Thursday, 20 November 2014

Blackouts, Brownouts and Other Change Windows

It’s that time of year where we are looking forward to the change management holiday downtime, or are we? Depending on the rules around the brownout (or blackout) you may find that there are additional complications associated with them. Here are a few:

No formalized outage window
Depending on your organization you may have an unspoken understanding that people are away from the office and that changes simply aren’t done. The risk here is that without some governance over this “agreement” you may run into issues with your business units looking to take advantage of resources who seem to be more free time and asking them to just put in this “little” change. As we all know this lends itself to problems of its own, as little change have a way of doing from time to time. If there are complications there may not be the usual support resource pool to utilize for example which could impact your business more significantly that if this change was moved out to another date.

The pre window flood
In the event that your organization normally has high levels of operational changes, you may find that depending on the brownout window duration, you will have a larger volume of changes that need to be put in before the brownout begins. It is important to outline the expectations for the window as early as possible so that you are able to have more lead time to stretch the larger number of changes in over a shorter than usual timespan. If you don’t the risk you run is having a pile of changes which may collide the week before the brownout for example. This may cloud the ability to investigate issues should an incident appear with more changes which could be the culprit.

The post window flood
I have found that January can be a month with more than its fair share of changes primarily because of brownout windows. Some teams may push out implementations until the next change (or release) window and there may either be more changes in volume, or larger changes in scope. This can also complicate the ability to have successful deployments if it is not closely monitored.

Exceptions to the rule
Overall you will need to build in some flexibility to your windows since things still could break, and some projects which have high business impact are still pushing forward. Ensure that all teams are aware of the rules. Also allow for changes that no one even considered. There may be a need to do some change which does not fit nicely into one of the boxes above. Ensure that extra approval signoff is required to make sure that implementers understand the added risk of putting a change through during this outage timeframe.

The best plan is to communicate and work with your teams to ensure that you can regulate the flow of changes over the holiday season as well as ensuring that your business continues to experience the exceptional level of service it is accustomed to.

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