How managing change delivers satisfied customers

Do you accept or resist change? Successful IT shops are more effective and efficient when they pay attention to detail.

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Just like that, it’s a new year! For those few fleeting moments, we make personal commitments to be somewhat different or successful in our daily routines. Sadly, studies indicate that less than half of us will actually achieve our goals before the end of the year. But within IT, if we can keep to our goals, we'll be more effective and efficient.

From a business perspective, about this time every year strategists and vendors bombard us with “year in review” reports and “10 new things you need to watch out for next year” projections. When business leaders read them, they often match up their own goals to see how well they did, or even reset their planning for the year based on what others might see.

Efficient businesses don’t rely on “soothsayers”; they possess skills to measure corporate effectiveness through periodic reviews of plans and budgets. Doing so ensures good service and satisfied customers -- an arduous task which requires an ability to adjust as new challenges arrive.

These evaluations often compare what’s different from the original plan to actual results, namely, something has changed. Do you like change? A change is the act or instance of making or becoming different. Some folks can deal with it, others have difficulty planning for it. Those who accept or experience it know it’s quite a challenge. If you don’t understand what has changed or why, clearly you’ll experience unfavorable results. Identifying and implementing change can be excruciating for folks because it involves taking -- or making -- time to understand the impacts and benefits of a change.

If it’s your goal to live a healthier lifestyle, you probably will join a health club and change your diet. You will make plans to find a suitable club, measure your progress, adjust your plan, face the challenges and finally meet your goal.

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Continuous measurement breeds success

It’s the same in technology. At least once a year, business leaders and information technology plans merge, creating a technology vision or strategy. To support that plan, the IT department must possess a well-designed, systemic approach to recognize, plan for and deliver on planned changes with little to no disruption. IT is a service organization with expectations for delivering exemplary services, availability and performance.

When you consider the rate of change in an organization or evaluate the investment in resources (skilled staff, business tools and budgets), business practices should guide the stakeholders and IT department to frequently review strategic objectives to ensure targets are met. If left unmanaged or with no controls in place, the organization can be placed in high-risk situations.

Business executives should expect that the IT organization use service management disciplines to minimize hardware or software outages, especially when transitioning to newer deployments or contemplating releases into production. Structured IT shops guarantee their services by assuring their customers of availability, capacity, continuity and security of those services. It must demonstrate competencies in detecting, analyzing and determining the appropriate control actions when failures or outages of services occur.

Business and technology leaders enable change

To understand the value that IT brings to an organization, IT leaders must be responsive to their customers by performing an organized set of activities that are measurable, with specific reporting results. This article addresses the need to manage change.

At minimum, when managing technology changes, the IT group should have in place:

  1. Approved policies and procedures that govern IT roles and responsibilities
  2. Documented standards, guidelines or practices to deliver their services
  3. Documented inventories of hardware, software and network assets
  4. Sufficient tools to aid in identifying, analyzing and resolving technology anomalies
  5. Effective release management methodologies
  6. Metrics that demonstrate the effect of performance

How often do you hear the phrase “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”? If you are not measuring the targets established in the IT plan, then what value of service is IT providing? IT must have the capabilities to complete service transition effectively; every aspect that IT is functionally accountable for must operate with at least these six basic requirements. Doing so minimizes system downtime and customer dissatisfaction, but more importantly provides increased value to the business.

We’ve experienced occasions when it becomes necessary for emergency changes. These are often referred to “quick fixes” that require immediate repairs as quickly as possible to prevent significant user downtime or the loss of mission critical functions. In these situations, limited testing and release management activities are executed prior to implementation. However, emergency releases/updates should be avoided because they pose the greatest risk to a live environment.

 Other benefits of a comprehensive change management discipline are to:

  1. Protect the IT environment from potentially disruptive changes
  2. By nature of systems integration, this practice ensures that each business unit understands the potential impact of the impending change
  3. Identify key elements of a change so that reviews and approvals are understood and documented, preferably using a standard tool that can report on change activity

All IT shops are constantly shifting business priorities and projects. If the business is to remain financially stable, productive and ready for the future, then the IT department must have a strategy with key objectives in place that align with business direction. The key point here is to provide sufficient time and resources to monitor and measure the daily operations within IT. Imagine the number of projects, applications, processes, data, networks and other assets required to support the organization. If the control procedures are not used or do not exist, then the shop is not truly service oriented.   

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Satisfied customers appreciate good service

The keys to success lie within the capability of IT to be skilled and vigilant about service design and service transition. By allotting time to document the design, development, testing and implementation methodologies used in daily routines, the technology team will make time to be proficient at recognizing and managing problems or changes in the environment.

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