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Reducing the Pain of Changes and the Change Management Process

by Eyvonne Sharp Mar 1, 2018

Two words strike fear into the heart of every network engineer — change management. In large enterprises, change management typically refers to the processes, procedures, and approvals required to execute a change in a production environment. Changes in production can run the gamut from big all-hands-on-deck IT projects (like a data center migration, acquiring a new network, or deploying new technology) to routine everyday tasks. In all but the most nimble organizations, these change management processes have become increasingly bloated, cumbersome, and inefficient.

First, some background. Over time, the business has grown increasingly dependent on IT resources. Unplanned outages have caused real impact to the bottom line, and IT organizations have felt the urgent need to implement a series of controls to manage changes. Most companies have deployed a change management system in which changes are cataloged, assigned a risk value, and then approved before execution. Depending on the size of the organization, the number of approvals required, the timing of change review meetings, and the assigned risk level of the change, it can take several weeks to approve changes.

For most companies, as outages occur, the change management process is expanded so that this problem won’t ever happen again.  The unintended consequence of these efforts, however, is an IT organization that is encumbered by its own systems.

How do we unravel the Gordian knot of the IT change management process?

The answer is confidence.

Our environments grow continually more complex. Systems are more interdependent, and the unintended consequences of changes are impossible to foresee in a sizable enterprise network. No amount of hands-on review can spot all the risks associated with a big change. We need a new class of tools to help us understand the network not only as it is today but as it will be when network changes are implemented. We need tools that put an end to “plug and pray” — that anxiety we feel on  the Monday morning after making changes.

A New Class of Network Change Management Solution

Change managementMore than half of network outages are due to some improperly executed change. Proactively guard against misconfiguration by triggering an automatic validation of network changes against “golden” design and compliance requirements.

Imagine a tool that will validate the changes a network engineer intends to make on their network. This tool would check compliance with existing policies, check command syntax, and model changes on a map of the existing network. When it’s time to deploy the change, the tool would execute the entire modeled change from beginning to end, then provide analysis to validate the success of the change. If the change must be rolled back for any reason, the tool would simply undo the changes it made and provide additional validation of the rollback.

The first obvious advantage of such a system is a reduction in outages due to changes. An immediate second, though, is the increased confidence of IT and the business. As network engineers demonstrate that they can make changes reliably with new validation tools, the change management process will begin to categorize some changes as lower risk. Over time, these lower risk changes will require less approval and will contribute to a more agile IT organization.

The best news is that these features are not imaginary, they’re available in NetBrain’s Change Management module. You don’t need to implement new infrastructure or the latest software-defined solution to model, automate, and validate changes effectively. With NetBrain Change Management, you can significantly reduce outages, reduce risk, increase agility, and, over time, lessen the pain and complexity of your enterprise change management process, ensuring smoother and more efficient operations.