Change Management


rganisations must make change management an excellent everyday process. Everybody knows this one: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” It's a commonsense saying that captures hard-won experience. Generations of engineers have learned that when you're tinkering with complex machinery it's always possible to make a bigger mess than you started with.

But it's meant to be a rule of thumb, not a commandment. It comes from a time when change was something to be suspected and resisted. “Change” always meant “risk”. Today, change is also something we have to respond to, if we want to stay in the game.

We can introduce change carefully and without creating new risks. It's called change management. We use set procedures and strategies for change control, staging and rollback. Every change has its scope, rationale and execution plan. The implications of a change on other areas are defined and managed. We therefore have a very detailed script for applying changes and a comprehensive understanding of what the effects will be.

These principles are well known, but many organisations apply them only rarely. They store up changes, rolling large numbers of enhancements into ever bigger and less frequent update events. This happens because people want to bundle their changes in with a “critical release”... and that in turn is because companies no longer schedule non-critical releases. It's as if the business of change is so difficult that the organisation takes a deep breath every few months and has a mammoth change-fest. It's like not doing the housework because you'll be spring-cleaning at some point.

This is actually a high-risk approach to change. It's a way of sneaking large amounts of risk back into change management. First, the more changes you have bundled into a release, the more interdependencies you need to track. The bigger the release, the harder it is for anyone to reliably analyse the cumulative impact. And if you can't assess the impact, you can't work up a mitigation strategy.

Second, if you only execute the change process rarely, then nobody becomes familiar with it. Lessons learned in one release have been forgotten by the time the next cataclysm falls due. People focus more on arguing about what should be in the next mega-release when they should be prioritising change based on business need.

Change management should be routine, unglamorous and dependable. Companies need to look critically at their release processes and ask how they can bring greater assurance to them. Above all, do more releases. Have clear procedures, follow them and measure the results.

When you're doing more releases, you're making sure the business keeps up with the market. You can also be getting ahead of your slower competitors. And when that super-urgent release is needed,  it'll be business as usual rather than a big drama.

Real change is happening all the time, so talk to Zolv about making sure you don't get left behind.