The term “change management” in software development defines the process of moving a software product from its current state to an upgraded one. Changes to artifacts, including modifications to code, procedures, or documentation, are managed, supported, and controlled by it. Change Control Process (CCP) is primarily used to identify, record, and approve modifications to software applications.

Change Management

Every software development process adheres to the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), which requires that each step be completed in the correct order in order to produce software that is of high quality. Even though change management is not included in any SDLC phases, it is crucial to the entire software development process. Different kinds of change management tools are employed for different tasks, such as adopting, regulating, representing, and implementing the necessary change. For instance, change management tools for data collection, project planning, flow charting, etc.

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 software change management in the software development process is just below!

What Is Change Management?

In the realm of software development, change management specifically pertains to the monitoring and administration of alterations to artifacts, encompassing elements like code and project requirements. Artifacts, in this context, denote any by-product of software development, allowing change management to encompass dependencies, documentation, and risk assessments. Essentially, a change involves the addition, removal, or modification of any artifact integral to the software development lifecycle.

It is imperative to familiarize oneself with key terminology associated with change management:

  1. Change Management Models: These embody best practices derived from research and experience, guiding the effective management of change within an organization.
  2. Change Management Processes: These denote a sequence of steps or activities orchestrating the progression of a change from its inception to delivery.
  3. Change Management Plans: These delineate a roadmap for the execution of a change, optimizing management and control.

Contemporary change management approaches function as an adept form of risk management, providing transparency and context as needed. Effectively steering changes in the landscape of application development involves several facets:

  • Establishing a structured process for identifying and addressing changes, be they bug reports, source code files, or other digital artifacts,
  • Defining procedures for updating the status of a file post-change implementation
  • Tracing changes back to their origins in source code and requirements, leveraging historical data
  • Safeguarding access and administrative rights to ensure that authorized individuals make changes.
  • Generating reports to assess the impact of changes on code or requirements

In essence, aligning all elements in a systematic manner is a formidable undertaking, yet it remains a crucial aspect of the process.

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 parties 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 changemakers 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 to assess 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.

Why is change management important?

It is imperative to establish a change management process. The change management process is as important as incorporating the changes. It allows you to

  • Improve performance

  • Increase engagement

  • Adapt to changes

  • Bring innovation

  • Reduce the project cost and time for implementation

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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