Written By: Pamela Erskine
When will you implement changes to applications or the infrastructure? What about implementing security patches? In today’s business environment, there is never a good time for change. We are no longer a society that is technology enabled. We are technology dependent and in some cases, technology addicts.
As part of the change management process, most organizations have predefined change windows and procedures that address emergency patches or security issues yet end users indicate that their work is disrupted when the changes occur.
Indeed their work may be disrupted. It is important to note that both planned and unplanned disruptions to IT service are often poorly communicated and it requires a focused effort to establish processes that work for end user communications. We should also consider the end users expectations which are based on not only internal communications but their experiences with technology outside of the workplace. Technology is so embedded in our daily lives that the typical end user is receiving service from their cable provider, mobile provider, personal device manufacturer, etc. Their experience with vendors in their personal lives plays a role in their expectations of IT while they are at the office. If the end user never receives an email from their home internet provider about a planned service disruption, they may not understand why IT must disrupt their internet service at work due to a server upgrade or emergency patch. Is this fair? Maybe not, but it is the reality of the world we live in today.
Changes to applications and infrastructure are always going to affect the end user. The goal is to minimize the impact and maintain customer satisfaction. What steps can IT take to minimize the impact on the end user and improve the end user’s perception of IT during periods of disruption?
· Work with the customer to establish pre-defined windows for change. Take the time to understand periods of critical business activity such as month end closing, payroll, or invoicing. Limit change during these periods.
· Ensure that availability requirements are factored into the design of IT services
· Include availability requirements and maintenance windows in your service level agreements (SLA). Ensure that underpinning contracts that support your SLAs are aligned with these requirements.
· Post the SLAs as well as the actual performance against the targets. Be transparent about performance.
· Invite your customers to be a part of the Change Advisory Board (CAB). If they are unable to participate in the CAB, establish a procedure to ensure they sign-off on changes occurring to their critical business applications or infrastructure
· Ensure your customers are aware of the emergency change procedures including how these changes will be managed and communicated.
· Establish roles and responsibilities associated with customer and end user communication. Include both planned and unplanned changes in this discussion. If you have business relationship managers, who communicates with them? Do they communicate with the customer regarding changes? Who communicates with the actual end user?
· Communicate about both planned and unplanned outages. Push communications via email, text messaging, etc. but also create mechanisms where the end users can pull information when they want or feel they need it. When communicating, always include information regarding why the change is necessary.
· Routinely review the change window schedule with the customer to ensure IT is effectively minimizing the impact of changes on the business.
There is never a good time to make changes to the technology environment but with some planning and focused effort on communication, we can minimize the impact to the business and keep our customers happy.
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