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What To Do When Change Failed In Production?

If you are promoting change in production, this is not new to you. There are instances when changes fail and cause damages that we do not know. It may impact you in many ways. In this article, I will try to provide a general checklist that you have to follow and try to minimise the impact of change failure. These procedures may differ according to organisational policies, but they move around the points below.

What are the reasons for change failure?

Change failures can occur for a variety of reasons, and identifying the root causes of these failures is essential for improving change management processes and preventing future issues. Some common reasons for change failure in IT and business operations include:

  1. Inadequate Planning:
    • Poorly planned changes are more likely to fail. This includes insufficient analysis, unclear objectives, and inadequate risk assessment before implementing the change.
  2. Lack of Testing:
    • Changes that are not thoroughly tested in a controlled environment before deployment to production are more likely to introduce issues. Inadequate testing can result in unexpected behaviour or system failures.
  3. Inadequate Documentation:
    • Lack of clear and up-to-date documentation for changes, including change plans, rollback procedures, and implementation steps, can lead to confusion and errors during the change process.
  4. Inadequate Communication:
    • Effective communication with stakeholders, including end-users, IT teams, and management, is crucial. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, resistance to change, and misalignment of expectations.
  5. Insufficient Resources:
    • Attempting to implement changes without adequate resources, including skilled personnel, tools, and infrastructure, can result in failures due to resource constraints.
  6. Scope Creep:
    • Expanding the scope of a change during implementation can lead to complexity and increased risk of failure. Changes should be well-defined and stick to the original scope.
  7. Inadequate Change Control:
    • Lack of proper change control processes, including change approval, review, and oversight, can lead to unauthorized or poorly managed changes that are more likely to fail.
  8. Human Error:
    • Human errors, such as misconfigurations, incorrect data entry, or mistakes in the change process, can lead to change failures. Proper training and thorough documentation can help mitigate human errors.
  9. Lack of Change Management:
    • Failing to follow established change management processes and procedures can result in change failures. Change management helps ensure that changes are properly planned, documented, and reviewed.
  10. Dependency Issues:
    • Changes can fail if they depend on other changes, systems, or components that are not available or not functioning correctly. Identifying and managing dependencies is crucial.
  11. Inadequate Rollback Plans:
    • Without a well-defined rollback plan, it can be challenging to revert to a stable state when issues arise during implementation. Insufficient rollback planning can prolong downtime and disruptions.
  12. Resistance to Change:
    • Resistance from stakeholders, including employees and users, can hinder change implementation and increase the likelihood of failure. Change management strategies should address resistance.
  13. External Factors:
    • External factors, such as third-party service disruptions, unexpected regulatory changes, or natural disasters, can impact changes and lead to failures that are beyond the organization’s control.
  14. Inadequate Monitoring and Oversight:
    • Failing to monitor and oversee the change implementation in real time can result in issues going unnoticed until they escalate into failures.
  15. Inadequate Post-Change Review:
    • Failing to conduct a thorough post-implementation review to analyze the change’s success or failure can prevent the organization from learning and improving its change management processes.

Example of Change Failure

                          |                         |
                          |   Change Failure due    |
                          |   to Inadequate Planning|
                          |                         |
                         |                       |
                         |    CRM Software       |
                         |       Upgrade         |
                         |                       |
                     |                             |
                     v                             v
          +-------------------+          +-------------------+
          |                   |          |                   |
          | Lack of Project   |          |  Incomplete Risk  |
          | Planning and Plan  |          | Assessment and    |
          |                   |          | Communication     |
          +-------------------+          +-------------------+
                     |                             |
                     |                             |
          +----------+----------+        +---------+----------+
          |                     |        |                    |
          | No Clear Objectives |        | Lack of Stakeholder|
          | and Timeline        |        |   Involvement       |
          |                     |        |                    |
          +---------------------+        +--------------------+

This diagram represents the scenario where a CRM software upgrade experiences a change failure due to inadequate planning. The lack of clear project planning, objectives, timeline, risk assessment, and stakeholder involvement contribute to the failure of the change implementation. Proper planning and effective change management practices are essential to mitigate these issues and ensure a successful change outcome.

Impact of a failed change?

A failed change in IT Service Management (ITSM) can have significant impacts on an organization’s operations, service delivery, and reputation. The specific consequences of a failed change can vary depending on the nature of the change, the criticality of the affected systems or services, and the organization’s preparedness to address failures.

