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Is change control getting out of hand?

By markross ·
I have been working network support for about 15 years now. The move to a change control system was something I regarded as a smart move. What I discovered was that it started a whole new empire staffed people with an accountant mentality. The work flow has also come to a halt, and the ratio of time invested to complete the paperwork, versus the amount time to actually complete the work requested in the neighborhood of 3 to 1, or 4 to 1. The downside is that the real accountants are now pointing at the lack of productivity by networking staff when it comes to cutting costs. What are the rest of you out there seeing when it comes to your experience with change control? Thanks!

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A necessary evil that has gotten out of control

by Why Me Worry? In reply to Is change control getting ...

I feel your pain and know exactly what you're going through because I've been there before. A law firm I used to work for implemented a product called "HEAT" for change control management. Not only was the product cumbersome and confusing to use, it was loaded with bugs and simply wasn't designed right. Anyhow, the biggest problem with this was waiting for approval from IT managers before a new change request was implementd. At times, the IT manager was too busy, out of the office, on vacation, or was too lazy to check the request queue to approve or disapprove requests. Stuff wasn't getting done on time and then the finger pointing games started and as usual, the IT manager wins and us poor engineers and admins get the shaft instead. Corporate politics as usual, and until IT managers start stepping up to the plate and not putting things off or passing the buck, this problem won't ever go away.

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Best system I've seen

by JamesRL In reply to A necessary evil that has ...

I don't really care what system you use to track - I've used excel spreadsheets.

What we would do is have a weekly meeting, review all the outstanding changes, understand the impact of those changes on each other, on already scheduled activities and try to see where they might fit. Its nto the tracking method, its making the decision - we had the change sponsor, the network gang, the data centre gang etc all in the room to decide wheter it made sense.

We tried to fit changes into a regular maintenance window. We tried to build enough buffer to test the changes during the window and enough time to back out if needed. We also ensured that if there could be a backout plan, everyone knew what it was and how to initiate it.


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Size of the company matters too

by markross In reply to Is change control getting ...

I think that some of us a damned by the size of the company we are supporting. Where as a smaller company might get together during a meeting to review their changes on a weekly basis (don't I wish). But a larger company (like the one I now support) has works and approvers spred all over the place. Chasing down folks to get an approval before a change is a waste of my companies, and my time. We spent a great deal of the 90's becoming more productive in our jobs, especially in IT. Now new processes are being put in place that drive a wedge between the person that can fix the problem and the equipment, or application that needs the fixing. The wedge is change control. There must be some sense of how change control is implemented and what it's goals are. Some suggest that because the word "Control" is used, that this is to over see all that goes on within a network only with their approval. This is a poor suggestion to how to use such a system. Checks and balances, yes! Act like you are a God, not! What I am seeing out there now for change control does not look good. I am looking for better models to suggest.

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Agree with you completely

by rhomp2002 In reply to Size of the company matte ...

The company I worked for before I retired had 190K employees all over the world. Data processing people everywhere. Trying to get all the signatures was a nightmare. We had telecon meetings to discuss all these changes but due to one of the senior members we ended up rehashing all the minor stuff to the point that it took 2 hours of which the major changes got about 10 minutes if that and we never got the final word because just about that time the senior members would have to go to another meeting just when we needed their input and approvals. We tried to handle it by email but that ended up with the same problem.

Then there was the problem of stuff that was important for Europe or Asia but not the US. That was another one that used up all sorts of time where we were supposed to hang in there listening while all this other stuff was gone over and over so the US senior members could understand it. What we should have done was divide up the meetings so that the US stuff only could be handled by itself, the foreign stuff by itself and the joint stuff by all of us. Could never get the seniors to agree to that. Result was trying to get the clients to go along with us until the signatures could be gotten.

I sometimes wonder how these people ever got their senior jobs. Was it just that everyone else left who was above them? Peter principle in action? Apparently the changes that our clients were screaming for were low on their totem poles.

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Change Control Itself Should CYA

We do change control here as well, we are required to by Sarbanes-Oxley.
It is a time-consuming, laborious process...but it does have a couple of upsides.
One of them is that CYA (Cover Your A**) should be a part of the system.
We are required to wait for documented IT management approval on all changes. We do this by using the MS Outlook "voting" feature, and attaching the sent message (with its tracking tab, saved as an .MSG file) to the work order.
This not only provides SOX proof of the approval without signatures, it lets whoever is complaining about lack of productivity see when the message was sent and when the manager clicked the "Approve" button.

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Nice point

by markross In reply to Change Control Itself Sho ...

You provide a good point, and one the I forgot about. Thanks. I also like how you used MS Outlook as a tool in the process. Unfortunately I work in a Notes shop and will have to research if the same feature exists in Notes. I appreciate the input.

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Notes Shop

by Tig2 In reply to Nice point

Recently left one- used a specific change control database that had the decision tree built in for electronic sigs. Especially good if there is a hierarchy that has to be followed. The way that Notes handled the notification it had to be "passed" but each signature received went back to the originator.

Grab your Notes Database Designer and ask him/her what thoughts they have.

Change control can be a good thing. I have seen some nightmare cases where it wasn't followed. Broke a whole lot of remote users for about three months before we were finally able to track down the root of the problem.

Oh- designed correctly, that Notes database can also serve as a dashboard for changes that are waiting on approval.

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Remember it well

by rhomp2002 In reply to Is change control getting ...

Last employer instituted one and it was so complicated that it took longer to figure out how to put the entries into change control than it did to make the changes and do all the testing and implementation. We had people complaining all over the place from users to big clients wondering when the change was going to be implemented so they could do their work. Disaster city!! I ended up putting one man in charge of making the entries and the rest of us did the work.

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Was the product called HEAT?

by Why Me Worry? In reply to Remember it well

Biggest piece of sh*t software I've ever seen designed for change control.

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Not sure - it has been almost 5 years

by rhomp2002 In reply to Was the product called HE ...

I know that you had to define all sorts of events and everything had to be done in a specific sequence which was not the sequence I ever saw anything done in. They had no mechanism for handling emergency updates when a huge problem came up that the existing system could not handle when some other systems made changes. They had no way to make changes to multiple systems at once and coordinate the changes so they all happened at once. Just a total abomination. It took my guy an hour just to enter the change subject into the system and that was before you even made the changes. Then you had to put all the different changes in separately with all kinds of comments for each one. If the changes also required changes to other systems you had to make sure that all your changes and the other changes went in at the same time outside the change control. We were in NYC and the one part of the change control was in Delaware, another was in South Dakota, a third was in Tampa, and a fourth was in Colorado. All that was in addition to the master controllers who were in NYC. Unbelievable - and they bought this boondoggle!!

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