Managing Changes and Releases

Properly managing and controlling changes improves quality and reduces errors, costs of rework, and costs of fixing errors. Bundle work into releases with established release dates to maximize efficiencies. Have a procedure and process for changes that you follow for all changes whether they are applications, hardware, system software, network, or desktop changes. Some companies claim to have a great change management process but then admit to not using it for infrastructure changes. Have a process in place for emergency changes that still allows for review and approval of changes.
Ensure proper and thorough testing of changes with the amount of testing variable depending on the risk of the change and the level it could affect the business. Make sure you have a complete test environment to accurately test changes. Complete stress tests and regression tests as necessary. Review capacity planning and the impact on capacity for changes that have a major impact. Assess the impact on availability and performance.
A different individual than the person making the change should review and approve the change. Sometimes, multiple sets of eyes can spot quality problems or potential ramifications. Many companies have formal change advisory boards to review changes and to communicate to all areas of the organization. For any change, identify risks and determine an appropriate back-out plan or rollback process for changes that go wrong. Improvising during the stress of a rollback is not a good practice.
Communicate changes to all areas of the organization, including both IT and the business areas that are affected. Properly train users for any changes that affect them or their business process. Companies have found automated tools to help manage changes to be very useful. Whether you use tools or manual methods, document all changes. Use scripts, utilities, or tools to automate the installation process of changes and releases. Track metrics that report the quality of changes or issues resulting from changes.

Asset and Configuration Management

Having up-to-date information on assets with basic asset management software provides the help desk with complete information when the user calls for support, which saves time. There is significant cost savings in implementing inexpensive automated tools (e.g., LANDesk, Zenworks) for inventory of hardware and software. Inventory information is most helpful in an environment with diverse hardware and software. If you do not have asset management software, keep an inventory of hardware and software components in a spreadsheet.
The inventory should include demographic information, such as the person responsible, the location, and the area of the organization using the asset. Inventory information should also include product information, such as vendor, version, release, serial number, maintenance, license, value, and cost. Update and verify the information as the asset moves throughout the life cycle or is used in other processes, such as the problem management process when issues are reported. Also, report and review asset information on a regular basis. If you lease equipment, make sure you keep accurate records so you are able to account for and return equipment at the end of the lease period if necessary.
Top Tip: Standard image

"We saved money by standardizing our operations area. All PCs were a global standard and imaged the same. This saved money with volume discounts, reduced support headcount, as well as realized productivity savings."
—Gail Farnsley
Purdue University
(former Cummins CIO)

Use asset information for inventory management, asset and hardware refresh planning, service history, and license management. Also, have a documented list of standard hardware and software with controls in place so unapproved software or hardware cannot be used. Having effective asset management of software helps in avoiding inflated licensing fees, cost-effectively reallocating licenses, and using only what you need. One company saved a significant amount of money by implementing a tool that provided automatic visibility to installed software and monitored the usage, or lack thereof. They used this information to ensure compliance with software licenses, to monitor adherence to corporate policies, to redistribute software licenses, and to assist with renewal negotiation with the vendors. In fact, some companies reported a cost savings of up to 30 percent of software licenses by having a good asset management process in place.
Have an up-to-date network configuration chart and picture of the business applications environment. It saves time since many people need this information to do their jobs more effectively.