Friday, July 21, 2006

Change Management faces a rethink in a Web 2.0 world

Tripwire has published an interesting white paper on "Creating a culture of change management". It is available via the Ziff Davis web site or directly from the tripwire site.

At the same time MySpace has made security changes to their site that disables the viral spread of third party widgets. The changes have been prompted by a flash-based work that has been spreading across MySpace accounts.

These two seemingly independent events raise an important question for those who are embracing Web 2.0. How does Change Management adapt to this fast moving new world?

In the corporate world Change Management has been the province of the IT function. But it is not unusual to see Change Management used as a barrier to change. Many IT departments are risk averse and change is a risk.

Web 2.0 has seen a growth in the use of third party applications. Increasingly new applications are delivered using components from multiple sources. In this environment Change Management breaks down because major software components can no longer be controlled because they come from outside the organization.

The Tripwire white paper talks about characteristics of high performing organizations, as identified by the Institute of Internal Auditors. Those characteristics being a fostering of a change management culture that prevents and deters unauthorized change. However, in a Web 2.0 world all bets are off.

I believe that a new approach is essential. I see Change Management giving way to Change Visibility.

Under the tenet of Change Visibility development and deployment organizations will follow rigorous processes to deploy new hardware, software and processes. Testing and documentation will be critical activities. Change velocity will increase with incremental development that adds increasing functionality in smaller increments. By reducing the scope of each change the potential ramifications and interactions can be more easily identified and assessed.

The social tools we are seeing emerge as part of Web 2.0 need to be adopted by the development and deployment organizations themselves. Change Visibility can't function effectively as an insular process. Change Visibility must extend beyond organizational boundaries. Just as we are seeing Data Center Markup Language being developed as a common language to describe data center environments and elements. I foresee the need for a similar language that focuses on the description of change in systems - System Lifecycle Differential Markup Language prehaps?

In summary, as the velocity of business increases, the vitality and success of an organization will require the rapid, but controlled, roll-out of new functions to support the business. Change Management will give way to Change Visibility where an open communication of planned and actual changes are communicated openly inside and outside an organization. Operations functions can't be isolated and protected from change so it becomes critical that they have complete visibility of all changes that are implemented in the systems they manage, or the systems that their systems interface with.

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