
- Gain insights to improve your existing offerings.
- Identify additional standard changes to automate.
3. Make Change Management as simple as possible
It's not uncommon for teams to view Change Management as a chore. Processes must constantly be carefully documented or approvals requested. This makes it all the more important to make Change Management as uncomplicated as possible. You can achieve this, for example, with a change plan on a (Confluence) page that acts as a central source of information and documentation. Automate workflows where possible, and try to keep the number of approvals required to a minimum. You should also use software that integrates seamlessly and can support you in implementing the aforementioned points.
4. Rethink the traditional CAB model
Do you value the Change Advisory Board (CAB) in your organization as a strategic resource or would you describe it more as an impediment to your workflow? Especially in traditional IT organizations, the CAB is often perceived as more of an impediment. The usual process to evaluate the technical and business impact of change requests brings challenges. For example, it is not uncommon for CABs to be associated with slow releases, cumbersome processes, and sometimes inadequate communication and collaboration. Wouldn't these be good reasons for high-performing teams to rethink the CAB model?
The goal should be for these boards to add the following value to your IT processes: Enable communication, balance the need for change with its risks, and ensure that typical CAB processes become more agile and strategic. As a result ...
- ... the CAB only needs to get the green light for particularly risky changes (lower-risk changes are managed using proven tools such as peer review, virtual checklists and automation).
- ... CABs are given the task of creating a strategy and encouraging teams to develop practices. The latter should help reduce the risks and workloads of Change Management by automating processes and making them more efficient.
- ... CABs will meet virtually and in real time to eliminate the time it takes to discuss important changes or address issues in face-to-face meetings.
5. Deploy smaller releases incrementally to ensure your changes work
One bundled big release vs. multiple smaller releases - how does your organization handle delivery? The modern agile approach prefers to say goodbye to large releases for good reasons, and it makes sense in terms of Change Management: this approach is prone to major incidents and it is difficult to pin down the root cause of a problem which might occur. Smaller, more frequent releases, on the other hand, can limit the scope of a potential incident. For example, canary releases or feature flags can be deployed to a smaller group of users to test and prove stability before full deployment.
In addition, this strategy makes it easier to organize releases by allowing them to be coordinated against a change schedule. This enables development teams to more easily avoid conflicts and identify days when outages may occur. Corresponding functions in Jira Service Management enable ITSM teams to access a central schedule with the necessary information to carry out the distributed releases.
6. Treat ITIL as guidelines, not as binding rules
Not everything that ITIL says should or can be implemented one-to-one. After all, every company "ticks" differently and therefore needs an individual approach to establishing ITIL processes. And this is also entirely in the spirit of the framework: Since the publication of Version 4, ITIL no longer specifies detailed, rigid processes and instead sees itself as a toolbox from which ITSM teams can help themselves according to their requirements. So think of ITIL practices as basic guidelines that your organization can build on - rather than as a set of rigid, restrictive rules.
7. Prioritize collaboration
The phrase "teamwork makes the dream work" also applies to Change Management: without good collaboration and transparent communication, it will be difficult to meaningfully coordinate teams that are collectively affected by changes, incidents and other issues. Fostering collaboration among these "high-velocity teams" becomes even more important the more complex your organization is structured.
8. Use chaos engineering and resilience engineering to your advantage
Have you heard of chaos engineering or resilience engineering? Both DevOps practices help identify issues and needed changes that can work around future incidents. Chaos engineering focuses on testing resilience and disrupting or shutting down components of a product or service. Resilience engineering deliberately addresses any stressors to a system, such as system utilization due to high user numbers or high traffic volumes.
Change Management teams can benefit from this preventative approach because it noticeably reduces time, costs, and "alert fatigue" among incident management teams.
9. Use tools to automate and optimize your processes
We admit that this best practice is obvious when it comes to implementing change faster and better. The right software cannot only relieve your teams of much of their tedious, repetitive, less enjoyable tasks - but it also makes it easier to collaborate and share within and between teams. To make your Change Management as efficient as possible, you should streamline and automate your processes.
This is where Jira Service Management comes in: The tool provides a common platform for development and operations teams, ensuring transparency and traceable context. This ability to collaborate efficiently and implement individual workflows means changes can be made faster and with less friction.
10. Select tools that your development teams are familiar with and enjoy working with
Tips 9 and 10 go together in a way because proven processes for your Change Management should be built into all the solutions your development teams use. However, getting them up and running quickly, or reliably providing customers with critical updates, seems nearly impossible if your teams have to learn new software, enter information into multiple tools, or use an inappropriate tool.
So if your ITSM teams are already familiar with one or more Atlassian tools, it's worth building on this powerful foundation to kick-start your IT Change Management transformation and deploy other useful Atlassian tools as appropriate.
Try the tips and take your Change Management to the next level!
Did you find our tips helpful? Then try them out, and who knows - they may soon be part of your best practices for effective IT Change Management. If you're interested in learning more about Jira Service Management and other useful Change Management tools, feel free to contact us.
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- Configuration Management in ITSM Teams – Make Infrastructure and Services Visible and Reproducible
- Knowledge Management in IT Service Management – It’s Enough to Invent the Wheel Only Once
- Continuous Service Improvement in IT Service Management – Putting Optimization Initiatives into a Structured Form