Here are some of the key impacts of a failed change:

  1. Service Disruption or Degradation:
    • A failed change can lead to service disruptions or degradation of service quality. This can result in downtime, reduced productivity, and customer dissatisfaction.
  2. Financial Costs:
    • Failed changes can incur financial costs, including the expenses associated with resolving the issue, potential penalties for SLA breaches, and the need for additional resources to address the problem.
  3. Reputation Damage:
    • Customer trust and reputation can be seriously affected if a failed change leads to service outages or disruptions. Negative publicity and customer complaints can harm the organization’s image.
  4. Loss of Productivity:
    • Employees may experience a loss of productivity if they are unable to access critical systems or applications due to a failed change. This can result in delayed work and missed deadlines.
  5. Data Loss or Corruption:
    • Certain changes, especially those involving data migrations or updates, can lead to data loss or corruption if not properly executed. This can have long-term consequences, including regulatory violations and data recovery efforts.
  6. Security Vulnerabilities:
    • Failed changes can introduce security vulnerabilities if, for example, a security patch is not applied correctly. This can expose the organization to security breaches and data breaches.
  7. Resource Redundancy:
    • In some cases, organizations may allocate additional resources to address a failed change, which can lead to redundancy in resource usage and increased costs.
  8. Customer Impact:
    • External customers or clients relying on the organization’s services may experience frustration and dissatisfaction if their needs are not met due to a failed change.
  9. Operational Disruption:
    • IT teams may need to divert their attention and resources to address the failed change, causing operational disruptions and delays in addressing other IT initiatives and projects.
  10. Decreased Confidence in Change Management:
    • Repeated failed changes can erode confidence in the organization’s change management processes and the ability to handle changes effectively.
  11. Compliance and Regulatory Issues:
    • Failed changes that result in data loss, security breaches, or other compliance violations can lead to legal and regulatory issues.
  12. Employee Morale:
    • Repeated failed changes can negatively impact employee morale and job satisfaction, as employees may become frustrated with the disruption and instability.

What will be the course of action once a change fails?

When a change fails in the context of Change Management, it’s essential to have a well-defined course of action to address the situation promptly and effectively. The specific actions may vary depending on the organization’s policies and procedures, but here’s a general course of action to follow when a change fails:

  1. Immediate Response:
    • Identify and acknowledge the failure: Quickly recognize that the change has not been successful and gather information about the nature and impact of the failure.
  2. Communication:
    • Notify the relevant stakeholders: Inform key stakeholders, including the Change Manager, Change Advisory Board (CAB), and anyone else who needs to be aware of the situation. Clearly communicate the nature of the failure and its potential impact.
  3. Isolate the Issue:
    • Isolate the affected systems or components: If possible, isolate the failed change to prevent further disruption to the IT environment and services.
  4. Investigation:
    • Conduct a root cause analysis: Assemble a team to investigate the cause of the failure. This team may include subject matter experts, technical personnel, and anyone else with relevant knowledge.
  5. Documentation:
    • Document the failure: Keep detailed records of what happened, the steps taken during the change, and any relevant logs or data. This documentation will be crucial for analysis and future reference.
  6. Resolution Planning:
    • Develop a plan to resolve the issue: Based on the root cause analysis, create a plan to address the problem and restore the affected systems or services. This plan may include rollback procedures, additional testing, and necessary fixes.
  7. Change Rollback (if applicable):
    • Rollback to the previous state: If a rollback plan exists and it is deemed the best course of action, implement the rollback procedures to return the environment to its previous state.
  8. Testing:
    • Test the resolution: Before implementing the fix or change again, thoroughly test it in a controlled environment to ensure that it will not cause further issues.
  9. Change Review and Approval (if applicable):
    • If the change requires re-approval due to the failure, follow the change management process to obtain the necessary approvals.
  10. Implementation:
    • Implement the resolution: Once the fix or change has been thoroughly tested and approved, implement it in the production environment.
  11. Monitoring and Validation:
    • Monitor the environment: Continuously monitor the environment after the change has been implemented to ensure that the issue is resolved and that no new problems arise.
  12. Post-Incident Review:
    • Conduct a post-incident review: After the issue has been resolved and the change has been successfully implemented, hold a review meeting to analyze the root causes of the failure, identify lessons learned, and update procedures to prevent similar issues in the future.
  13. Documentation and Reporting:
    • Document the entire incident, including the resolution and any changes made to prevent a recurrence. Report the incident to management and stakeholders.

It’s crucial to have a well-documented and standardized process for handling change failures to minimize disruption, learn from the incident, and improve the change management process over time. The specific steps and personnel involved may vary from one organization to another, but the general principles of swift response, investigation, and remediation apply universally.

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