Assessment and approval of certain tickets is an important part of the IT change management process in any organization's IT department. Although workflows vary, oversight of changes to hardware, application code, contact information and documentation is essential for minimizing risk and maximizing customer satisfaction.
Change management systems can become burdensome, however, if they do not accommodate emergency changes, fluctuations in management roles and availability, and the need to keep steps, cost and paperwork to a minimum. The key is to find the right balance of standard practices for business needs and flexible accessibility for excellent service.
The following looks at essential goals, roles, components, structures and tools for establishing a help desk ticket approvals process.
Setting Goals for Help Desk Ticket IT Change Management Systems
Traditional help desk change management models tend to break down when tasked with the frequent changes expected by end-users of Cloud-based services. Additionally, the potential risk for loss is great when the network is relied on for many financial and other business transactions.
Therefore, a well-defined, well-executed IT change management system minimizes service downtime while ensuring consistent high quality delivery in the most adaptive, communicative, secure way. It should maximize value, reduce disruptions from incidents and rework, and support efficacy while being aligned with business needs and goals.
Key Components of the Approvals Process
Any request to change either service assets or configuration must be planned and prioritized beforehand, tested and implemented, then recorded and evaluated. All of this needs to happen quickly and consistently following a set of steps established by a Change Advisory Board.
The Board’s role is to minimize business risk and the severity of impact from any disruption, while ensuring that all changes support business objectives including those of IT. It is responsible for reviewing tickets that require higher-level authorization due to the risk of significant downtime or other loss. Therefore, representatives of all major stakeholder groups specific to an individual change request -- customers, help desk managers, developers, network security, third-party vendors, etc.-- should make up the CAB for that ticket. Within the CAB is a smaller group designated for emergency decisions (ECAB).
A change manager usually chairs the CAB. Change managers communicate procedures, audit and prepare tickets for CAB review, conduct change review meetings with Approval Groups to determine which tickets need to be reviewed by the CAB, compile key information and metrics reports, and are ultimately responsible for obtaining approval sign-offs. Change managers often rely on tools designed to facilitate efficient approvals processes.
IT Change Management Tools
Change ticketing tools like Zendesk cloud-based ticket management system organize all of the essential information related to a change request’s creation, review, approval, assignment, development, testing, implementation, and follow-up. They allow for tracking parent/child relationships in tickets, convenient communication between responsible parties, and transparency with stakeholders, while flexibly controlling permissions and accessibility.
Requirements gathering, scheduling, status updates, change reports, knowledge bases, user forums, and other aspects of ticket management are all centralized in Zendesk and similar change ticketing tools, which can be enhanced and expanded through many available third-party product integrations.
Change process models should be defined to provide ready guidance when new unexpected events or exceptions are encountered. These models should reflect or inform how workflows are set up, and detail:
- The steps necessary
- Who is responsible for what
- Timelines and deadlines
- How to escalate and when
- Quality objectives and measures
- Who should be contacted for approval. Common labels for models include normal, significant, minor, major, pre-approved, expedited, and emergency changes.
Back out plans map out contingencies with step-by-step instructions and specific ways to measure success so that anyone who may become responsible for reversing a change that doesn’t go as planned can act quickly and effectively with the least amount of service disruption.
A Process Improvement Program (PIP) continuously measures, assesses and reports the effectiveness of a change management process so that needed improvements can be identified and implemented as necessary.
IT Change Management Best Practices for Approval Processes
- Use best practice frameworks, like ITIL and similar methodologies, as blueprints for setting up change management processes and procedures, using results from a PIP to refine and streamline workflows
- Eliminate pre-approvals whenever possible. According to Forrester’s Duncan Jones, using monitoring and key performance indicators empowers staff and cuts down on waste. Too many approval levels can result in users simply bypassing the system and taking less personal responsibility, while managers who are overloaded with tickets to approve may hand off some of their workload to others who are under-qualified
- Formalize governance such as establishing a CAB, dedicated change managers, and approvals groups
- Base all IT initiatives on business requirements
- Automatically escalate or flag for review tickets that exceed a designated appropriate window of time for completion
- Control costs and reduce liability by requiring approval any time remote desktop software is used
- Require approval of any ticket that is associated with measured metrics
- Put humans in charge of approving software or hardware for a customer, rather than relying on automation to provide quality service
- Example change management process document from Northwestern University’s IT department (PDF)
- How change management works in Zendesk
- Specific steps for setting up your change management workflow in Zendesk
- Advanced info on Zendesk change management setup
What change management best practices do you employ? Why? Tell us below...
Ellen Berry is Content Director for Myndbend. Her background is in website development, graphic design, career development, project management, entrepreneurship, technical writing, and journalism. She has worked for small start-ups, Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits, in fields including biomedical research and development, IT, finance, telecommunications, publishing and digital media. Her articles are frequently published on high profile websites such as USAToday, ScientificAmerican, TechRepublic and MonsterWorking.