For Change Management, First, You Need a Plan

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 organization.

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

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...