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How to overcome barriers while implementing the ITIL/ISO 20000 Change Management process

When talking to the people working in IT Service Management (ITSM), much of the language sounds sophisticated: Incident Management, Service Desk, escalation, priority, resolved, authorized…etc. But, once we get to Change Management, the tone of the conversation changes. Yes, it seems that Change Management causes most of the controversies in ITSM.

Maybe it’s easier when we talk about ISO 20000 implementation: there is a set of requirements you need to fulfill if you want to achieve certification. One of them is – you guessed it – Change Management. Therefore, implementing Change Management, i.e., the motivation for implementation, is relatively easy to explain. When implementing ITIL processes – things get complicated. You are implementing something from which you believe you will receive some positive effect, e.g., being more efficient, gaining control over your processes and organization, or increasing the quality of delivered services and customer satisfaction. Meaning – you are doing this freely, without any push except that you believe it will help you and your business. But, do all people involved in, or affected by, Change Management have the same point of view? You might be surprised.

Where do the challenges come from?

Change, as such, is the greatest barrier of all and causes many other excuses. People are, in general, not immune to change. Quite the opposite: the majority of us are resistant to change and prefer the “status quo.” That’s the “safe area” – a situation where everything is known and where people feel comfortable.

But, life is different. Changes are all around us. It’s the same with IT. Business conditions, and therefore requirements towards IT, undergo constant change. Sometimes these are small changes, but sometimes the changes are significant, and they cause a lot of “mess.” People are reluctant to change and, depending on the level of resistance, they will fight against it. I saw examples where people avoided the agreed procedure or implemented changes on their own. Can you imagine a situation where everyone feels free to implement change at his own convenience and schedule? I have seen such changes, but I have also seen the results of them. Believe me, that’s not a story with a happy ending.

So, change and people involved in or affected by that change are, usually, one of the greatest barriers in change implementation. But, what are the other ones? Here are a few examples:

  • The process – it’s very important how the Change Management process is set up and how is it controlled, i.e., managed. That means a clear description of who is doing what, when, and what is the authorization model. Authorization brings us to the next barrier.
  • Responsibility – “Now I have to authorize something.” OK, but who and in which situations? And, consequently, that means that there is a responsibility for those activities. And, everyone is careful once faced with responsibilities.

Management support – well, you can’t do it without them, so how do you gain their support? I would consider this to be an open-ended question. It depends on so many parameters, but one thing is certain – you have to gain management support. Since that (gaining management’s support) has to be done right at the beginning – that’s an excellent test for you and your idea, ability, and skills.

Change Management process implementation barriers

Figure: Change Management process implementation barriers and their management

How to overcome the barriers?

First of all, talking about overcoming the above-mentioned barriers is more theoretical than possible in real life. That means that once you finish “the battle” with one of them, another one pops up. And it goes in a circle. Does that mean that nothing can be done? No, certainly not. Let’s see some real-life examples that could help.

Tools – they are one of yours best allies. Why is that? Well, tools will let you control the process in several ways:

  • Documentation, i.e., mandatory information. Well, if you declare a certain field (e.g., reason for change) as mandatory, than the requestor can’t proceed before this information is entered.
  • Exact procedure – the user interface in your tool will control the process flow. Can you wish for more than that?
  • Logging – all steps and everything that is done in the scope of the change implementation is documented. That’s your control mechanism.

Management – like every other process, Change Management needs to be managed. But, in the case of Change Management, the consequences of unsuccessful change implementation can be far reaching. Therefore, it’s important that you have your eyes on the process activities all the time.

Authorization – maybe it was already mentioned, but the authorization model (i.e., who is authorizing different kinds of changes and in different steps during the process) is crucial. The most expensive changes are the ones that are implemented (or better to say – tried to be implemented) without authorization. Therefore, a clear responsibility matrix should exist and be followed.

Regulation – why not to write a Change Management Policy? It’s a great idea, because everyone involved in the Change Management process will easily get a clear picture about the process, responsibilities, activities, and authorization. And then you can require responsibility from everyone involved in the process.

No cookbook for all organizations

The fact is that it’s easy to complain about how the Change Management process has many barriers during implementation. But, on the other side, there is much you can do to overcome them. Be careful, because there is no single concept adoptable by many (different kinds of) organizations.  This means that every organization is unique and it has to have the organization’s specifics in mind during the whole implementation process. And, if it doesn’t work – don’t be afraid to change the process until it’s perfect. That’s only – a change.

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Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.