How do you know if an individual change or the change process as a whole was successful?
This question can be answered by creating a feedback loop. The components of this loop are incident records, problem records, and RFCs (change records). By linking these three components together, we can begin to determine the effectiveness of change management.
Changes often introduce new errors into the infrastructure. These errors are identified and recorded through incident records. Incidents that have significant impact become problems. We know from previous sections that we always link incident and problem records together. Now we close the feedback loop by linking incidents and problems to RFCs.
This allows us to determine the impact of any given change. If a change introduces a few incidents but no problems, then it can be considered to have met the test of causing minimum impact to the production environment. If a change can be linked to many incidents and some low category problems, then it can be considered to have a significant impact on the production environment. If a change can be linked to many incidents and many problems or even one high category problem, then it can be considered to have had a serious impact on the production environment.
By aggregating this information for all changes during a given period, we begin to understand the impact that change management has on the production environment.
This concept can be taken even further by identifying incidents that are linked to changes that were not approved through the change management process. This identifies how well the change management process has been implemented and adopted. If the number or category of incidents and problems related to unmanaged changes is high, then the change management process as a whole may be failing.
Recognizing how these processes interact identifies a critical point in determining how to structure your organization and what kinds of systems to deploy. It is critical to ensure that your organization is not sub-divided to the point where the benefits of this kind of feedback loop are broken. Likewise, it is critical to have all of these processes managed in a single integrated system. The major software vendors are very much aware of these interactions. Their products are designed to seamlessly bring out these benefits when used properly.
This loop is particularly broken in companies that outsource their IT operations in a piecemeal fashion with each vendor using their own systems. Companies that do this often save visible pennies at the cost of hard to see dollars.