Tech Analysis: Change management can prevent disasters and help a company clean up its act organizationally, but it's important to have a clear idea of what you're doing and why.
The first challenge of change management is that there's no
real agreement on what it means, so before you can embark on a change
management project you must first decide what you mean by change. The second
challenge of change management is that you must know what you intend to change
and how you intend to change it. In other words, you have to know what you want
the answer to be before you know what question to ask.
Clear, isn't it?
But what's certain is that poor change management can lead to
serious consequences for your company. Some of those consequences can be challenging,
some potentially disastrous and some could put you out of business.
"There's a definitional swamp around change, release
and configuration management," observed Gartner Research analyst Jim Duggan.
In regard to change management, a lot revolves around the sort of change you
have in mind: It could be organizational change, it could be a change in IT
products or services, and it could be a product change or a software update.
Each type of change requires some means of tracking it and evaluating the
impact on the product, organization or customer and overall operations in an
For many companies, change management involves IT systems
and product deliveries. In other words, if you asked your IT department to move
toward adopting Windows 7 on all company desktop computers, then you'd need
some sort of change management process to track which computers could be
changed, which could be changed only after something else (replacing a video
card for example) was done, and which could not be changed. And then you'd need
to track the progress on all of them as the change went through.
Fortunately, software products designed to handle change
management exist. For some companies undergoing complex changes, the right
software is a necessity. For some, it's optional because they could use a
manual system. And of course there are small companies or changes that don't
require much beyond a notepad. For now we'll talk about software.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.