Change Management – Buzz Words Or Real Value?

By Greg Robidoux

A lot of people look at change management as something they should have, but typically do not put the effort into creating processes that are easy to follow and repeatable. At most organizations, processes and procedures are usually ‘nice to haves’ and only become important when there is a problem. Once a major issue is identified, due to a mistake or implementing changes before they were ready to be deployed to end users, do the discussions begin. But after the fire is over and everything is running smoothly again our minds move on to other projects and the fix that was needed and fresh on everyone’s mind slowly becomes less of an issue until it is totally dismissed once again.
The cycle is endless until someone champions the effort that changes have to be controlled or such a costly mistake is made that someone looses their job and a change is mandatory. It’s unfortunate that so much time is wasted on the discussion of change control, but nothing ever gets implemented. So how do you move forward? The first step is to identify what components are necessary for your environment to establish a process that works for your company.

Change Management Components
  • Create and document a process
  • Define roles
  • Create a communication plan
  • Create an escalation plan for when things go wrong
  • Define a release schedule
  • Always have a back out plan
  • Centralize documentation
  • Create and document development standards
  • Create implementation procedures
  • Establish Service Level Agreements for customers
  • Create rollout checklists
  • Create a streamlined process for emergency fixes
  • Create a repeatable process
Politics is another area that often creates roadblocks that need to be overcome. Changes that DBAs need to make in order to control their environment unfortunately put restrictions on other groups; end users, developers, network administration staff, but change control should also put restrictions on the DBAs.

The art of finding the fine line of balance is often a difficult one. Negotiations need to be made, but also a clear understanding of what the other groups are doing has to be established. Everyone needs to look at their jobs as doing what is right for the organization, not how I can control a bigger empire. So take the next step and make a change, but do so in a manner that does not totally disrupt your current day to day activities. Although it may not be perfect it does allow you to keep moving your systems and business forward.

Change Management Implementation
  • Start Simple
  • Get someone at a high level to champion the effort
  • Test and retest system changes before releasing to production
  • Tighten systems security
  • Start today, don’t wait
  • Convince others of the need
  • Separate test, development and production environments
  • Follow your processes and procedures
  • Always be prepared for the unknown
  • Follow a process even for emergency fixes
  • Constantly review and improve your processes
  • Always document and communicate the change
The next time a major issue does arise, seize the opportunity to make a change. Once this item is fresh in everyone's mind come forward with your plan and put it into action. The process may not be perfect the first time, but doing nothing is the easy way out. Better yet, why wait until a problem occurs? Begin implementing changes slowly. There are probably key areas that could use improvement. Start with these and slowly mature the process as the team better understands the importance and how change management can assist not detriment your systems development.

Copyright © 2002-2004 Edgewood Solutions All Rights Reserved

About the Author:
Greg Robidoux is the founder of Edgewood Solutions a database solutions company in the United States focusing on Microsoft SQL Server and he is currently the Vice Chair of the PASS DBA SIG. Greg has 14 years of IT experience and his primary areas of database focus are standards, disaster recovery, security and change management controls. You can find out more about Greg and Edgewood Solutions at http://www.edgewoodsolutions.com.

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