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How IT can lead change management

Karen Guglielmo, Contributor

The business relies on IT to play an integral role in any kind of change. If there's an organizational change taking place, it's the CIO's role to make sure the technology strategy and operations in IT align with the change and support the organizational change management strategy. If the change involves IT infrastructure or other IT change management efforts, "the CIO should be running the show," said James Champy, author and chairman of Perot Systems Corp.

In this FAQ, learn more about organizational and IT change management, what ITIL change management is and the types of change management software and tools available to IT organizations today.

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  How are organizational change management and
  IT change management different?
Table of Contents

Organizational change management refers to the process of preparing an organization for major change and then managing the change process. Some examples of major change are a change in business strategy, a corporate restructuring or a large shift in resources such as one caused by a layoff, merger or acquisition. Organizational change management often involves managing during a period of duress and helping individuals change their way of working and adapting to a new environment, often while experiencing strong emotions. Strong resistance to change can result.

IT is involved in organizational change management both for any adaptations that have a direct impact on the IT team and for any technical modifications needed to support a change. For example, if a corporate restructuring centralized marketing functions, IT would work with the business to understand and address any changes in the processes and/or technical systems affected by the change.

IT change management, on the other hand, is a process or discipline used to ensure that any technology or infrastructure changes made in an organization don't negatively affect or disrupt other business-critical systems. The process typically involves evaluating the potential technology change, upgrade or implementation; documenting the steps involved in the rollout process; determining how the implementation will affect other systems, IT resources and how people do their jobs; and evaluating the risks and rewards of making this technology change. An example of IT change management would be an investment in virtualization. This is a change to the infrastructure and the way systems run. IT's role would be to make sure that the implementation process does not bring down other systems in the business and to plan out how it will affect available resources and systems.

An important component to the success of using IT change management is having a configuration management database (CMDB). A CMDB allows for more flexibility in the way that IT manages change and assists in preventing and overseeing any unauthorized changes.

"A company can do basic change management without a CMDB," said Robert Stroud, international vice president of the IT Governance Institute and IT service management and IT governance evangelist at CA Inc. "However, with a CMDB, you get collision detection." Collision detection allows you to see if you're hitting all your components at each of the right stages. Depending on the maturity of the technology and the organization, a CMDB can also help with discovery and IT service mapping.

   Learn more about organizational and IT change management.

  Where does ITIL change management fit in? Table of Contents

The ITIL framework defines change management in its Service Transition book as a process to systematically implement IT or organizational change in a controlled manner. "Ultimately, ITIL change management provides a discipline to minimize risk when changing a service," said Jack Probst, managing consultant at Pink Elephant, an ITSM consulting company.

The ITIL change management process provides guidance for establishing an oversight function to assess the risk of a change, enter changes into a system, review them and ensure there are no impediments to service levels as a result of the change.

The ITIL change management process also highly recommends implementing a change advisory board (CAB) to manage change in the organization. A CAB is more or less a governance structure set up to deal with change management. Usually chaired by a change manager, other members typically include people from architecture, applications, infrastructure, engineering and relevant lines of business -- most of which are a level down from the CIO.

The CIO does not usually sit on the change advisory board but is usually part of an IT management board into which the CAB reports. The CAB reports any changes and potential business risks to the management board.

   Read more about the ITIL change management process.

  What are some examples of change
  management models?
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There are a number of change management models that organizations can use to successfully assess and implement a change. Each of these models includes a number of steps or practices to follow in making either an organizational or technology change.

One popular model is The McKinsey 7-S Framework, developed by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman. "It gives you a way of assessing the current state of an organization, the future state and what has to change," said Champy.

The 7-S model addresses seven factors collectively: shared values, strategy, structure, systems, style, staff and skills. An example of where a company could use the 7-S model would be in evaluating whether and how to move to cloud computing. It would consider the impact of the change on staff, skills, structure, etc., looking at each of these components to obtain a holistic view of the change.

Another type of change management model is Kotter's Eight-Step Change Model, developed by Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter, an expert in leading change. This simple eight-step process focuses on the acceptance and preparedness for the change, rather than the change itself, with the objective of allowing for a much smoother transition to the change.

   Take a closer look at some of the change management models used today.

  What types of change management software
  and tools are available today?
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Change management software is used to orchestrate, document and guide people through the tasks that are involved in making structural or infrastructure changes within an organization. These types of tools are often set up to link into the project or request for change and track all the details required for change -- what the change is, what is affected by it and what the implementation and potential backout plans are.

Organizations can also use change management software to calculate risk and monitor and approve change requests from one single location.

Any of the big IT Service Management (ITSM) vendors -- including BMC, Hewlett-Packard and CA  -- all offer change management software, which usually comes with their service management packages. Other vendors in the market include Service-Now.com, FrontRange Solutions and Alteris.

   View a list of vendors that offer ITSM and change management software and tools.