Cloud Change Management: How to Make Changes Work For You

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Change management in a cloud environment allows your business to evolve without disruption. Discover the top tips and tricks of successful change automation.

Successful enterprise management goes hand in hand with change. The latter allows businesses to stay resilient and keep up with evolving customer and internal needs. However, if these changes are poorly managed, they can cripple your serene existence by incurring project delays, budget overruns, dips in productivity, customer dissatisfaction, and other painful mishaps. Alternatively, change management in a cloud environment can help you cope with the shifting landscape and blaze a trail of less worry and more success.

The problem isn’t change, per se, because change is going to happen; the problem, rather, is the inability to cope with the change when it comes.

— Kent Beck, Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change

Yet, cloud-based change management doesn’t make us immune to the common pitfalls of modifications. Therefore, careful planning for the possible changes is a mandate in any case.

According to McKinsey & Company, the failure rate of change management initiatives is around 70%. Today, the stakes are even higher as changes are occurring at a faster pace.

In this post, we’ll flesh out the difference between cloud change management and traditional change management in IT infrastructure, as well as share some actionable tips on making your cloud change management policy more effective.

But first, let’s discuss the types of changes each business has to deal with when modifying software applications.

Change management basics: types of changes

Change management has evolved into an incredibly important, but often misunderstood concept in the IT industry. Essentially, it refers to a set of policies and actions that ensure change is properly managed throughout every stage of the process. The importance of consistent change management is obvious as it helps you minimize the risks of change collisions and roll out updates without affecting your operations.

According to Prosci’s Best Practices in Change Management report, an effective change management strategy allows 93% of organizations to successfully achieve predefined objectives. But how to ensure this strategy works? That’s where cloud change management comes in.

Let’s see how cloud technologies can help you tackle the three types of updates that commonly occur.

Within the traditional change management models, all three groups of modifications require resource-intensive manual input. In this case, the focus is placed on disruption and static plans with updates booked in a specific window. Therefore, business owners lack flexibility and are more susceptible to the human-error factor.

Conversely, common change management models in cloud computing bring more automation and make update roll-outs trouble-free. That said, let’s take a look at how different types of changes are addressed within the two approaches.

Traditional vs cloud change management

Launching continuous and reversible changes is core to driving agility. But do standard management practices pass muster at all nowadays? Let’s see.

Slow vs high speed of change implementation

Introducing any type of an update into a traditional setup can often be unnecessarily slow, process-heavy, and overburdened. Let’s not forget bureaucratic and painstaking planning related to the high risks of traditional change launches. Lengthy, manual approvals can take lots of time to document and include in a ticketing system. Also, changes have to be processed through a slew of committees, levels of management, and mandatory waiting periods. As a result, any type of change depends on the people with little to no awareness of change reasons, its impact, and the cost of delay.

However, it’s different for cloud environments where a built-in selection of automation and deployment software eliminates the need for robust tech infrastructure and related effort to introduce the update. The cloud also allows us to transform common changes into normal changes by removing complexities linked with the planning and implementation of such changes.

This advantage can be better illustrated by the hardware migration that is common in the traditional model. Without cloud capabilities, you have to perform rigorous upfront planning, including necessary investments, setup, and app migration, just to boost your computing resources. Within cloud management, you can step up your resources just by tweaking and executing your code. This way, the complex hardware overhaul is treated as the standard change performed virtually.

Change control vs change enablement

Once an innovation driver, traditional command-and-control practices are now considered a burden for modern DevOps-based philosophy. And, since Agile and DevOps are now the acknowledged benchmarks for cloud development, the control aspect must give way to an enabling mindset. The cloud, on the contrary, resets your perspective to the best practices of change enablement.

In this case, all innovations are effective, safe, and timely, while ensuring compliance and risk management. Cloud-based change enablement minimizes the risk linked with introducing changes by automating them and making them more visible. Less rigid control also means that low-risk models can be fully automated, while high-risk zones will be forwarded for approval.

Manual scaling vs autoscaling

Traffic spikes are one of the reasons why your digital assets may break down due to inefficiently scalable infrastructure. For an existing application, manual scaling is a daunting task that may require upfront planning, code changes, software updates, and a lot of monitoring.

However, scaling your application in the cloud factors in all the minute-by-minute changes in demand and traffic by automatically adjusting the app’s resources to avert performance problems or outages. This means you can scale up, down, and back in a few clicks on demand.

CAB change authorization vs greater autonomy

Traditionally, fundamental and costly changes are submitted to a Change Advisory Board  (CAB). The CAB acts as an advisory committee to help guide the change management process and to ensure the success of the project. This lengthy approval process is typically done in the name of increased quality and added scrutiny.

However, as demonstrated in Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren, external approvals take a toll on deployment frequency and restore time. In contrast, the cloud computing change management process allows for more autonomy by promoting peer reviews. When done in the cloud, all changes lean towards early and automated detection, visibility, and fast feedback. Besides, monitoring dashboards allow for greater autonomy for the teams since higher-level authorities have a holistic overview of regulation compliance, metrics, and others.

