Engineering

Software Change Management Best Practices

6 min read

Change management plays a critical role in successful software development. 

Just like the most meticulous writers track their changes in Google Docs, the most effective software developers track changes in the software development process. 

Yet, the software change management process remains an untouched subject matter for the common layman. 

So if you want to learn why change management is important for your organization, keep your eyes peeled. More on the software change management process is just below!

What Is Change Management?

Change management processes are preceded by their reputation. Adjectives like difficult and process-heavy are no stranger to change management. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. When you do change management the right way, you get results. 

In software development, change management refers to tracking and managing changes to artifacts, like code or project requirements. 

Artifacts refer to anything that is a by-product of software development. Ergo, change management can similarly account for dependencies, documentation, and even risk assessments. 

A change, naturally, is adding, removing, or modifying any artifact that is part of the software development lifecycle.

You should also get acquainted with the following terminology:

  • Change management models  — refer to the best practices for managing change within your organization  based on research and experience 
  • Change management processes — a sequence of steps or activities for moving a change from inception delivery 
  • Change management plans — define a roadmap for executing a change for optimal management and control 

Modern change management approaches are an efficient form of risk management that provides transparency and context where necessary. 

Managing changes towards effective application development can include:

  • Creating a process for addressing and identifying changes, whether they be bug reports, source code files, or other digital artifacts
  • Determining how to update the status of a file after a change has been made
  • Tracing changes back to the original source code and requirements using historical data
  • Securing access and administrative rights to ensure the right people are making changes with due permission
  • Gathering reports the see the impact of the change on the code or requirements

In other words, getting all your ducks in a row is no small task. But it is, nevertheless, important. 

Why Is Change Management Important?

Change management minimizes disruptions and reduces incidents. Ultimately, this speeds up development and leads to better work output overall. 

For instance, Agile development calls for changes all the time. The whole point of the Agile methodology is to be flexible and adapt to constant change. 

An agile software development team iteratively builds software, responding to feedback throughout the development lifecycle. 

While responding to feedback is really the only way to guarantee customer satisfaction, customers change their minds all the time. 

There are no standardized methods for getting it right the first time. Otherwise, the whole concept of project management would be futile. 

And this is just one example where the importance of change management shines. 

In IT management, making changes to integral systems and services is just another day on the job. 

Remember on Windows, how there’s always that handy System Restore button? 

Or even on your phone, you’ve reverted to an older version of one of your apps because the update didn’t quite sit right with you. 

These are all examples of how changes are largely affecting, no matter how small. It should go without saying that keeping track of those changes is just as important. 

The software change management process, in particular, delivers faster releases, cross-team collaboration, and real-time visibility. 

Types of Changes

The basic theme here is that every change matters. However, some changes matter more than others. Here are three types of changes in a software change management process. 

Standard 

Standard changes are low-risk. They generally happen more than once and you know up-front how the change will be implemented as well as how risky it is. 

In this camp of changes, you’ll find activities like adding memory or storage to a machine. You might even replace a failing hardware component. 

Since these changes are common, they’re not going to drastically deter the project schedule. And there is a well-defined process for these sorts of changes. 

Normal

Normal changes aren’t exactly emergencies. But there isn’t a well-defined process for dealing with them. 

Say you wanted to upgrade to a new content management system (CMS) like HubSpot CMS. This is a big change, but it’s bound to happen for many start-ups. 

Handling the migration process will require a novel and non-standard management strategy. 

You won’t know from the get-go how to implement this change or how it will affect your business.

Emergency/Urgent 

Emergency or urgent changes are the opposite of standard. You’re literally in the middle of a crisis. 

But hopefully, you’ve had enough fire drills to know that running about in a frenzy should never be your first plan of action. 

Instead, you should consult with stakeholders and other authoritative persons to get approval for any unexpected actions. 

That said, agility will dictate how well you recover. If you have a server outage on your hands, for example, you need to get everything back up and running as quickly as possible. 

How you manage changes at this point is entirely dependent on circumstances, but immediacy is key. 

The Change Management Process

The software change management process will differ case-by-case, but here are some steps toward creating a refined management plan. 

1. Change Request

Someone within your organization proposes a change. But this comes with some nuances.

You definitely don’t want your development team to make unnecessary changes willy-nilly. 

Ideally, a change will have some purpose, to improve the software product or an unrelated outcome. 

Having a clear idea of that purpose will help you identify the risks of the change further down the line. 

