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Effective Change Management

1. Communication

When making changes to production hardware and software, communicate those changes and their associated risks to all involved, from end users to IT management. This may be the biggest key to success. Effective communication between users and IT helps to identify conflicts and prevent confusion. It gives the user community better control over the impact downtime. And open communication helps users understand the efforts required to maintain an efficient infrastructure and makes them feel they're part of the team.

2. Authorization

Form a team of user representatives, business line managers and IT admins to authorize each change. It's important to recognize that no single administrator knows every aspect of the business for which he or she works. It would be a stretch to expect a network administrator to know that the company's fiscal tax season was coming to a close or that the CEO was showing the SEC a set of corporate papers on the same night IT planned to shut down a series of production systems for routine upgrades. By mandating a series of checks and balances for change authorization, the business empowers itself with the ability to prevent change at inopportune times. Clearly, the business must take into consideration the need for system updates; however, IT must also take into consideration the fact that there would be no IT operations if there were no business.

Policies should be in place to identify which users can authorize changes and which users can actually make them. As part of the CM documentation process, IT management should evaluate requests, determine the resources needed, set priorities (often with the assistance of a change-control board) and provide cost estimates to user management. Once user management has approved the costs and any risks associated with the change, IT management should assign the appropriate staff and schedule the change.

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