The approval procedure is one of the most significant parts of the IT change management process. It’s here that approvers or bodies of approvers authorized to stop a request determine its fate. Having been accepted for consideration earlier in the workflow, the ticket has now reached a second milestone—the last one before the implementation phase.
Now, some change requests do not require approval or review by the change approval board (CAB). Sometimes, the requestor’s approval is all that is needed. More significant changes, however, will trigger an approval workflow and require stakeholders to address these tickets along the way. The timing and nature of these approvals, including who’s assigned to them, will vary depending on how the organization has configured its change management.
Who is Responsible for IT Change Request Approvals?
This is a very important question. Because when people don’t understand their roles and responsibilities within an IT change management request, the system can get gummed up with overdue tickets, unprocessed requests, and stalled projects. This creates costly inefficiencies that increase the risk of projects reaching the implementation phase without proper approval.
In a typical change request approval workflow, you’ll likely find one or more of the following authorized approvers:
- Single approver: Change managers will assign approvers to specific tickets based on their roles and responsibilities within the organization’s change management process. Their approval might be required for certain levels of change (minor, significant, or major), or requests that pertain to a certain part of the IT infrastructure (critical systems, for example).
- Tiered approval: For certain changes, it might be necessary to “tier” the approval process so that it’s moved along in stages and no details are missed. This model is especially useful for larger-scale projects with multiple stakeholders or assigned approvers. For example, the application’s senior stakeholder or owner may be required to approve changes to their application once the development manager and operations managers have approved.
- Multiple approvers with authority to approve: Some organizations need to create workflow conditions that only require a certain percentage—say, two out of ten—of approvals to mark a ticket approved. Once this threshold is met, the other approvers are bypassed. Learn more about setting a minimum number of approvers.
- Change Advisory Board (CAB): The board will look for red flags, verify that stakeholders have been properly alerted, and check that all changes are aligned with real business objectives. The board’s goal, of course, is to minimize the risk of downtime or other loss. Representatives of all major stakeholder groups specific to an individual change request should make up the CAB.
To make sure the appropriate approver(s) is assigned to each process—and that that approver understands exactly what their roles and responsibilities are—many organizations utilize the RACI Matrix. Within this matrix, an approver might have one of four roles: they might be responsible, accountable, or need to be consulted or informed. Each letter can be assigned to a stakeholder for each task, bringing clarity and structure to the question of who approves what and when.
Regardless of the tools and methodologies used, it is crucial that approvers are aware of their specific roles and activities in executing them. Otherwise, bottlenecks might occur, leading to a large backlog of tickets that can have a far-ranging impact on the organization.
How to Automate IT Change Request Approvals
Automated change request approval workflows are an effective way to reduce risk. Yet, too many requests for approval can overburden approvers throughout the process, leading to oversight, improper delegation, or less than thorough review procedures. An overburdened process can lead to costly outages and downtime down the line.
Using IT change management software such as Myndbend Process Manager for Zendesk, organizations can set up triggers to automatically notify the appropriate approver based on the RACI Matrix and a predetermined sequence. The workflows notify approvers based on the selections in the Change Request form and can automatically create tickets once the change request is approved. In addition to requests for approval, the automated workflows may send alerts to other approvers, inform change managers of status and past due requests, and keep stakeholders up to date. Again, the purpose is to streamline communication to avoid costly bottlenecks.
Organizations can mitigate risk by following some change request best practices. These include always aligning requests to business objectives, automatically escalating tickets after a certain amount of time has elapsed in a given state, and formalizing approval groups. To learn more, read our free guide: Best Practices for IT Change Management Approvals Processes in Help Desk Workflows.
Once a change request is approved, it’s time to move on to the implementation phase. For a detailed look at this critical next step, read more here: How Organizations Implement IT Change Requests.