Manage change in a changing environment: aligning ITIL to Office 365

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” R.Buckminster Fuller

Cloud productivity platforms are delivered as constantly changing services. Infrastructure and Operations leaders must manage the impact of this externally driven change on their end users, support structure, IT operations and security practices.

Extending change management processes into the cloud can be a bit more complicated than it might seem on the surface. As you plan for a move to the cloud and evergreen services, and specifically to Office 365, here are the top three things you should consider within your own change management planning:


1) Keep up with the Office 365 product roadmap


For those of us using Office 365, there are a number of sites and resources which we should all be using, such as the Office Blogs, the Office 365 Roadmap site, the Microsoft Tech Community, and the Office 365 Admin Message Centre.

If you’re struggling with change in Office 365 then I recommend you make the roadmap and Message Centre a regular part of your day.


2) Evaluate changes for impact the same way as you would with any other technology


Evaluate what the impact will be of changes that appear on the roadmap or within the message centre, and keep key stakeholders, such as security personnel and technical owners of services already being consumed by your users.

  • Evaluate the change from a feature standpoint (i.e., how will the change impact how you’re using the service)
  • Also on interactions that the change might have with on-premises technology or controls that you’ve set up


3) Communication is key


It’s that same old phrase again, but it really does work. You need to prioritise communication to successfully manage the volume and velocity of Office 365 changes. Communication plans need to be in place for:

  • End-users
  • Service Desk
  • Technical Service Owners

Equally important is the interface into your Change Management processes. How do you evaluate changes before Microsoft start rolling out changes globally? (Microsoft provide a ‘First Release’ function for you to utilise). And ,when the rollout starts, how do you manage not knowing exactly when your Production tenant will receive those updates?

It is definitely recommend to put in place the role of an Office 365 Service Owner to be responsible for the delivery of services to your users and coordinating activities for the new or changed features that Microsoft are delivering. This Service Owner then becomes:

“Accountable for the service within an organisation regardless of where the technology components or professional capabilities reside”

As the infographic below illustrates, these activities are aligned to the ITIL Service Lifecycle sequence of activities regarding the introduction of new or changed services.


Office 365 Service Introduction


A cloud change management policy is both necessary in today’s digital world and is 100% achievable. So remember:

  • Approach it systematically
  • Tie in processes you already have
  • Retain documentation about the decisions you make

Keeping up this level of organisation is time very much well spent!


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