The Difference Between Change and Release Management

A reader recently asked me to comment on the difference between Change and Release Management. The first question “is it a request or proposal?” is a good one.  When we use the term proposal, normally we are speaking about major changes that will involve significant risk, cost or organizational impact.  Proposals are normally initiated by the portfolio management process.  They can also be submitted by a program or project management office.  Again remember that each organization is unique and how they do this and at what level it takes place can be different from organization to organization. This is defined at a high level, but the details necessary will depend on the organizational requirements. 

For the most part before the new or significantly changed service is chartered it is critical that the proposed change be reviewed for its potential impact on other services, shared resources and the change schedule. These proposals are submitted to change management before being chartered so the service provider can identify any potential conflicts for resources or other issues.  Authorization of the proposal does not immediately mean approval of implementation, but allows the proposal to be chartered so that service design (infrastructure, services or development (software) activities can begin.  These proposals should include, a high level description of the new or changed service, including any business outcomes to be supported and the utility and warranty requirements. A business case which will define risks, identified issues, alternatives, as well as the budget and financial expectations. Finally it should have a schedule for the design and implementation of the change.  Remember that we must be agile in our thinking and as we move forward and gain information and knowledge these items can change over time.

Once the proposal has been reviewed by change management and all issues or potential conflicts have been accounted for, the proposal will be authorized and the change schedule can be updated to include implementation dates of the proposed change.  After the change is chartered, RFCs will be used in the normal way to request specific changes.  Within the RFCs we will begin to define items at the CI level and technical details will be defined and documented. 

Although ITIL is a waterfall methodology it doesn’t mean that there can’t be connections back and forth between design and transition.  Remember there are very tight connections between change, release and deploy and that some design and all building and testing happens within this space.

Deployment is handled within the four phases of release and deployment.  Change management authorizes release and deployment to move forward as specific criteria gets met. In general change management authorizes release and deployment planning (phase1), authorizes release build & test (phase 2), check into the DML (phase 3) and then finally the deployment (phase 4).  Of course at the end of deployment we will do a post implementation review (PIR) for lessons learned.

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