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ITIL/ISO 20000: What is the job of the Change Manager?

Did you know that changes make up a significant source of new incidents? Sure, here I mean unsuccessful or poorly made changes. Actually, no one likes them, neither the business nor IT. A newly created incident is one of the consequences (a tangible one) of such changes, but frustration, the start of a blame culture, and looking for the “guilty one” are intangible consequences with far-reaching effects. ITIL, as well as ISO 20000, provide a lot of applicable elements to put management of changes under control.

Having a process in place (Change Management, in this case) is one side of the coin. The flip side is to have someone accountable for the process and related activities. That’s the Change Manager. Having responsibility for such an important process like Change Management sets many requirements for the Change Manager. Let’s see the characteristics and activities of the Change Manager.

What are the characteristics of the Change Manager position?

Other than someone being employed as a Change Manager (i.e., it’s someone’s job), according to ITIL – Change Manager is a role. Let me explain this particular role. So, the Change Manager is a person with a respective set of:

  • Responsibilities – e.g., responsibility to organize the CAB (Change Advisory Board, i.e., one of the change-authorizing bodies) meeting, coordinate release activities
  • Activities – e.g., run the CAB meeting, produce minutes of the meeting, evaluate minor changes, communicate with other people involved in change process
  • Authorities – e.g., to authorize certain changes (usually normal changes with minor risk/importance)

There is one more characteristic that the Change Manager has to have – being responsible. Since the consequences of changes are highly visible to customers (and could be far reaching), it’s important that the Change Manager has a high sense of responsibility for the work he performs.

What does the Change Manager do?

So, as you have learned so far, the Change Manager has a pretty broad set of characteristics. That implies – a multidisciplinary person. So are the activities. Here is what Change Managers do:

  • Organizing – The Change Management process is very extensive from an activity point of view. Having many activities requires various people or teams to be involved. The Change Manager is the one who has an overview of the people involved, when and to which extent in the change process. Very often, that involves people who support other processes (e.g., Capacity Management, Information Security Management) or who are not even part of the same organization (e.g., customers, users, or suppliers).
  • Managing – Except in small companies, Change Management encompasses several (or many) people. The Change Manager is the one who organizes and coordinates to make sure that all tasks are performed with the desired results. That could be, for example, ensuring that evaluation of a Change Request is done, or that a Request for Change document contains all needed details, or that action items from the last CAB meeting are finished, or that Release and Deployment performs a test of the required change as scheduled. Since the Change Manager has overall responsibility for activities in the scope of the change process, managing is one of his crucial activities.
  • Escalating – Changes are time sensitive. Here I don’t refer only to emergency changes (i.e., changes that require immediate action), but any change. The point is that changes often require time planning for the implementation (be it a small implementation or a real project). Time planned needs to be controlled, together with efficiency of the implementation. The Change Manager needs to have a bird’s-eye view of the implementation and react immediately when something goes wrong.
  • Communicating – Having a team of people around you requires excellent communication skills. Communication goes in all directions, i.e., inside the Change Management team (if there is one), inside the organization, outside the organization, etc. For this set of activities it’s important that the Change Manager has soft skills, like (already mentioned) communication skills, the ability to listen (and hear the message), presentation skills, etc.

Smaller and larger organizations can have one more difference; i.e., a smaller organization will have one Change Manager (usually having responsibility for some of the other processes, e.g., Service Asset and Configuration Management), but a larger organization can have two or more of them.

Neither ITIL nor ISO 20000 contains a detailed description of the Change Manager role. But, describing in more details, ISO 20000 or ITIL will give you a pretty good idea of the job of the Change Manager.

Hold him tight

Comprehensive IT SM organizations usually support dozens (or more) services. That means that changes are numerous and need to be implemented quickly. That puts additional pressure on Change Managers, who need to make quick decisions and move away from lengthy and bureaucratic processes.

Hiring a Change Manager can be challenging. But, once you have a person, and changes implemented prove the quality of his work – don’t let him go. One sloppily implemented change can mean life or death for your company. So, if you have a good Change Manager, do whatever you can to make him satisfied. It will pay back, many times.

Use this free ITIL or ISO 20000 Gap Analysis Tool to compare your Change Management process with ISO  20000 requirements, i.e., ITIL recommendations.

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.