What are the skills of a change manager

By ITIL® from Experience©

The skills of the ITIL® change manager depends on the responsibilities and expectations for the role, the phase the Change Management process is in its life-cycle and the structure of the process.

Based on the duties of the Change Manager provided by ITIL®1 some people consider the Change Manager to be a Master of Ceremonies (MC2 ) of the overall change process runs smoothly. However, the individual also needs to be like the conductor of an orchestra to ensure that the right expertise is involved in reviewing the Request For Change (RFC). Thus, the Change Manager needs skills like:

  • Planning and presiding meetings
  • Discipline in process execution (e.g. issue of CAB meeting agendas and minutes in a timely fashion)
  • Good judgment to approve/reject RFCs and to convene ECAB meetings only when required
  • Good understanding of the IT organization to involve the right people to review RFCs

Even though “The basic concepts of Change Management are principally process-related and managerial, rather than technical”3 a former technical background enables the Change Manager to understand the techie-speak and terminology used. Moreover, it also enables the Change Manager to know when further analysis is required to manage risks to protect the production environment. Word of caution; do not expect the Change Manager perform a technical review of RFCs (see Does the change manager need technical skills and expertise). Thus, in addition to some technical skills, good networking skills to build rapport to enable cross functional engagement are required.

More importantly, the Change Manager should have an above average understanding of the business, the mission critical business systems and the pattern of business activity of each business unit to ensure that change windows risk are appropriate. Consequently skills such as:

  • Ability to balance the business risk and the technical risk
  • Good grasp of business drivers and business cycles
  • Understanding of the critical business systems

Since the change manager is responsible to manage the process to ensure that it realize its purpose which is “ to ensure that: 1) standardized methods and procedures are used for the efficient and prompt handling of all changes, 2) all changes to service assets and configuration items are recorded in the Configuration Management System and, 3) that overall business risk is optimized."4 Thus, skills needed include:

The other aspect influencing the skills needed by the change manager is the life cycle phase the change process is in and its level of maturity (See Should we do a maturity assessment). For example:

Process Design* Ability to bring people to a common vision for Change Management (requirements gathering, facilitation, consensus building)
* Facilitation, communication and presentation skills
* Project Management (planning, scheduling, budgeting, preparing roadmaps)
*Stakeholder management and ability to clarify expectations
* Process design, flow charting and implementation given the constraints of the culture, capabilities and level of maturity
* Understanding the organization's culture to effectively manage change
* Good understanding of the capabilities of the ITSM tool in place
Early Implementation* Managing a process
* Ability to build rapport and working across hierarchies
* Training, coaching, communication and presentation skills
* Influencing people to embrace the process and ability to manage change to minimize resistance
* Business acumen and respect when correcting people
* Flexibility to adjust process limitations and shortcomings to ensure that RFCs are handled promptly
Operating the Process* Measuring process performance
* Improving process efficiency (e.g. streamlining) and effectiveness (e.g. meets requirements)
* Improving the quality of RFCs
* Disciplined to execute of the process
* Analytical skills
* Good understanding of the current and upcoming features of the ITSM tool used to manage RFCs
* Self-starter to continuously launch and manage improvements

Finally, the structure of the Change Management process, its roles and responsibilities also affect the skills required by the Change Manager. For example, when the process has local CABs, Subject Matter Expertise may be required within the scope and mandate of this CAB. Thus, a RACI is a good starting point to determine expectations and skills required by the Change Manager to be successful (See When to use a RACI Matrix).

Last updated on: 2015-11-01

"Implementing Change Management is like driving from New Hampshire where you "Live Free or Die" to Missouri, "The Show Me State."

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