Agile Change Management

I always hear people say ‘Don’t like the weather, wait an hour it will change’.  The one constant in our lives is change. In business today, customers, users and stakeholders all have the expectation that as IT service providers we can and should be able to handle change requests at an ever-increasing pace.  Yet they still have the expectation that an appropriate response to all requests for change entails a considered approach to assessment of risk and business continuity, change impact, resource requirements, change authorization and especially to the realizable business benefit. For us to be able to do change management in an Agile environment, does that mean we must give up those requirements for speed and agility?

The purpose of Change Management is to control the life cycle of all changes enabling beneficial changes to be made.  I was once told by a very wise thought leader ‘Being agile is a state of mind.  It’s more perspective than prescription.’  Why can’t we have a change management process that includes in its perspective being customer-centric, lean, adaptive, measurable and results-oriented, all agile qualities?  

If you think about it, the goal of being agile is to enable your change management process.  The idea isn’t to control changes to customer requirements, but to allow them to be recorded in a way that increases flow. This allows the customer to be engaged throughout, thereby shortening and amplifying the feedback loop and by creating policy around repeatable changes where we employ the understanding that repetition and practice is the prerequisite to mastery.

The reliance on IT services and underlying information technology is now so complex that considerable time can be spent on assessing the impact of business change on IT and analyzing the impact of a service or IT change on the business.  By engaging scrum and its iterative and incremental approach we can reduce the need for large complex changes which in turn reduces risk, costs and time constraints.  By employing lean practices, we can eliminate the need for overly cumbersome and time-consuming activities. Remember simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done.

Change management challenges are not eliminated by the introduction of Agile methods. There may be any number of reasons why we engage Agile methods, either because of external market space forces or the introduction internally of a DevOps philosophy. Agile provides a disciplined, streamlined way to manage the unending array of changes that are needed to remain competitive and relevant. Agile iterations provide working systems earlier, enabling owners and users to recognize and address needed changes earlier. Change management in Agile environments engage a shift left mentality.  Changes don’t just come at the end of the development cycle.  Agile methods give you a way of acknowledging that change management is certain and that both development and operational teams need to facilitate its incorporation early in project / service / process lifecycles.

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