Change Enablement in an ITIL 4 world

InvGate June 1, 2021
- 4 min read

Change management is the IT service management (ITSM) capability that ensures change is delivered effectively and safely, delivering outcomes that enable the business. Done well it can deliver new services, reduce unplanned downtime, and support successful innovation. To help any individual or organization looking to see how ITIL guidance related to change has changed, this blog shares the key differences in the change guidance with the ITIL 4 change enablement practice publication.  

Change enablement – what's in a name?  

Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Since the previous version of ITIL in 2011, what was once called change management has undergone not one, but two, name changes. The first iteration was to change control in ITIL Foundation Edition in 2019.  

To manage change effectively you absolutely need some degree of control in place but that’s not the main focus. It also seemed out of step with the rest of the ITIL 4 guidance and could have led to change being seen as a blocker rather than a positive force for business improvement. By renaming it to change enablement, in 2020 for the Managing Professional books, it positions the newly-minted practice more in line with the rest of ITIL 4 which is about enabling better business outcomes.  

New guidance on DevOps has been added 

Previous versions of ITIL didn’t reference DevOps in a meaningful way. This has changed in ITIL 4, with the new guidance blending key DevOps concepts into change activity. Here are some examples: 

  • Safe to fail testing. DevOps supports the notion of failing fast (if you’re going to fail). That it’s better to know sooner rather than later and before too much time, effort, or money has been spent. 
  • Continuous integration and delivery. There’s support and guidance around using continuous integration and continuous delivery as more efficient and effective change delivery model.  
  • Feedback loops. By shortening and amplifying feedback loops any quality issues can be fixed at the source, avoiding defects and rework.  

Understanding that complexity is a critical change factor 

The ITIL 4 change guidance includes how to respond to different levels of complexity. The ITIL 4 diagram below shows the range of change complexity and the guidance suggests responses appropriate to each level of complexity. 


Source: AXELOS, Change Enablement ITIL 4 Practice Guide (2020) 


This new ITIL 4 content recognizes that all change activity exists on a spectrum that ranges from business-as-usual tasks, which can be handled via standard changes, through to business continuity work that’s potentially fulfilled via the emergency change process. 

The increased use of technology for delivering change 

The ITIL 4 guidance provides updated guidance on technology use, including automation. Done well, automation can increase flow and absorb more capacity without compromising on speed. Some of the key technology-enablement areas covered in the change enablement practice include: 

  • Ticketing and workflow tools for planning, assessing, and authorizing changes 
  • The use of Kanban boards to visualize work, limit work-in-progress (WIP), and maximize efficiency 
  • The use of backlog management systems to reduce WIP and increase flow 
  • Scheduling that can be automated using service and configuration item information 
  • The use of models for change communication 
  • Collaboration systems to support change review and improvement discussions. 

Change-related roles are very different 

One of the most exciting parts of the new ITIL 4 change enablement guidance is the shift in change-related roles. The change advisory board (CAB) model used in previous versions of ITIL has been replaced by a new change authority role. This means that changes can be assessed and authorized by peer reviewers and automation.  

There’s an increased focus on CX 

One of our favorite practice success factors (PSFs) – think critical success factors for the practice – relates to ensuring stakeholder satisfaction. All too often in IT, we congratulate ourselves for delivering a change and maintaining service levels without thinking about how the experience was for our customers and stakeholders.  

The ensuring stakeholder satisfaction PSF helps to ensure that all stakeholders – from senior managers to end users – are identified and their feedback is sought, documented, and considered. With this input for building in opportunities for improvement over time. 

Read other articles like this : ITIL, Service desk, Change Management

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