In today’s dynamic IT environment, the pace of change due to technology upgrades has increased. Organizations need to ensure that the change management process is followed diligently. Hence, having automation in every change management step is critical toward ensuring a stable and reliable change process rollout across business functions as well as smooth transition of services with minimal disruption.
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) defines the best practices an organization needs to follow across all stages of the change management process. Based on risk levels and organization policies, the steps following in designing change management process will vary slightly. For instance, multi-level approvers at every stage of the production environment and non-production environment.
Injecting automation into the change management process
A typical change management process can have automation built-in using simple Run Book Automation/Robotic Process Automation to complex AI and predictive intelligence to minimize disruption during the change. An important aspect to be considered while bringing in automation is to start by looking at the standard changes that could be initiated at pre-defined schedules. These would be low risk and will have known documented procedures as compared to emergency changes or normal changes.
Below is a list of steps followed in the ITIL-defined change management process and areas that can be considered for automation:
- Creating a request for change: Wherever possible, IT organizations should standardize and automate the way that they process change requests. This should include automating and standardizing the process of information capture. Bringing a Virtual Business Analyst (VBA) bot along with standardization of the forms in the IT Service Management (ITSM) tool should enable easy creation of a request for change (RFC) at the point of change. This should be designed as part of the ITSM tool keeping in mind the organization’s requirements. The VBA Virtual Business Analyst bot can capture the requirements and convert this into a form.
- Reviewing and assessing a request for change: Automated e-mail requests sent to stakeholders involved in reviewing and assessing changes is important.
While evaluating the changes, it will be important for the stakeholder to have a view of similar changes and related issues, which would have occurred in the environment, captured in the ITSM tool or the knowledge base. The possibility of having a cognitive search bot that can project relevant information can accelerate decision making at this stage.
- Testing and planning the change: The activities included in planning the change/testing the change, and creating a change proposal, will require a human in the loop, as automating activities here may bring in limited benefits. However, standardizing the process related to these activities can ensure smooth execution of the change management process.
- Implementing the changes and reviewing change management performance: Standard changes that occur frequently and have pre-established procedures with documented tasks could be an area that can be looked at for automation. The risk level is lower here as these are pre-approved and happen at regular intervals. The steps followed to review the post change performance can be automated for standard changes. However, attempting to automate the activities in major and urgent change would be less rewarding as these may not be a regular activity.
- Change closure: can be completed by collation of artefacts related to the change, which can be referenced for future changes and compliance audit reporting. Creation of analytical dashboards utilizing the artefacts will provide team data points related to similar changes while taking decisions for any future changes.
Manual change management methods will not work in today's dynamic environments and it is not prudent to allow changes without following a process. Hence, every organization that is serious about maintaining security, compliance, and reliability of its IT infrastructure should automate the change management process with the best possible options before the demand for IT change overwhelms the current processes.