24 May 2024
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What is change control (Image by OCTOBITS)

Blog Octobits – Change control is a structured approach to managing all changes made to a system or product.

As we understand together, in the ever-changing world of IT, every company needs to manage modifications to systems and infrastructure carefully.

Change control is in your company to minimize project risks, ensuring changes are introduced in a controlled and coordinated manner.

A case study from Paulo Roberto Martins de Andrade and colleagues in ‘Change management: Implementation and benefits of the change control in the information technology enviroment’ highlights the importance of change control.

The case study illustrating the benefits of implementing a change control process comes from a large government company in Brazil.

This case study highlighted how IT, integral to operational efficiency and innovation, requires a meticulous approach to managing changes and preventing unnecessary complications and costs​​.

In McKinsey & Company, we can see the adaptation of a change story at a basic-materials company from a victim mentality to a position of industry leadership, showcasing the dynamic nature of change control​. 

So, it’s time to learn about core components, the process involved, and how to make change control work effectively within your company.

What is Change Control?

Simply put, change control is a systematic approach to managing changes to IT systems, services, and infrastructure.

While closely tied to project management, change control extends to the broader IT landscape.

Let’s say Microsoft Azure releases important data center security updates. Change control helps your IT team assess those patches, test them in a controlled environment, and then roll them out strategically to minimize system disruption.

If you want to get insights about data center security, kindly check our review at How Solid Your Data Center Security Fundamentals? A Complete Guide.’

Or, your company is moving to a new helpdesk system. Change control helps plan the migration, ensuring things like data transfer, user training, and testing are all handled in a coordinated manner.

The essence of change control lies in its structured approach to accommodating and approving modifications to IT systems, services, and infrastructure.

This encompasses a wide array of changes, including but not limited to:

  • Hardware adjustments like system upgrades or replacements
  • Software updates encompassing patches or new versions,
  • Network modifications such as updates to firewalls or changes in network topologies
  • Updates to documentation like process revisions or updates to knowledge bases.

Components of Change Control

The change control framework comprises several critical components. These components ensure changes are managed effectively.

Of course, the components don’t work in isolation. It’s the systematization of them that makes change control successful. 

This management aligns changes with the project’s and the company’s broader objectives.

Change Request Form

The change request form is the gateway through which proposed modifications enter the change control process.

The standardized change control document is far from just a procedural necessity.

It captures the core aspects of any proposed modification, detailing critical information such as the project’s name and the date.

It also describes the nature of the request and evaluates its possible effects on the project.

By clearly articulating these aspects, stakeholders have a comprehensive overview, facilitating informed decision-making.

The inclusion of impact assessment, in particular, underscores the importance of foresight in change management, ensuring that decisions are made with a full understanding of potential ramifications.

Change Log

The more complex a project is, the easier it is to lose track of the “why” behind decisions.

The change log serves as the chronicle of the change control process.

It records every requested change alongside its status and pertinent details, offering a transparent and accessible history of the project’s evolution.

This tool is indispensable for project managers and stakeholders, providing a clear trail of decision-making and modifications that can be reviewed for lessons learned, compliance verification, and future planning.

The change log not only aids in tracking the progress of individual changes but also helps assess the cumulative impact of all changes on the project’s trajectory.

Change Control Board (CCB)

The CCB’s task is to balance the need for change with protecting the integrity of the project or system.

The composition of the CCB is strategic, often encompassing a cross-section of stakeholders with diverse expertise and perspectives, from technical specialists to project management professionals.

This diversity ensures every decision is well-rounded, considering technical feasibility, strategic alignment, resource implications, and organizational objectives.

Objectives of Change Control

At the heart of change control is the systematic evaluation of changes. Every proposed alteration—software, hardware, network configurations, or even procedural documents—undergoes a rigorous review.

This process assesses the necessity, impact, and feasibility of changes, ensuring they are made on time and with due consideration of their effects on the project’s ecosystem.

For example, The Network Operations Center (NOC) is one of the areas affected by the change control policy.

To better understand NOCs, we recommend reading theNetwork Operations Center: Guide to Components, Best Practices, & More.’

One of the primary goals of this meticulous evaluation is to minimize any negative impacts on project objectives.

Change control ensures that every suggested modification isn’t just automatically green-lit.

Instead, experts carefully examine each request to weigh the benefits against potential risks before making decisions.

Another fundamental goal of change control is to improve the project’s ability to achieve its goals.

As we know, projects exist for a reason: to deliver a new product, a better service, or to improve efficiency for a company.

Change control makes sure that changes are consistent with those larger goals.

Also, we need to consider how effective change management facilitates greater organizational efficiency. 

Lastly, by managing changes effectively, organizations can ensure that the needs and expectations of all stakeholders, including customers, employees, and partners, are met.

Have you ever heard the phrase “death by a thousand cuts”? It’s the idea that many small things can lead to a big failure.

This kind of control acts as a shield, ensuring that adjustments along the way help, not hurt, a project’s chance of success.

When projects run more smoothly and meet expectations, everyone involved in teams to customers-is happier.

Change Control Process

The change control process is a structured approach designed to manage modifications systematically and effectively.

Let’s break down the change control process into easily understood steps. 

Change Request Initiation

This is where it all starts. Someone spots a need for a change, whether fixing a bug, updating software, or altering a project’s direction.

This initial step is crucial as it captures the essence of the proposed change, including its rationale, desired outcomes, and any preliminary assessment of its impact.

By standardizing the submission process, organizations ensure that all change requests are documented and presented consistently, facilitating easier evaluation and decision-making.

This step sets the stage for a systematic review, ensuring all relevant information is considered right from the outset.

Change Request Assessment

This is where the change request gets a reality check. It’s scrutinized by experts who understand the project or system and can assess impacts. 

This step is about understanding the full implications of the proposed change, considering factors such as cost, time, and compatibility with existing systems.

It’s a critical phase where the feasibility and desirability of proceeding with the change are weighed, considering how it aligns with the project’s objectives and the organization’s strategic goals.

Change Request Analysis and Approval

At this stage, the change request is subjected to an in-depth analysis, which forms the basis for its approval or rejection.

This phase often involves a Change Control Board (CCB), a group of stakeholders with various expertise who collectively decide on the fate of the request for changing.

This group, composed of various stakeholders, will weigh the risks against the potential benefits and either give the green light, reject it, or ask for more information.

Implementation

If approved, the change doesn’t just happen haphazardly. There’s a carefully developed implementation plan.

Effective implementation requires careful planning and coordination, with clear communication to all stakeholders involved.

This might involve testing in a safe environment, scheduling the change during low-use hours, and having a rollback plan if things don’t go as expected.

Closure and Review

After implementing the change, the process concludes with a closure and review phase.

There’s a review to see if everything went according to plan, if the intended goals were met, and what lessons can be learned.

This phase contributes to continuously improving change management practices within the organization.

Conclusion

So, develop and refine a process that helps you manage change effectively to benefit your company.  Accept change control as your ally in the journey to company excellence.

Please allow this control to guide you through the inevitable vagaries of the technology world with confidence and precision.