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Improving change management: how one organization achieved big results


Every IT organization invests in change management to help them support the changes the business needs while minimizing the negative impact of change. Many organizations find it hard to get change management working well; in the worst case the process can be bureaucratic, slow, expensive and ineffective. When this happens people start to work around the process, leading to even worse outcomes as unauthorized changes lead to more incidents and problems.


One of my colleagues has worked with an organization to help them improve their change management process, and the results have been really spectacular. They haven’t finished their journey, but you may be able to learn from what they have done so far.


Initial situation

At the start of their journey, this organization had about 2,000 IT changes every month.

Associated with these 2,000 RFCs there were:

  • 7,800 planning tasks per month (average 3.9 per RFC)
  • 6,200 implementation tasks per month (average 3.1 per RFC)
  • 11,800 approvals per month (average 5.9 per RFC)

Each change needed multiple people to approve it, but most of these did not add much value. Typically there was one manager who actually made the decision for each change, and other approvers weren’t adding a lot of value. It took an enormous amount of effort to chase up and manage this huge number of approvals; this became so bad that some people spent all of their time simply chasing change approvals.


The process required 30 days’ notice for all changes, and it really did take this long because of the number of approvers involved. The business found this long lead time unacceptable.


About 75% of changes were reported as successful, but this included changes that ran over their change window, or that didn’t deliver all of the functionality expected by the business.


How they improved the situation

The change management improvements involved lots of different activities, which worked together very effectively. The most significant improvements were:


1. Automated approval of low risk changes


There is a new automated procedure for initial risk assessment of changes. This looks at factors such as

  • How critical is this CI to the business? – based on the services it supports
  • How fragile is this CI? – based on open incidents and problems, history of incidents, problems, failed changes etc.
  • Will the change fit within a pre-approved change window?

This procedure is integrated with the HP Service Manager tool that is used for change management and provides automated approval of low-risk changes.


 2. Making people accountable for changes they approve


Since most approvers weren’t adding much value, the process was simplified to reduce the number of approvers. Changes that require approval now have just one approver. To make sure that the approvers really think about the possible issues, they were made accountable for the success of changes they approve.


Each change is now monitored very closely for success, and compliance issues such as over-running the change window are reported. Change approvers see reports of the outcome of changes they approved, and are aware of how well they are doing this job.


 3. Integrating the process and tools for software development and service transition


There is now a single person who is responsible for the tools and processes for change management, release management and the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This means that the processes and tools now work together to deliver a seamless flow from early in the development lifecycle. When it is time to submit a change request, all the required artifacts are already in place and the tool knows where to find them, so there is much less time and effort needed to submit the RFC and the quality of RFC content is much higher.


Also, every release is assigned a time on the release schedule early in its lifecycle and development is planned to meet that release time. It’s very interesting to see how the philosophy behind DevOps has added significant value to a traditional IT environment that is not using agile development methods.


As part of this process and tool work the process steps were analyzed and each step was categorized as one of:

  • No value add
  • Business value add
  • Customer value add

This categorization helped the process designer to focus on the steps that created value for end customers, with a secondary focus on the ones that added business value. Steps that had no value add were eliminated where possible.


What has been the outcome of these changes?

As a result of these process improvements the amount of work involved in change management has been significantly reduced. Many people who used to spend all their time chasing change requests have been reassigned to other work.


The number of successful changes has increased from 75% to 85%, and this 85% is a true reflection of change success, unlike the earlier 75% figure which included changes that had compliance issues such as over-running the change window.


More than 75% of changes are now approved automatically based on the automated risk assessment. These changes have an even higher success rate than the changes that still require CAB approval.


The time required to approve changes has been significantly reduced. The most complex changes still require 30 days’ notice, but there are now shorter approval times for less complex changes.

  • 17%  of changes now have a 7-day approval time
  • 65% of changes have a 21-day approval time
  • 18% of changes still take 30 days


Where next?

This change management improvement journey is not over. I have described the current state but there are further improvements to come. The change management process will undergo continual improvement, based on measuring and understanding how effective and efficient it is.


One area being investigated is the rating of change requesters based on the success of their previous change requests. This could improve the accuracy of the automated change approval procedure by identifying change requesters who need increased change evaluation, based on their previous history of failed changes.


Learn more about  HP Consulting Services and how HP can help you shift your focus from operation to innovation.




If you want more ideas to help you think strategically about IT services, then read some of my other blogs (most recent blog is at the top):


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About the Author



Good post Stuart,


Have you read my diary? This post is like a copy of my last 3 months.


I believe that one of the main issues is to get a common view of what changes is supposed to do and what the scope is.

Many organisation only account the move to production as a change (in the project at least) but at the same time they express a great need for manage their demand channel ( especially in relation to SDLC).


The beauty of working wit tool implementations is that people are forced to convert process into activities.

My advise is to start out with a simple flow , maybe have a central change coordinator that do all approval on behalf to start with.

Identify what you need to control and let all low risk change be preapproved.


I wonder thou about the measurement, what is the definition of a sucessful change?





Thanks for the feedback.


I thought at first that your diary was a reference to a blog, but I realize now that you meant this as a joke.  There's an opportunity for you to contribute more to the ITSM community if you want to start blogging!


 For me, a successful change is one that

  • Delivers the agreed business functionality
  • Is implemented in the agreed time window
  • Does not cause any incidents or problems


Hi Stuart,



Thanks for sharing this great article.  I'm currently working on an initiative on how to improve change management within our organization.  I would like to understand better how the automated approval of low risk changes were integrated in Service Manager tool.  Would there be any additional information on this?







I don't have the details myself, but please send me an email (stuart dot rance at hp dot com) and I will try to get one of my colleagues from HP Software to talk to you about this.


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