To make change management easy you need a simple method of tracking, evaluating and recording changes. This can be a simple database or log but in large projects it has evolved into an customised information system in its own right.
As such the system needs to be able to handle:
- Logging requests for changes against products and documentation
- Recording and managing the priority of a particular change
- Logging the decision of a change management authority
- Recording the method and implementation of change
- Tracking implemented changes against a particular version of the product or document
The more structured a system the more secure the change control process, but obviously the more overhead. A balance must be struck between the enforcement of proper procedure and responsiveness of the system.
Change management systems are useful for managing everyone’s expectations too. Often decisions are requested by stakeholders or clients and if proper consultation is not entered into they can sometimes assume they will automatically be included (just because they asked for it). If the volume of change requests is particularly high (as it often is) communicating what’s in and what’s out manually can be difficult. A simple, well understood change management system can often be directly used by stakeholders to log, track and review changes and their approval. This is particularly true for projects that span disparate geographical locations where meetings may not be possible.
In many projects the change management system can be linked to (or is part of) a defect tracking system. Since resolution of a defect is, in effect, a request for change both can often be handled by he same system. The change and defect tracking system can also be linked with version control software to form what is commonly known as a Software Configuration Management (SCM) system. This integrated system directly references changes in the software against specific versions of the product or system as contained in its version control system. The direct one-to-one reference cuts down on management overhead and maintenance and allows the enforcement of strict security on allowable changes.
Nick Jenkins is an IT manager with 10 years experience in software development, project management and software testing. He’s worked in various fields of IT development in Australia, Britain and the USA and occasionally he learned something along the way. Now he lives on the banks of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia, and he publishes the odd guide to help aspiring IT professionals. Nick’s website can be found at www.nickjenkins.net.