(CM) Change management represents a structured way of handling changes to an environment. The goals include providing a process to minimize risk, improving the user experience, and providing consistency with changes. While many companies have their own change management processes, there are steps that are common across most organizations:
- Identify the need for a change. For example, you might find out that your routers are vulnerable to a denial of service attack and you need to update the configuration to remedy that.
- Test the change in a lab. Test the change in a non-production environment to ensure that the proposed change does what you think it will. Also use the test to document the implementation process and other key details.
- Put in a change request. A change request is a formal request to implement a change. You specify the proposed date of the change (often within a pre-defined change window), the details of the work, the impacted systems, notification details, testing information, rollback plans and other pertinent information. The goal is to have enough information in the request that others can determine whether there will be any impact to other changes or conflicts with other changes and be comfortable moving forward. Many companies require a change justification for all changes.
- Obtain approval. Often, a change control board (a committee that runs change management), will meet weekly or monthly to review change requests. The board and the people that have submitted the changes meet to discuss the change requests, ask questions and vote on approval. If approval is granted, you move on to the next step. If not, you restart the process.
- Send out notifications. A change control board might send out communications about upcoming changes. In some cases, the implementation team handles the communications. The goal is to communicate to impacted parties, management and IT about the upcoming changes. If they see anything unusual after a change is made, the notifications will help them begin investigating by looking at the most recent changes.
- Perform the change. While most companies have defined change windows, often on the weekend, sometimes a change can’t wait for that window (such as an emergency change). During the change process, capture the existing configuration, capture the changes and steps, and document all pertinent information. If a change is unsuccessful, perform the rollback plan steps. Send out “all clear” notifications. These notifications indicate success or failure.
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