If you want technology changes to be successful you need an effective change management process. If you want a business change to be successful you need organizational change management.
For years, this similarity of names for very different processes was confusing.
Now it’s a good idea.
ITIL, in case you’ve never run across it, provides a comprehensive framework for understanding IT’s moving parts, how they fit together, and how IT management should handle them.
In the land of ITIL, change management is how IT operations takes the finished modules produced by dev teams and moves them to the test environment where software quality assurance can have its way with them, and from there into production.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, the folks responsible for OCM have been making sure the business areas that will be affected by the new software are properly prepared and ready to embrace the coming change.
The point of ITIL change management is to make sure software changes don’t blow up the IT production environment. The point of organizational change management is to make sure process changes that are the reason for software changes don’t blow up the business production environment.
They’re different things. One is about IT. The other is about the business. What could possibly go wrong?
Once upon a time, the answer was, not all that much. So long as the end-user training schedule coordinated so it preceded software’s move into production but not by much, there wasn’t much harm in considering these to be independent responsibilities.
But now we have DevOps, with its delivery model of continuous integration and continuous delivery — in some cases dozens of changes every day. As applied to a company’s internal systems, we’re talking about a potential mess, and not a small one.
The core of the problem is that DevOps as usually described is only appropriate for software companies and B2C eCommerce systems. These are the situations where software delivery is the same thing as business change.
For software companies it’s the same as business change because the direct result is an improved product, and the desired business change is the improved product.
Software delivery is the business change for B2C eCommerce systems, too. The purpose is to get the cash register to go ching more often and with more in the shopping cart. Yes, shoppers might get a slightly different experience each time they visit Amazon, ThinkGeek, or pick-your-shopping-site, but so what? On-line shoppers expect this and don’t get thrown by it.
The rest of the time, software delivery enables but doesn’t accomplish the desired business change. It’s a necessary but not sufficient condition for the change to happen.
If the difference isn’t clear, imagine you’re a sales rep. IT in your company has embraced DevOps, including continuous integration and delivery throughout the applications portfolio.
You use the company’s CRM system to keep track of which customers you need to contact, when, and about what. Only with DevOps everywhere, every time you open the CRM system you see a different screen layout.
Not what you’d call a dynamite productivity enhancer. Also not something you’ll find discussed very often in the DevOps literature. (I haven’t seen it discussed at all, but I’m sure I just missed it.)
The fact of the matter is, different business areas have different natural change cadences. All aspects of business change have to be orchestrated to match that cadence, from process redesign, to metrics redefinition, to deploying new equipment, to training, and to putting new and changed software into production.
And oh, by the way, even what sounds like the same old stuff really isn’t, because back when the theory for all this was being developed, work was performed by employees sitting at desks in cubicles at a company facility.
In the increasingly permeable enterprise, some affected employees work remotely, some remote and on-site workers aren’t employees at all, and some work has been shifted out of the business entirely. It’s been turned into customer self-service processes, and believe me, the folks who work in what used to be called Purchasing but is now Supply Chain Management aren’t going to have a lot of patience when the screens they use change without warning or preparation.
And so, a modest proposal: Get rid of most of the superstructure. Define projects and initiatives in terms of the desired business change, include coordinated work streams that cover all aspects of putting the change in question into production, and instead of yet another committee to speed things up (yes, the irony was intentional) just incorporate whatever the Change Advisory Board would otherwise do into project governance instead.
Simpler is, after all, usually better.