The focus of change management is the strategies and tactics used to support and track organizational changes.
Organizations are often forced to change due to several different reasons - rebranding, new regulations, market changes, etc. Such changes are usually all-encompassing and include all the organization’s infrastructures and systems.
The size of the organization affects the complexity of the process. Even though core changes can happen to companies of all sizes - usually the bigger the business is, the more difficult the operation becomes. The whole process can take a very long time and the results aren’t instantly visible.
Change management helps minimize the risks and achieve the goals better. There are many ways in which that can be done - like careful planning, frequent checks and balances, enforcing regulations and policies, auditing, reviewing documentation, etc. Basically, it’s on the change management to decide what changes will be implemented, how they will be implemented, and with what strategies and approaches.
The whole process can feel too bureaucratic. Especially for the organization’s IT sector that is used to DevOps. On paper, the slow and tedious nature of change management is contrary to the DevOps principles of speed and efficiency. However, in reality, they can work side-by-side and even positively affect each other.
ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) is a framework developed by AXELOS, a British government initiative. ITIL’s primary goal is to establish an industry-standard set of best practices that IT companies can use in their processes.
Despite being a government initiative, organizations don’t have to follow this framework because it’s more of a recommendation rather than a formal regulation. Among other things, ITIL provides a set of procedures for change management.
One of the most known ITIL components is CAB - Change Advisory Board. The purpose of CAB is to assess and prioritize changes and approve change requests. Because there are many steps in the change approval process, and CAB usually does them all manually, it can take quite some time. This can create frustration in certain sectors when they request smaller, negligible changes.
Thankfully, newer versions of ITIL recognized this problem and made changes accordingly.
ITIL 4 acknowledges that not all changes are equally complex or important. Therefore it advises that simpler and more essential changes get implemented more quickly. Even though change management is still a very rigorous, structured, and bureaucratic process, such changes seem to follow the same train of thought that is behind DevOps principles.
The purpose of DevOps is to speed up software release cycles with continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) process. The careful and bureaucratic nature of change management slows everything down, which may be counterintuitive to DevOps.
Still, that doesn’t mean they exclude one another. With these two frameworks done correctly, the organization can reap great benefits. Luckily, both concepts can be easily applied.
As mentioned above, the CAB decision-making process can feel like a road bump to DevOps. CAB isn’t the best in rapidly implementing changes. And while these two concepts have somewhat opposing views on how change should be managed, both are developed as tools to address change - even though ITIL has written specific practices, and DevOps principles can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly. Therefore there is no reason for them to not successfully coexist.
Still, in practice, DevOps practices and principles can bring automation to formally structured ITIL processes. Especially in release, configuration, and deployment management. Change management thus becomes more fluid, and structured as a cycle.
Change management is created to deal with larger-scale, all-encompassing changes in organizations. DevOps ideas can help make this go quickly and more smoothly by breaking down big changes into bite-sized chunks. Both concepts offer unique approaches and work the best when combined.
Finding and optimizing the right balance achieves better business outcomes.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that change is the only constant in life. Organizations are forced to change due to a variety of reasons - some of them being better for the organization than others. Change management is a set of tactics and strategies developed to implement the change process more smoothly. ITIL, the widely known industry standard framework, offers specific practices for change management. However, some of them can seem to be at odds with DevOps principles and slow down the whole process. For the best results, it’s best to combine those two concepts and find the optimal middle ground.
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