Why a process to maintain standard changes should be implemented

By ITIL® from Experience©

A The second worst thing to not having documentation is to have inaccurate documentation. A process to ensure that procedures are periodically reviewed, updated or retired when they are no longer useful ensures they are current. In other words, it’s a document life cycle management process.

Using good practices in Document Management means that the Standard Shange

A pre-authorized change that is low risk, relatively common and follows a procedure or work instruction - for example, a password reset or provision of standard equipment to a new employee. Requests for change are not required to implement a standard change, and they are logged and tracked using a different mechanism, such as a service request. See also change model.
Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations English, 2011. www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx

procedure document or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Procedures used by IT operations management.
Source: ITIL® glossary and abbreviations English, 2011 www.itil-officialsite.com/InternationalActivities/TranslatedGlossaries.aspx

greatly clarifies the concept of a standard change. SOPs1 should contain metadata. This metadata should identify among other things the document owner, date of next revision and expiry date. Thus, a review process can be triggered based on this metadata. For example, in the case of a standard change the trigger can be:
  • When the Configuration Item (CI) the document is for is upgraded or retired
  • When a certain date is reached like the yearly anniversary date when the standard change was pre-approved
  • When someone identifies an increasing rate of failure of changes made with the procedure or that it generates incidents.

The review process also brings an element of governance to standard changes. As discussed in the article When is a standard change no longer a standard change a standard change is not a perpetual license to operate. Thus, implementing a review process at least once a year ensures that the "license" to operate of this standard procedure is renewed. This is particularly important due to the evolving use of your technology which may change the nature of the standard changes. Unless they are periodically reviewed they may actually cause incidents. For example, rebooting an edge switch was deemed a standard change when done outside business hours. Now that security video cameras or door alarms are connected to edge switches a simple reboot is either no longer a standard change or its procedures must be amended to ensure that the security monitoring operations center is made aware of the temporary outage while de device reboots.

Some people may object to this process as it might be perceived as a waste of time. It is true that work is needed to update procedures; it is the costs of quality. But there is also a cost to inaccurate procedures:

  • It takes longer to execute as the individual wastes time figuring things out or colleagues might be involved to interpret what needs to be done wasting two people’s time
  • Changes may/will not be applied consistently resulting in increased risks and complexity of the environment due to variances in configuration subsequently wasting effort to figure things out when it breaks to understand why it wasn’t done as intended.

To minimize the burden caused by reviewing procedures, the technology used to store the procedures could automatically notify authors three months before it expires to allow this work to be scheduled most appropriately. In addition, the procedure usually does not need to be re-written and sometimes doesn’t even need to be corrected. It is like renewing your motor vehicle license. Most people do not need to re-take a driver’s test unless there were serious infractions.

The maintenance process doesn’t need to be complicated and may not require any design. Most organization can use the process used to pre-approve the standard change to review it was well. Furthermore, the Normal Change Process is usually adequate to do so.

A maintenance process enables poorly designed SOPs to be rectified instead of being left to be freely used. Such a process is a key element of a continuous service improvement program. It also enables the change management process to realize its goal which is “… to ensure that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all Changes…” (Source: ITIL® Service Support, 2000 (v2), p.223)


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