The proposal notes should take all this into account — risks, implementation, and affected systems. 

2. Change Request Review

Next, the team that proposed the change should present a case to the stakeholders. 

This can include several titles in upper management, financial advisors, and even project managers. 

They will each have different expectations of what light the change will bring. If you’re a stakeholder yourself, you’re to listen with open ears regardless. 

3. Change Plan 

At this point, the change-makers should create an implementation plan or change management plan. 

This roadmap should mark the route of the given change, designating an objective, timeline, budget, testing requirement, and more. 

Again, resource identification and funding are at the crux of any software change management process

The change management plan should provide evidence in the form of data and resources that the project will remain stable in this regard. 

In addition, you can start collecting current data for assessing future milestones. 

4. Change Approval

In many cases, IT organizations have a change advisory board (CAB) to approve all changes. 

But often, this can be a bottleneck in and of itself. To optimize your business, only use the CAB for the riskiest decisions. 

Otherwise, communication is the golden rule of almost any organization. Peer review the change plan with everyone involved. 

5. Change Implementation 

Implement the change and document whatever takes place from thereon. Monitor and manage risks. 

Resistance is a normal facet of change management. You might spot unforeseen budget drops, investment risks, or dependencies. 

All you can do is have good leadership and tools in place to confront the issues at hand. 

6. Change Closure  

Once your change implementation is successful, review the outcome and revise accordingly. 

As meta as it sounds, even a change sometimes needs revisions. Especially in software development, the goal is to continuously improve. 

Take this occasion to identify and remove roadblocks. When appropriate, close the change and keep trekking forward. 

Change Management Best Practices

Now that you know a bit about the software change management process, you should look at some best practices to make certain your process is sound.

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Understand Your Risk Tolerance 

Running a business is a matter of balance. You won’t be able to implement every change and that’s okay. 

You need to have a good understanding of your organization’s risk tolerance and on that note, your businesses’ regulatory and compliance obligations. 

Sometimes it’s a matter of how much downtime your system can risk. 

Other times, it’s about a non-negotiable set of rules like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) or General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Use Automation Tools

For most companies, standard changes will be the majority of the changes you’ll have to handle. These serve as a great opportunity to utilize automation within your organization. 

Surely you’ve heard of marketing automation tools or sales automation tools

Well, the software change management process has got some cool equipment too. 

Scout out what you need and talk to a reliable service provider about using data integration to automate business activities. 

Use KPIs & Change Metrics

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and change metrics are essential for business growth. 

You can’t scale when you don’t know what the destination is or where you came from. 

Up to 80% of small businesses do not keep track of their goals. 

And most businesses are suffering from ‘ping-pong’ syndrome where they have so much on their to-do list, they can’t manage to get much done at all. 

Goal-setting increases productivity and connects employees to business priorities. 

Prioritize Collaboration 

CABs and DevOps groups aside, your company culture is best upheld when there is an open line of communication each and every day. 

Changes have ripple effects. Those within your organization should be forewarned and forearmed with any relevant information that could influence their work. 

Related reading: How to Manage a Remote Team

Think Chaotically 

Chaos engineering is a new strategy of shutting off components of a product or service to see how it fares under stress. 

Resilience engineers will likewise test how a system works with high traffic or high user accounts. 

Pushing your system to its limits will better prepare you for crashes when they do arise. It’s a preemptive technique that’s highly valuable for change management teams.  

Employ Change Management Software 

Designing and utilizing a software change management process is a complex but immensely useful endeavor. 

A software change management process makes certain that you’ve done everything you can to optimize development. 

And, of course, client satisfaction stands to benefit as well from a systematic and organized development team. 

But change management does not have to be so complex. Employ quality change management software or some dependable automation tools and you will only have to lift a few fingers. 

Having professional software developers at your side to navigate the data integration process will no doubt be helpful in this undertaking. 

At Trio, we provided qualified, expert software developers to your business per your request. 

Not to mention, we specialize in data integration, meaning we can make custom software catered exclusively to your business system. 

Interested? Hire developers at Trio today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is change management?

Change management refers to tracking and managing changes to artifacts, like code or project requirements.

 

Why is change management important?

Change management minimizes disruptions and reduces incidents, speeding up development as a result.

 

What are change management best practices?

Some change management best practices include using automation tools, thinking chaotically, and utilizing key performance indicators (KPIs).

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