Agile Change Management

The Virtuous Cycle of Change

By Dick Stark

Last Week, RightStar emailed its customer base a Forrester Report, “Change Management: Let’s Get Back to Basics,” by Forrester Analyst Charles Betz. Given the focus on Agile and Continuous Deployment, Change is not the Change Management of old. According to Charles, “Manual documentation of changes, lengthy change-approvals delays, face-to-face change advisory boards, and the review of all changes are no longer essential or suitable to a modern change practice.”

Thanks largely to digital transformation projects over the last few years, organizations are realizing the value of rapid development projects. Change Management, which seemed like such a good idea ten years ago (and proven outage preventer), must be re-designed to fit the current agile environment. Robert Stroud, another Forrester analyst, told a story about a client’s traditional change process: “they’ve got a change that’s going to production, and as it goes into production, they’ve got 32 approvals, and Development developed the code in a week, and it takes 12 weeks to go through the change management approval cycle. And this is what’s annoying the living daylights out of people right now, it’s that the old change management is no longer relevant.” According to Forrester, here’s a summary of what to do:

Avoid the Vicious Cycle of Change. A slow change process leads to an increasing backlog of work and the temptation to clear the backlog through large and risky batches of change.

Adopt the Virtuous Cycle of Change (below). In the virtuous cycle, appropriate investment in change capabilities supports the desire for a faster change/release cadence with version control, traceability, rollback, automated testing, and continuous integration/deployment.

Keep the change process lean and focus on its intended outcome of reducing risk. Focus on difficult to reverse changes or changes involving systems with a history of instability.

Remember that communication and coordination is expensive. Consider the delay that might occur as more stakeholders are added to the approval process.

Love automation. Invest in modern test automation tools and processes.

Track the right change metrics. Target metrics that can result in avoiding the vicious cycle of change.

Separate changes from work orders. Use a service catalog portal for work orders. A Change Management request is the wrong place to request a work order.

Watch change management as a demand and risk signal at the aggregate level. Consider using a continuous delivery/ITSM dashboard to show the release calendar, the forward schedule of change, and major program milestones. This can display potential hot spots on the organization’s calendar, allowing the executive team to better spread demand across time.

About dick1stark

I am the President, CEO, and founder of RightStar Systems, a leading ITSM and DevOps consultancy and BMC Software Gold Solution Provider and Atlassian Platinum Partner. My passion is customer success—whether it’s reducing the cost of service management, improving overall efficiency, or increasing end-user or employee satisfaction. Since founding RightStar in 2003, RightStar has made the INC 5000 list four times. In 2011, RightStar was awarded the prestigious National Capital Business Ethics Award (NCBEA) by the Society of Financial Service Professionals based upon RightStar’s foundation of honesty, ethics, and integrity. And in 2014, RightStar was selected by Forrester Research as one of 13 North American companies profiled in its ITSM Consultancy Wave Report. Finally, in 2019, BMC selected RightStar as its DSM North American Partner of the Year for its sales and partnership excellence. Dick is a graduate of Stanford University and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
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