October 21, 2010, 12:14 PM — Think it's hard to sell new systems and processes to the business? Just try making changes to the way IT itself works.
"I've worked with a lot of tough customers, but there's nothing tougher than being in IT and implementing for IT," says David Traynor, business excellence manager in Southern Company's IT department. "They're our brothers and sisters, but they're pretty critical if something doesn't work right or if something isn't explained well. You know you're going to get that extra scrutiny because it's within the family."
Traynor knew he had his work cut out for him as he prepared to roll out a new enterprise change management (ECM) suite from BMC. The business case for the seven-figure investment was clear. The Atlanta-based energy company's IT department was managing some 600 change requests to its computer systems every month.
Some changes were high-risk; others run of the mill. But, without ECM, IT was forced to treat all requests equally. Change review meetings, lasting an hour or more, were held three times a week to go over requests from major to mundane. "Everyone had to wait on the call until it was your turn," Traynor explains. "It was a little bit tedious." So tedious that some people eschewed the process altogether and made changes without review.
But while a more rigorous and automated ECM process is the holy grail of service management, Traynor will be the first to tell you that "nobody in IT is screaming for a new change management process and system."
IT's Firefighter Urge
That could be traced to IT's dirty little secret: IT likes to fight fires. "Following a change management process doesn't give you that feeling of accomplishment, that oomph you get when you're solving a major problem or you're closing a trouble ticket or something's down and you're all pulling together to fix it," says Traynor. "With ECM you're trying to avoid that. You're saying maybe it's better if no one ever called me to put out a fire."
As much as IT preaches process and rigor to the business, as they say, the cobbler's children often go unshod. "I grew up in IT and for a lot of us change management is only for those people who aren't as smart as me. My stuff works," says Traynor. "But we're never as good as we think we are."
[ Southern Company is trying to build a more diverse IT department. For a look at why and how, see CIO's profile of the staffing diversity effort. ]
Rolling out the first phase of the new ECM--asset configuration and change management applications--was in itself an enterprise change management challenge. [For many in IT], it changed their world quite a bit," says Traynor. "They had to log all their changes, gain approval, take all these steps that they weren't being tasked with before."