In order to remain competitive and customer-focused, organisations must respond to changes driven by forces both within and outside the company - from enhancement requests and bug reports to a variety of economic, organisational and regulatory factors.

For example, enterprise IT systems must meet service level agreements (SLAs), and provide the level of flexibility and adaptability to change that was promised by the implementation of service oriented architectures (SOAs). Dominic Tavassoli addresses five of the foremost change management challenges CIOs face today and how to turn these challenges into a business advantage.

The first challenge facing CIOs is the need to replace or upgrade existing, costly IT change management systems. Communications regarding implementing change often comes from various sources and in various formats such as change requests, defects, bug reports, enhancement requests and problem reports. Change data is generally managed using tools such as Microsoft(r) Excel and Lotus Notes(r) and is often found in email threads, phone conversations and staff meeting minutes.

Many organisations lack a common process and supporting products for handling change requests because of the perceived expense. Some change management systems are costly to maintain - you must implement processes, document workflows, automate reporting and integrate the change management system with other IT systems. Implementing, maintaining and documenting this process using multiple, poorly suited tools can be a major overhead expense.

However, the right enterprise change management (ECM) solution provides organisations with a major opportunity to reduce operating costs while managing change effectively and efficiently.

Implement enterprise change management

ECM solutions allow you to replace multiple costly tools with one common system that includes a unique repository that consolidates change management data and processes. These solutions are highly scalable, allowing concurrent access by thousands of users around the world. By using web-based access, they lower both the total cost of ownership (TCO) and deployment. ECM solutions provide web services and APIs for easier, cost-effective integration with the software used by all teams and stakeholders, reducing the 'silo effect'.

Lower costs are realised by support for a paperless process and the reduction of travel expenses by promoting global access, reporting and virtual meetings. For example, a change control board (CCB) no longer has to meet physically - scheduling problems and travel time can be avoided altogether with online, real-time reports and decision-making.

Enterprise change management brings all stakeholders togetherEnterprise change management brings all stakeholders together

In addition, some vendors provide ready-to-use process packages that have been successfully deployed within other organisations. This is a low-risk entry point that can be adapted to meet your organisation's specific needs.

Simple steps to successful deployment

To ensure a smooth transition to a common ECM solution, migration utilities help transfer historical data, while ECM integration capabilities co-ordinate with legacy systems for a progressive implementation.

User acceptance is greatly improved if the solution has an intuitive, role-based interface, is easy to use and provides clear added value. These kinds of ECM solutions supply role-based interfaces that display the right information in the right format for each type of user profile. A developer may see assigned task information complete with priority and context, whereas a department manager might see a list of critical issues, productivity metrics and general trends. The display itself should match the organisation's visual identity, including the use of colour coding, logo and vocabulary.

The solution should become part of the corporate culture and easily accessed from the corporate intranet, facilitating end-user acceptance. This approach reduces development costs and TCO while boosting productivity.

Improve governance and compliance

Today, organisations must meet an increasing number of compliance requirements for regulations and support various appraisal systems including Sarbanes-Oxley, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Basel II and the UK's Data Protection Act, as well as initiatives such as Capability Maturity Model(r) Integration (CMMI), Software Process Improvement and Capability dEter-mination (SPICE), ISO 9000, Agile, Six Sigma, and ITIL®.

Compliance with these requirements must be planned, implemented and demonstrated. Because making the changes needed to meet these requirements always come with the risk of poor communication and co-ordination, change management is essential for successful governance and compliance.

Guarantee data integrity and consistency

The first step is to improve control over the organisation's data. IT must ensure the data's integrity, security and reliability because the information is used for both executive decision-making and traceability demonstrations. Checking for data conflicts, an even greater challenge, requires a lot of manual work and has a high probability that errors will be missed.

ECM solutions provide customisable interfaces for consistent data capture across the organisation. And, by providing a central repository, they avoid conflicts and enable fast cross-checking report generation. Controlled access rights and e-signature functionality guarantees that the data is reliable, secure and safe from unauthorised modification.

Enforce a controlled, repeatable process

The next step is to implement a consistent, documented workflow and change process across the organisation. Before investing in approved, documented processes, IT must be able to enforce the processes and demonstrate compliance.

ECM solutions provide customisable workflow engines that allow organisations to define the states, transitions and rules of their process. Ready-to-use process packages simplify and accelerate deployment. Web interfaces bring global teams of analysts, developers, testers, managers and production specialists together by providing a common, repeatable process for managing change requests.

Role-based, formalised use of the change management system displays information relevant to each category of user at each step in the process. This ensures that end-users are aware of the benefits the process provides, reducing pushback.

Provide audit information and reporting

In addition to compliance, adherence to standards must be demonstrated in order to satisfy regulatory requirements. Audits - both internal and external - require extensive reporting and metrics on different types and levels of information. By deploying an ECM solution, management can produce reports and charts generated in real time from the data repository, without impacting team productivity. Audits are responded to more quickly and with confidence. The common repository provides overall visibility into process, trends and progress.

