Getting Started

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-02-09 Print this article Print

Every company will have a different road to change management, if only because no two companies are alike in their processes and practices. In addition, a great deal depends on how large the company is, how much change it needs to manage and what its IT department can handle. And, of course, the biggest single factor is knowing how change works in your organization and deciding how that should translate into a formal change management process.

For Chris Moore, vice president of IT at Uponor North America, the process started with an Internet search for software. Moore had already come to the realization that he needed to get a handle on managing change in the IT department, so he decided to start there and expand. He said lack of change management had led to some problems, or "catastrophes." When changes were made, there were frequently unintended consequences.

"There was some business pressure to do this because they [his managers] didn't understand why these catastrophes kept happening," Moore said.

On the other hand, he had a limited budget and couldn't afford to pick the wrong package. Moore also decided to move deliberately so the process would disrupt his day-to-day operations as little as possible. As a result of his Internet searches, Moore eventually picked ChangeGear from SunView Software. The process, according to Moore, took a while. He talked to SunView Software for several weeks, and spent a couple of months planning and more weeks loading the IT assets into the software before it was ready for full-scale use.

Paul Smith, senior network engineer at Metafore Technologies, a division of Montreal-based IT solutions provider Hartco, approached it from a different direction. He needed to get a handle on changes to his operating environment, specifically Active Directory, so that he could allow changes to take place in an orderly fashion without unintended consequences-but also without giving assistant administrators too much access. In short, he wanted to automate the change process, remove manual steps and in the process eliminate most errors.

Smith said his company chose Ensim Unify to automate the change process. "It's removed a lot of administrative overhead for my department," Smith said, "and it's saved a lot of time. We used to have a lot of manual steps for user management. We don't have those steps anymore. From my own experience it has lowered [the number] of errors."

As was the case with Moore, Smith did his research on the Internet and performed his own implementation. Because his goals were specific and limited, he was able to choose a package that solved his exact problem and implement it himself. "Implementation took not even an hour," Smith said. "It was done with guided installation help [from] one of the system engineers from Ensim. An hour later we were up and running. No changes were needed."

Organizational issues

Ultimately, change management is an organizational issue. While change management software can be a real help, if a company's change process is broken or if the people handling change management don't have the authority to enforce it, then change management software will only automate the chaos. On the bright side, users often report that adopting change management software led to organizational improvements.

"Do process first," said Glenn O'Donnell, a Forrester Research analyst. "If you automate anything, it'll just do it faster. If you automate a bad process, it'll do bad things faster." O'Donnell suggested that the fundamental action must be to get your head around the process and what the process ought to be.

Once you have the process figured out, you need to have a commitment from all of the stakeholders in the process to make the changes you need to make with the change management system. Otherwise you can't implement those changes, O'Donnell said. He also suggests that the easiest way to get buy-in is to go after the low-hanging fruit first; but which part of your operation meets that description depends on your company.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs 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.

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