Back when the mainframe was opening up the wild frontier of information management, systems lived or died with effective change management. It was all about version control, risk aversion and rollback execution. We needed to apply patches to applications and control environments, upgrade operating systems, perform rollouts, and maintain control over application versions without dropping the corporate jewels. These mainframe change management applications enforced rules and procedures and for the most part worked well -- and continue to do so -- for this centralized environment.
Ohms on the range
Then along came the PC, Ethernet, and client/server architecture. Suddenly there were all of these decentralized assets, processes and resources out in the field. They all needed support in the form of what's generally called Move, Add, Change and Break/Fix services. We could manage the assets, sort of, but not the ad hoc processes and far-flung (and expensive) resources necessary to deliver desktop services. Worse, we didn't have a chance when it came to delivering more complicated infrastructure such as voice, network and cable plant. None of these processes or automation solutions fit neatly into the mainframe change management process model.
Heading off stampedes
Most what hits the Service Desk is neither planned nor scheduled. And these "event-driven" incidents and requests are much more urgent than planned events. Unfortunately, most of the IT software industry seems to be stuck on offering change management software (not solutions) for managing both planned and event-driven requests. On the surface this may not seem like an issue, since what we all want to do is manage changes to our infrastructure. The problem continues to be that change management is architected to deal with planned, scheduled tasks, not event-driven tasks. Nobody plans to have a dead connection between a PC and a router. And the problem diagnosis at the Service Desk and the hands-on diagnosis and remediation cycle that take place when your tech arrives on site certainly aren't cut and dry.
Don't leave money on the table
"OK," you say, "but problems do get fixed." Sure, service is restored, but at what real cost? Did your service organization consume $800 worth of trip charges, hourly charges, overhead and parts costs to replace a $100 part? While that may be acceptable for a critical device, I'm willing to bet that your asset management and change management schemes don't connect the asset profile (criticality), depreciation schedule, warranty state and repair history and cost of repair with the bread-and-butter work going on out in the field. Just imagine the ROI if you could automatically apply a repair/replace rule to all assets and get the full benefit of RMAs or depreciation instead of expensing it away.
Cast a bigger lasso
There is a way out of this mess. First, escape the boundaries of static asset repositories by investing in dynamic asset configuration tools that track financial and physical profiles, and present the asset in context of its logical and physical relationships. Second, start managing assets and the tasks charged against them in terms of complete lifecycles. I think you can see the value of a whole sequence of install, move, add, and change, leading to eventual decommission/retirement and salvage (IMAC-D). But more importantly, consider how it can feed back into a real-time asset service delivery picture.
Round 'em up and head 'em out
With true asset and configuration management and a IMAC-D process lifecycle, you can ride herd more effectively on the 80% of the events out in the enterprise that don't fit into conventional planned change management. Field service tasks will match up against work orders. You'll be able to hold vendors to SLAs. Predefined business rules can trigger repair or replacement of assets based on the criteria and approvals you set. You'll be on your way to controlling assets operationally and getting a better ROI against IT service assets, resources and expenses.
Greg Lenox, an expert in the processes, methods and practices of IT operations for customer support, help desk, asset management, inventory management, telecommunications management and change management, is president and CEO of Entuition Inc., a maker of operations management solutions in the infrastructure logistics marketplace. At Entuition and in previous positions, he led several major re-engineering projects. His clients included SunTrust Banks, Citibank, Target, GlaxoSmithKline, Baxter Healthcare, Nations Bank, Wachovia Bank, First Union Bank, BB&T, CCNB, CNA Insurance and others.