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By Isaac Sacolick, President | CIO | Author

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Transformative IT leaders, including CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs, who want to challenge their own status quo and improve productivity, quality, and team happiness should perform an easy retrospective.

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What’s the one process that innovative Agile development teams loathe? What’s the one meeting that everyone in IT stresses over because their leaders deliberately railroad progress? Or maybe they laugh about it because the meeting has evolved into an administrative and bureaucratic step that just wastes everyone’s time? What process is leftover from the data center days when breaking things was expensive, and automation wasn’t in place to help reduce IT missteps?

That’s right, you guessed it. It’s the change advisory board or CAB.


Transforming the Change Advisory Board is Long Overdue

Don’t get me wrong! I don’t want to go back to the days when everyone had direct access to production systems... and no one understood who was changing what, when, and why. Those were insane times, and changes back then created outages, lost productivity, and generated other risks. 

The CAB was part of pre-Agile and pre-DevOps change management practices. It worked well enough during times when IT was more likely to break something than make improvements. It slowed down innovation, but at the time CABs were introduced, IT’s primary charter was to “run the business.” Also, our data centers were filled with multifaceted enterprise systems, monolithic applications, and complex infrastructure configurations. Since it was nearly impossible for many in IT to understand the risks of their changes and the dependencies with integrated systems, the CAB was introduced to serve as the experts to evaluate and decide what changes were ready for production. 

While a compliant IT department still requires change management, separation of duties, and controlled system access, it can achieve those goals without an ivory tower advisory board and inefficient CAB meetings.

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A Change Management Process for Agile and DevOps Organizations

Let’s reconsider a modern set of requirements and approaches for an efficient IT change management process. Here are the basics:

  1. Aim to have the overwhelming majority of frequent changes automated with continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) and Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools. Ensure that these tools are configured to push changes, but also support rollbacks when required.
  2. Leverage change management tools like Jira Service Desk that connect developers, testers, and operations on the schedule and context of upcoming changes.
  3. Document the request for changes (RFCs) and post-implementation reviews (PIRs) in a centralized wiki, like Confluence, with many fields pre-populated from Jira Software and other integrated development and operational tools.
  4. Leverage StarCIO Agile Planning so that collaborations around the risk and impact of changes are made transparent early when planning for releases. 
  5. Rename the CAB to the Change Consultative Partners (CCP), with a restated mission of helping and consulting with teams on implementing successful changes. This group goes beyond advisory and consults with teams on best practices. And instead of being a commanding board, they now partner with Agile and operations teams and enable successful changes.  
  6. Educate developers, testers, and operations on change requirements, best practices on automating changes, where to find the tools like RFCs and change schedules, and their responsibilities on reviewing upcoming changes.
  7. Integrate the CMDB with Jira Service Desk to ensure that this database is updated when changes are approved.
  8. Configure a workflow in Jira Service Desk to support the CCP review process. This can validate proposed schedules for conflicts, automate approval for low-risk changes, notify multiple teams on upcoming changes, update the CMDB, and close releases in Jira Software.
  9. Integrate Jira with Slack or Zoom to support virtual CCP discussions for when automated approvals are not sufficient and requested changes require additional collaboration. 
  10. Service-oriented IT departments should also tackle other ITSM improvements, including request management, major incident management, root cause analysis, and IT knowledge management, using integrated tools like Jira Service Desk, Confluence, and OpsGenie.
  11. Larger IT organizations should consider restating key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to the degree of automation, successful changes, and others that incentivize teams on target improvements and behaviors.
  12. Consider leveraging a top Atlassian partner to help with the configuration and training.

As transformations go, this can be a simple transformation to implement when there is organizational alignment, easy-to-implement tools, and an experienced partner guiding the implementation.

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Why it’s Time to Transform the CAB Now

Agile development teams have performed incredible work to align with customer needs and improve end-user experiences. They have upgraded their technology platforms and development practices to enable releasing application improvements quickly and frequently. Highly transformative teams then look to measure and understand the customer impact. 

It’s through this rapid plan, deliver, release, and learn cycle that Agile teams evolve applications to changing customer and end-user needs. And it’s the DevOps culture, practices, and tools that drive the required productivity.

But CIOs and IT leaders are at an inflection point in driving digital transformation, leading IT teams, and enabling collaborative cultures. 

More organizations are working remotely and targeting equal or improved productivity. Customers and supply chains are affected, and that requires a review of customer needs and operational considerations. And because many organizations are financially impacted by COVID-19, leaders must readjust strategies and priorities.

We’re living at a time when IT leaders will be asked to do more with less, especially for businesses with impacted revenue and operations from COVID-19.

The opportunity for CIOs, CTOs, and IT leaders is to leverage their investments in Agile practices and DevOps to drive service improvements, IT team productivity, and cost savings. The cost savings are driven by standardizing Agile development,  DevOps, and service management with one integrated platform.

By eliminating a traditional CAB and replacing it with better IT tools, automation, and a collaborative CCP, IT leaders are poised to handle a future of new opportunities and challenges. 

Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, guides companies through smarter, faster, innovative, and safer digital transformation programs that deliver business results. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, industry speaker, and blogger at Social, Agile, and Transformation.

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