Better control your change management - Step by step

Change is a constant in IT service management (ITSM), and that’s actually a good thing. Every business, whether public or private, faces change requests, and handling them well is crucial. But if these requests aren't addressed effectively, they may trigger a lot of challenges for the team along with the entire company.
The actual problem isn’t the change itself, but an unreliable process for managing these requests. But the good thing is that you don’t need a long complicated policy to handle change management effectively.
In this article, we’ll explore what makes a good change request and walk through a five-step process to manage change requests smoothly, no matter your organization’s size or needs.

Jul 01, 2024
change management

What is a change request?

A change request is a formal suggestion to alter some aspect of an existing project, IT service, or business transaction. These requests can come from internal teams, customers, business partners, or other stakeholders.

Having a dependable request for change (RFC) process is crucial. It helps your team work more efficiently, keeps your organization safer from risks, and ensures all parts of your business are on the same page. Change requests are a key part of change management, which is at the heart of ITSM. This first documentation step helps you create a helpful digital paper track, enabling you to monitor changes in complex systems and anticipate their potential long-term effects, whether it has a big or small impact.

What are the different types of change requests?

Change requests can come in various forms. While you can create your own categories, ITSM best practices typically classify them into three main types: standard, normal, and urgent.

    • Standard Changes Standard changes are common and well-known.. They usually have well-controlled consequences because they’re small-scale or recurring, low-risk, and well-documented. These changes can often be processed immediately without needing extra approval.

For example, asking for more storage capacity in your company’s cloud environment is a standard request. All the systems and impacts are known, making it a straightforward change.

    • Normal Changes Normal changes require planning and authorization. They usually involve significant changes that affect your operations or infrastructure. They’re called “normal” because they must go through the usual change request management process, including review, analysis, and approval.

An example of a normal change request would be acquiring new cloud infrastructure to support new business operations. Since this addition could have major consequences, it needs thorough examination by key stakeholders.

    • Urgent Changes Urgent changes need immediate action. Because of the urgency of the situation, these requests are made outside of the standard change management procedure.

For example, applying unexpected security patches to production servers due to a newly discovered zero-day vulnerability is a common urgent change request in IT.

Simple 5-step change request process

Your change request process should be thorough, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the less room for human error, the better it is. Here is a simple five-step change request process that any organization should be able to adapt to their needs.

1. Formalize support for change requests (RFC)

As we mentioned, changes can have significant and unexpected long-term impacts if not managed properly. This means that users should not make changes on a whim. Instead, implement a change request form (RFC/DDC) requiring bidders to document all essential information that authorizing officers will need to analyze the request.

The specific information you need may vary, but for most changes you can’t go wrong with requiring the requester to document the 7 R’s of change management:

    • Who made the change request?

    • What is the reason for the request?

    • What is the expected return on change?

    • What are the risks involved in this change request?

    • What resources will be required to implement this change?

    • Who is responsible for implementing this change?

    • Are there relationships between the requested change and other changes?

2. Evaluate the effort required for each change

This step is critical because it helps your team define requirements and establish customer expectations. Responsible teams should evaluate all recently received requests. Obviously, this also applies to standard changes. Their evaluation is simply carried out in advance.

Evaluate the level of effort required for each change request based on the information received. Ask follow-up questions if necessary, then estimate the effort required to implement the change request.

3. Analyze the impacts of change

Before implementing anything, analyze the potential impact of this change. To achieve this, we will use the information provided in the application to identify risks at the following levels:

    • Customers, infrastructure and customer service capabilities

    • Consequences if the change is not implemented

    • Resources needed for this implementation

    • Implementation schedule and service interruption

It is often a good idea to categorize risks using a simple matrix that takes into consideration their likelihood and consequences. This allows you to really consider the benefits of this change request based on these risk factors.

4. Implement the RFC in a structured way

Until now, you have only collected and analyzed data based on potential change. Now is the time to license it and implement it. This requires more than a yes or no from a director.

At this point, you should present the RFC to the Change Advisory Board (CAB). This council is made up of stakeholders affected by the change request. For example, a change to infrastructure should be presented to senior members of your infrastructure team present at the board meeting.

They will decide whether the change is approved or not. If the answer is yes, you can then follow your established implementation process. We recommend that you follow these specific implementation steps:

    • Build change

    • Perform a change test

    • Develop a comprehensive plan to deploy change

    • Then implement the change

5. Provide follow-up after implementation

There is still work to be done following implementation. Tracking the changed system(s) avoids unforeseen problems. If a problem shows up, you will need to attempt to resolve it and determine whether a solution is possible or whether the change needs to be reversed. It is also important, following the implementation stage, to identify lessons learned to better inform future implementations.

Easier change requests in just a few clicks

Establishing a reliable, consistent and easy-to-follow change request process is essential for any organization following IT service management best practices. A reliable change request management tool can help ensure that each request is easily assessed, scheduled and executed.

With Jira Service Management, we help you manage every incoming RFC, small or large, standard, normal or urgent. Every action is automatically recorded, giving you a complete look at everything that happens during the process.

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