Manual risk assessment vs automatic risk management

According to IBM, changes are among the main reasons for service outages. And with more companies migrating to the cloud, the volume and rate of change have gained unprecedented heights. This shift makes manual risk assessment a dicey proposition. Moreover, manual rollback will require some hypothesis testing, which could stretch your outage for hours or days.

Automation, on the contrary, can dramatically minimize the business risk associated with change as most cloud services allow for auto-recovering from failure and instant rollbacks.

As you can see, cloud-based change management makes all the difference by allowing you to introduce all types of updates in an automated and agile-friendly way. Moreover, a record of change also acts as the main troubleshooting reference when dealing with emergency changes.

Now that we’ve compared two change management approaches, let’s see whether cloud migration is worth it for change management.

The objectives of cloud change management policy

An overriding goal of the change management process is to ensure all updates leave your critical processes and assets intact as well as meet internal guidelines. Cloud transition can take these expectations to the next level, while also providing added business value.

More cost-efficiency

There are quite a few ways to optimize your cloud bills and reduce the total cost of ownership. You can leverage your cloud resource on a pay-as-you-go model. This computing billing method allows organizations to pay exclusively for the data they use each month (just like the electricity bill). Also, cloud environments help bring down the cost of on-prem infrastructure by taking it to virtual servers.

Enhanced security

Cloud infrastructure also has a positive impact on data security compared with local data centers. Thanks to a shared responsibility model, your cloud provider takes over infrastructure security, while your in-house team shoulders risks linked with policies, configurations, and data migration.

Fast recovery

Your cloud space can be set up to provide alerts on the changes to the environment (e.g. monthly updates, one-off patches, etc.). More visibility can also be facilitated by keeping all configurations in version control. In both cases, your engineers won’t have to allocate time on tracking havoc-wreaking changes.

Performance efficiency and operational excellence

Although specific cloud efficiency yardsticks will vary by company. There’s one thing that holds true for all cloud infrastructures. And that is the luxury of more flexibility and scalability when it comes to your computing needs. In doing so, you can easily spin up your environment to accommodate increased business needs.

Better compliance

Almost every company now abides by some form of governmental regulation, be it healthcare or finance. Therefore, any update is subject to rigid requirements imposed by HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or others. Cloud change management is inherently compliance-friendly, easing the regulation strain on your organization. Thanks to authentication and access controls, data compliance, encryption, and other cloud practices, you can support industry-specific compliance easier than with on-site change management.

How to do cloud change management at top speed?

Change is a blessing… unless it takes an eternity. The hallmark of cloud change management is automation (and, ultimately, speed). But it takes a bit more to accelerate your automated change regimen. Here’s how you can speed up change management processes in the cloud without sacrificing testing or compliance:

Bring more automation for added speed

The more you can automate the validation flow and other tasks in the cloud-powered environment, the more transparency you get. Saving more time. Cloud tools that can handle configuration updates and follow the approval process can be tweaked to accept or reject new configuration changes. Automatic auto-approval of low-risk changes, for example, will minimize the effort and boost change management.

Leverage service catalogs to facilitate compliance, promote auto-approvals, and minimize exceptions

Service catalogs will amplify the alignment of your cloud infrastructure with your business requirements. They will allow you to manage your deployed IT services by implementing enterprise standards, introducing new technologies, and imposing default regulatory requirements. This service also provides consistent management and compliance, giving you the ability to quickly deploy only the approved IT services you need.

Connect changes back to a user story to prioritize the customer

A user-first mindset is a cornerstone for making the most of your changes. That is why those changes that aren’t fit for auto-approval should be retraced to a user story to assess the value it provides to the end-user. This practice will also help you achieve a complete audit trail, preventing added costs for shutdown resources and similar instances.

Have corporate policies in place and secure them with automation

Since some services might not be listed in your catalog, it’s important to ensure integrity and privacy. You can do that by establishing policies that will be set in motion automatically. This means the system can send notifications each time a specific error pattern is entered into the infrastructure (e.g., EC2 instance with no tag).

Adopt DevOps practices and tools to amplify change management

DevOps and fluid change management go hand in hand. Therefore, new changes should ideally be introduced through a stable flow of continuous integration and deployment to eliminate friction between team hand-offs. Then, a powerful combo of DevOps-minded teams and cloud automation tools will further bolster automated configuration management, making your change routine faster, more reliable, and enabled. But keep in mind that an ideal set of automation will vary from cloud provider to cloud provider.

On Cloud Nine

Cloud technologies have revolutionized the way businesses deliver services. Change management, in particular, has seen a makeover with the advent of cloud computing. From autoscaling to better enablement, effective cloud change management can eliminate the internal chaos of introducing standard modifications and nurture more agility across departments.

If you’re struggling with your cloud transition, *instinctools experts are ready to help you with change management implementation in the cloud.


The article was originally published here.