Much was written about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on IT service management (ITSM) and IT support, and rightly so. Now, as we return to some semblance of normality - what many are calling the “new normal” - there’s still a need to consider what else either has or will need to change to reflect new ways of working and new expectations of IT organizations and the technology-enabled services they provide.
As you know, there’s much more to ITSM than incident and service request management. And, as such, these changes are also going to affect other ITSM practices – such as change enablement and release management. Changes that will make everyone’s lives easier and better.
Change enablement and the new normal
Revising your change enablement practices for the new normal is a great opportunity to bring in more recent change management best practices. Potential changes to make here include:
- Revise your change policy. Check your change policy and make sure that it’s still fit for purpose given the differences within the new normal.
- Leverage standard changes. Use the standard change model for everything you can reasonably template and route for automated approval. Where standard changes are pre-approved small pieces of work that are tried and tested and have very little risk associated with them. Examples include maintenance restarts of development servers or security patching noncritical services.
- Use “delegated authority.” If a change is a slightly higher risk than you're comfortable with for the standard, pre-approved route, then another option is to use delegated authority. This is where you have an owner for each area who can sign off changes up to a pre-agreed level of risk.
- Optimize change advisory board (CAB) meetings. If a change does need to go to the CAB, and hopefully these changes will be minimal, then ensure that the process is as efficient as possible by giving your attendees the list of proposed changes ahead of time such that they can review them and come prepared with any questions or concerns.
Release management and the new normal
Once your change enablement capabilities have been reviewed in light of the new normal, you can then look at how you can incorporate continual flow rather than traditional project deliveries to allow you to flex change and release according to business needs. Potential changes to make here include:
- Adopt continual flow. Use pull-based systems to allow work to flow according to customer demand. By focusing on delivering services based on customer demand rather than forecasts, you reduce the potential for waste and rework as well as making the overall process more efficient.
- Look at the opportunity of continuous integration. Review your ways of working such that your build and deployment processes work together. Having development teams involved in early-life support, and operational teams taking part in testing the code, means that both areas will be more invested in the overall solution and seeing it work.
- Introduce Kanban boards. Use the Kanban approach to keep your release schedule on track. It’s very easy to lose track when you’re dealing with multiple small release packages – so using Kanban boards will enable your team to visualize what’s currently being worked on, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency and flow. Once a release has been authorized and a change progresses through implementation, the Kanban board will be updated such that all parties will have visibility of which stage a deployment is at.
- Use automation to increase speed (and reduce errors). For example, scripting the release, having deployment packages instead of manually deploying separate files, notifications, and build logs. Done well, automation will increase efficiency, absorb more capacity, and reduce the potential for human error.
We hope the above is useful to your assessment of your change and release capabilities for the new normal. If you have anything to add or any questions, please use the comments section below.