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Change Management and Change Control: What is the difference?

Updated on March 24, 2015

Simply stated, change management is concerned with the impact on change throughout an organization while change control is specific to IT. Change management is a communication strategy that allows every area of the business to have a voice in change that can help improve early adoption of changes while assisting in preventing costly mistakes. Companies with sound change management strategies carefully plan change so that every area of the business has the opportunity to be aware of, support or object, and ultimately plan for change.

Benefits of Change Management

Change management helps to eliminate the chaos that happens when one department makes a change that negatively effects another department without their knowledge. Companies that invest in change management are less likely to invest in changes that have to be quickly rolled back. For example, say a company takes development requests from customers. Research and development reviews the requests so that the company can recognize trends and be the first to update products in their market segment. If all areas of the business are not included when considering product changes, the changes may not be reflected in marketing materials, pricing may not accurately reflect the new cost of production, or the research team may have missed important legal red flags, regulatory issues, or safety concerns. These are issues outside the realm of change control.

Benefits of Change Control

Change control would only be concerned with changes in the technical environment to computer programs, applications, documentation, and data collection. Change control can stand on its own. Many companies have change control processes to manage the development of technology and the implementation of customizable off the shelf applications without having a change management process. A good change control process provides the IT group with a way to estimate the level of effort, time, and cost of changes to IT systems and applications while managing version or revision control. Version control software requires that developers check in and out code so that developers do not accidentally overwrite each other, changes can be reversed, and code can easily be moved from one platform to another. Change control is an important tool for the management of IT change, but it is limited to IT.

Why Have Both?

Change management, on the other hand considers the impact of change to the entire organization. A simple IT change can cause havoc to the business it supports if everyone impacted by the change is not informed. Data passed from one system to another may be used for reports and calculations in ways that are surprising to an IT team focused on supporting just one application. Even when the IT team is fully prepared the business may not be.

For example, if the sales team requests a change to the way sales forecasts are calculated in the sales management application and careful consideration is not given to how those numbers are used throughout the business issues are very likely to surface quickly. Say the sales team forecasts a number for sales for the quarter but now the team wants a breakdown in the number by product. The IT team makes the change but does not realize that the financial management software relies on the single forecast number to complete financial forecasts. The team supporting the financial software is now trying to figure out why the forecast is broken. HR also uses the forecast number to plan for the hiring of temporary labor when the forecast is high based on a report that is automatically triggered. There is now no trigger and HR will be unprepared to meet workforce demands.

Additionally when outdated applications are replaced everyone in the business needs to be made aware of the potential change so that all business requirements are considered in the selection process. Consideration should be given to the how the current business processes should change. Changing software often gives a business the opportunity to do a larger review to improve efficiency and effectiveness of processes no one has looked at for a while. Training to use the new application should include training to implement the new business processes. Both have to be well documented to get the most out of the time and expense of change

The Final Point

For any business of any size to thrive in the new millennium it must be able to change to meet the demands of new markets, new regulations, and an ever changing customer base. Small businesses in particular need to be able to be fluid. Often it is a small businesses ability to quickly adapt and innovate that is the key to its competitive advantage over larger rivals.

Companies with clear change management policies that include a well organized process and well understood practices are more likely to thrive. A good change management strategy will include but not be limited to change control alone. Change management recognizes that all areas of the business are interconnected. Even small changes do not happen in a vacuum. It is clear to see that while a change in IT most likely impacts one or more areas of the business, changes in the business are just as likely to impact IT as well.


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