What is ITIL Change Management ?

ITIL Change Management is fundamental to mature IT organizations – it improves visibility and brings assets, configuration items, change requests, tickets and projects all together on one configuration management database (CMDB). And while change management is a critical component of improving an organization’s IT maturity, for change management to work you need to understand the ITIL standards that are the foundation of proper change management.

Within IT departments, most organizations use IT service management (ITSM) platforms to effectively manage the change management process, so it’s critical that the ITSM tool you use supports ITIL.

Understanding ITIL and ITSM

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library and is a framework often used within ITSM. ITIL prescribes a set of specific methods, practices and processes for managing the organization’s IT operations and services.

The ITIL framework bases itself on the five phases of the service life cycle. The guidelines set out the necessary processes, associated challenges and best practices for each phase of the service life cycle, as well as the requirements for the implementation of each phase. These guidelines can, and should, be used to kick off internal discussions and policy creation within an organization to ensure service delivery is optimized appropriately for the end-user. 

The 5 stages of ITIL are: 

  1. Service Strategy – This is the start of the ITIL life cycle, and it sits at the center because a stable and precise service strategy is necessary for better service management. This stage determines what capabilities will need to be developed or implemented, including the definition of markets, development of assets or the necessary preparations for deployment. 
  2. Service Design – Ideas become plans in the second ITIL life cycle stage. It is here that services and processes bear out the primary goal of providing a better service management environment.  
  3. Service Transition – The third stage of the ITIL life cycle is where the preparation of services and strategies that will be implemented in the live environment take place. It is here that organizations test and implement new designs.  
  4. Service Operation – Following the launch of services and processes to customers and peers, the operation stage of the life cycle begins. Service owners must be prepared and available to report any issues as they arise, and make sure that customers are satisfied with the services and process.  
  5. Continual Service Improvement – This last stage of the ITIL framework directs organizations to search for potential improvements in all the previous steps. By looking at what is measurable versus what is not, and by processing and sorting the data into quantifiable findings, the cycle starts all over again. 

What You Need for Proper ITIL Change Management

Did you know that, according to studies, 80 percent of all issues reported to IT are actually the result of poor change management? That’s why many companies follow the ITIL approach along with release, asset and project management. When evaluating a new ITSM vendor, or your current ITSM tool, it’s important to make sure you can do the following for proper ITIL change and release management:

  • Establish plans for new rollouts.
  • Leverage project management and change management together.
  • Assign resources and establish timelines for updates.
  • Monitor the outcomes for improved problem management.
  • Generate reports and visualize change for better communication.
  • Facilitate and schedule notifications to end-users.
  • Engage in change management activities as part of a release.
  • Integrate project planning and expense tracking into a release.
  • Keep everyone informed, schedules on track and budgets in check.

Did you know 80 percent of all issues reported to IT are actually the result of poor change management?

Building a Foundation for Proper Change Management

Following ITIL, it’s important to consider each of the following when rolling out a change:

  • The reduction of risk and impact
  • The maintenance of the current working state
  • The communication around the rollout and approval management
  • Effective change planning with optimized resources
  • The reduction in the number of incidents due to changes in execution

By using ITIL’s change management process, you can mitigate the unforeseen consequences and downtime that stem from improper or non-existent planning and controls. By managing and documenting changes, you can avoid the flood of major – often avoidable – issues.

Start with Setting Risk and Approval Levels

One way to build out your change management process is by taking a risk-based approach to change review and approval where changes are evaluated in terms of risk. To do this, you need to start by defining your risk levels: 

  • Low-risk – Requires approval by a local authority, such as an IT manager for the area that would perform the change. The local authority can choose to approve, reject, or escalate the change to medium risk. 
  • Medium-risk – Reviewed first by a local authority, and then they move on to the Change Advisory Board (or CAB). The CAB then chooses to approve, reject, or escalate the change to high risk. 
  • High-risk – Reviewed by the local authority and the CAB, and then a higher-level group such as an IT Management Board (ITMB) chooses to approve or reject the changes. 

When using multiple levels of risk to determine the path of approvals, it is important to have a clear definition of each level. Factors to consider include: 

  • The complexity of the change (in terms of interdependencies of systems and/or teams). 
  • Length of downtime. 
  • Criticality of the service(s) being impacted by the change. 
  • Confidence/capability of rolling back the change. 
  • Confidence in the change’s success (i.e. have we made a change like this in the past?). 

If you implement an approach like this, consider structuring your deadlines and meetings in such a way that escalating a change to a higher-level review does not take much time. 

For example, to efficiently escalate a change from the CAB to the ITMB: 

  • Friday at noon: Medium- and high-risk changes might be due to the CAB and ITMB for review. 
  • Friday, end of the day: An initial agenda could be sent to the CAB and ITMB. 
  • Monday morning: The CAB might meet to review and possibly escalate changes. 
  • Monday, end of the day: The ITMB could receive a list of changes escalated by the CAB. 
  • Tuesday morning: The ITMB might meet to review changes, including those escalated by the CAB. 

What Change Management Looks Like in Action

If you need an example of great change management check out Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). At NEOMED they were struggling with unforeseen issues after each technology-related change. Using TeamDynamix for their ITSM, they were able to build out a comprehensive and well-thought-out change management strategy to address their issues.

“We set up a special form within the system called a change form, and whenever a production change is pending, we have the technical lead fill out that form,” Geri Hein, project manager within the university’s IT division, said. For larger changes, the change form is routed to a change control team that consists of Hein, a business analyst, the managers of the university’s IT infrastructure and database groups, and the IT director.

This process has increased communication within the IT division and helped with troubleshooting problems.

Now, whenever a change is coming, the key people who need to be aware are automatically notified in advance, so they can weigh in if they foresee any risks or dependencies in order to ensure a smooth transition. Changes are linked automatically to the ticket calendar feature within TeamDynamix, so IT staff can easily see which changes were made on which days.

“If there’s a problem, we can go to the calendar and determine whether it was related to a particular change or not,” Hein says. “There have been a few instances where our infrastructure team made changes that we didn’t think would cause problems with our ERP system, but they did. [Because of the change management process] we were able to track it back to the right source and easily resolve the issue.”

Click here to learn more about change management and TeamDynamix IT service management.

This article was originally posted in May 2021 and has been updated with new information. 

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