Improve productivity, reduce costs

Errors introduced when capturing or modifying a requirement and defect content inevitably lead to costly rework and maintenance. By addressing this issue, organisations can tackle a major, often overlooked cost centre.

By providing consistent data capture forms, and communicating modifications and ensuring traceability across teams and sub-systems, ECM solutions help teams avoid or identify errors early in the life cycle, before the cost to fix them escalates. This reduces uncertainty regarding the schedule, making it more likely that time-to-market targets will be met. Overall cost of development is reduced, while at the same time team motivation is improved by the elimination of frustrating rework.

Lower the cost and risk of responding to change

To help address change faster and at a lower cost, ECM solutions automate notifications to appropriate team members, track responses and make discussion histories available to all relevant stakeholders. By following change dependencies and implementation and deployment status, they formally analyse the impact of a change on the product across the life cycle and the supply chain, including both technical and commercial considerations.

Preparation, implementation, review, concurrent approval and implementation of changes are expedited online worldwide. Change reports help identify priorities and triage facilities rank requests in terms of importance so they can be addressed efficiently. This agility shortens the error-handling cycle and helps organisations become more competitive.

Communicate and co-ordinate

Not only does an ECM solution improve your change process, it also provides an invaluable workflow backbone and helps avoid confusion and miscommunication between stakeholders by allowing you to control what information in entered throughout the life cycle, in each state, and for each transition. Fields can be made mandatory (e.g. budget information when deciding to fix a defect) and content quality can be enhanced (e.g. selection from a context-sensitive drop-down box). Information can also be provided on request, for example, a user can subscribe to updates on a particular issue.

Many modern methods and models recommend regular, reliable reporting to increase team efficiency. These include:

  • scrum reports on the work accomplished by each team, issue discussions, priority review and assignment;
  • burn down charts display the work left to do versus remaining time in order to predict when the job will be completed;
  • CMMI causal analysis reports;
  • team to-do lists;
  • release notes;
  • requirements-to-code traceability reports;
  • defect trend analysis;
  • defect ageing reports;
  • team work balance analysis.

Capture, manage and leverage knowledge about change

ECM provides a knowledge base that can be leveraged by project teams. The change database can be searched for previous defects to identify past solutions to similar issues, and how well they succeeded. The impact of team turnover can be controlled by automatically recording comments, actions and decisions. The system can also capture information from partners, subcontractors and outsourced or offshore teams.

A reliable, consistent change repository is a key factor in ensuring the success of future projects. Best practices recommended by the CMMI include capturing metrics on all projects and leveraging them to improve the management of future projects. By continuously and dynamically improving your development process, you can more accurately predict costs and schedules.

Measure and improve your development process

Implementing a common, consistent development process across all projects is the first essential step toward realising deadline and cost control, identifying weak points, and investing in appropriate areas. Standardising on a process that can be continuously improved is not only necessary for current operations, it is crucial if the organisation is to grow while remaining competitive.

Errors and faults identified throughout the development process are captured in the ECM solution. With the information entered during the defect analysis and resolution phases, you can analyse each issue and answer these kinds of questions:

  • When was the problem found?
  • When was introduced it into the process?
  • Was the problem identified or missed during the inspection phases?
  • What are the costs associated with the problem?

CMMI calls this 'causal analysis'. For example, reports may show that a large number of inconsistencies were introduced in the requirements phase, only to be found during the coding phase. This, for example, could point to the need for a longer peer review phase before requirements are approved.

By providing high-level, tangible information on the weak links of the process, ECM allows the vice president of development to identify where to focus process improvement funds in an objective, quantified way.

Figure 2. Tracking the efficiency of process improvement initiatives.

Improve your success rates, justify your actions

ECM solution reports and dashboards display the evolution of key metrics for all projects. Armed with trend reports, process improvement teams can prove the impact of their decisions and justify expenditures on change management products. This makes the case for process improvement much easier and facilitates discussions between field personnel and senior management. By demonstrating a substantial return on investment (ROI), it is easier to build management trust and improve the development process.

Conclusion

Software development teams, challenged with producing complex, high-quality software products often spend too much time co-ordinating their development efforts. These co-ordination challenges, along with increasing competitive pressure and fast time-to-market expectations, have prompted many organisations to look for better, more efficient ways to manage development.

ECM solutions allow development teams to ensure data integrity through a controlled, repeatable process. ECM solutions also improve developer productivity resulting in reduced cost of development and faster time to market. With ECM solutions, organisations can also capture, manage and leverage their change management knowledge to improve current development processes and future success rates while realising a substantial ROI.

Dominic Tavassoli works for Telelogic, an IBM company.