What level should the Change Manager position be to have the authority to reject RFCs

By ITIL® from Experience ©

People often worry that a senior manager will overrule the Change Manager's decision to reject a Request For Change (RFC). Thus, it is believed that the position of the Change Manager must be very high in the organization's hierarchy to prevent this overturn. Some even propose that the Change Manager reports directly to the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

There is no doubt that the Change Manager must have authority to reject RFCs. Without this power the Change Management process benefits are reduced to announcing the RFC (see What are the stages of maturity for the ITIL Change Management Process). In traditional bureaucratic hierarchical-based1 organizations it is common for people to have authority based on the position occupied and the level of the position within the hierarchy. Thus, the higher the position is on the org chart, in other words the closer it is to the top of the organization’s pyramid, the more power the individual holding the position has (i. e. pecking order2 ). However, there are other means to dispense authority.People can receive authority from the role they perform in a process. The Finance Clerk for example. Unless the process is followed by completing the expense form and attaching receipts in accordance to the Travel Policy, payment will not be issued. In this case, the Clerk has more power to cut checks and issue payments than the CEO, the CIO and everyone else in the organization for that matter. Of course some use their power to break these rules however; they are not authorized to do so according to the process and policies. Moreover, audits and verifications ensure that the process is followed without deviation and irregularities.

The same goes for the Change Manager's authority. Nevertheless, it does not change the reality that in some organizations overruling by management is common practice. The following can help reduce this behavior: a well-documented process with clear policies (business rules), explicit criterion used to accept or reject an RFC, training for everyone involved including management (see What does it mean to have CIO and management support) and a system to address process non-compliance.

As a matter of fact, like the Finance Clerk, the Change Manager can be quite low in the hierarchy when these elements are in place. This approach can be a significant benefit since the Change Manager can simply deflect disagreements about decisions to the fact that he/she was “just following the process.” Therefore, when management perceives that a decision was inappropriate, the RFC evaluation criterion can be revised which makes continuous improvement (CSI) a systemic element to the decision process. In addition, a temporary fail-safe procedure can be in place during the process implementation to notify the CIO when a rejected RFC is overturned so that process non-compliance is addressed.

This authority issue is not unique to Change Management. I.T. Security faces a similar challenge. Given that not everyone can report directly to the CIO, the process must be designed to ensure that the authority of the Change Manager is respected regardless of the level of the position.

"Not clearly defining the mandate of the CAB can result in wasted effort as business decisions are second guessed. Tail is wagging the dog."

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