A Most Valuable Resource: Change Windows - 3 tactics for ensuring they are used successfully

Change windows or release slots are the limited slots where an organisation can perform major systems change. They are limited because the systems being operated on needs to be offline for surgery to avoid throwing systems into chaos. These offline times are often over weekends or, in retail, tightened even further to downtime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

These critical periods effectively become the throttle on the amount of organisational change that can be implemented. They can hamper the schedules for complying with regulatory change and with the delivery of the organisation's latest strategy.

There are several tactics to ensure a right-first-time approach is taken to using change window slots.

1. Prioritisation

Ensure that you are only moving forward with your most important and valuable changes. This requires some objective mechanism of prioritisation to ensure it's not an emotional decision, but rather one based on facts to define the portfolio of approved change to be scheduled.

2. Effective Release Management

Ensuring that those projects or changes that are given slots deliver successfully is down to ensuring that an effective enterprise release management approach is taken. This will define set criteria to meet before a release is considered ready to execute. It will also have set definitions of the role of release management and the supporting toolset to ensure operational risk is mitigated during the release event.

3. Dolphins and Whales

Mature organisations also plan out a structured forward-looking schedule of major releases that might affect multiple systems but have diligent attention paid to them (Whale releases). There may be only 6 of these in the year but they will deliver the majority of the required regulatory and strategic change in an integrated and efficient package.  Over and above this, a degree of capacity is set aside for the more minor but emergent releases. This is anticipating that agility will be required and things will come out over the period that were not anticipated (Dolphin releases).

These three tactics offer a starting point for consideration in effectively defending each of these valuable change slots and ensuring that the releases planned use each slot successfully on a right-first-time basis.

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