Managing change requests to your application

In this tip, we look at end user requests, and the process to prioritize the requests for IT, so they know where to focus their work efforts.

Change requests come in different forms. The time to implement may take hours or it could take weeks. The impact

to the business can vary from minimal to huge. How do you manage and prioritize the various change requests? In this tip, we’ll look at a cross-functional process that will ensure your change requests are managed with integrity.

Capturing and categorizing requests

The help desk incident reporting management application is the best tool to use to capture all user requests. It does not matter which help desk application that is being used, it can be configured to meet your needs. Use categories to identify your various applications (i.e. ERP applications, customer relationship management (CRM), etc.), sub categories to identify the business area (i.e. AR, GL, Order Management, etc.), and type to identify the class of request. The type can be defined as follows:

1.     Issues: generally are break/fix types of requests.

2.     Enhancements: generally will involve a shorter development time, and involves end user(s) testing specific functionality before deploying to production environment.

3.     Projects: generally will take much more development time, and can involve multiple business functions requiring full end user testing before deploying to production.

Set expectations, and clearly communicate to the business users all requests need to be funneled through the help desk application. Inform the users how the categories, subcategories and type fields will be used. Once a request is submitted, the IT staff will review the request. Based on the information they obtain from the requestor, IT will provide an estimate of the work hours to complete the request. This estimate should be included on the request as well.  The estimation of hours to complete the request is one factor to be included when prioritizing the request.  Another factor would be to consider the urgency to the business. Is the request a ‘nice-to-have’ enhancement or a major bug which is impacting the client’s revenue?

Cross-functional team

Organize a cross functional team of business users; consisting of IT business analysts/developers, business managers or team leads (usually identified as a subject matter expert) from each area of the business that have requests to be prioritized. The team members involved need to have a comprehensive understanding of the application, business processes, and have an understanding of the business needs specific to their business area. They need to be familiar with the submitted requests, and the importance of the request. If clarification is needed on the request, they should obtain additional information from the user in their organization that submitted the request. Depending upon the organization structure and the number of requests this will determine the size of your cross-functional team.

Review and negotiation

IT will provide a report to include all open, in process and on-hold requests. Email the report to the cross-functional team for review prior to the meeting. The report will provide insight for the business users of the workload that IT has on their radar. The IT application or project manager coordinates a monthly meeting with the cross-functional team to review the report of requests. During the meeting the team reviews requests and negotiates priorities. As a result of the review there might be several requests that can be consolidated into a small project work effort. Some requests might have an impact on other business areas, so having a cross-functional team promotes communication across the organization, and allows all stakeholders the opportunity to provide input on a request. Also, some requests might be able to be closed because they are no longer a requirement or important to the business. In any case, the meeting will initiate communication across the organization, will build stronger more collaborative working relationships, and will assist IT in knowing where to focus their work efforts.

Setting priorities

As the team reviews the requests, the business owners will drive setting priorities. They understand their needs, and with the estimated hours of work to complete they are better equipped to decide what to have IT work on first. Depending on how the business users set priorities, the business areas must also have resources to commit to be available to work with IT to provide full requirements, be available to test, document process changes, and provide end user training as needed.

Communicating

After the review meeting is complete and priorities have been set, send meeting notes to the team summarizing what was agreed upon by the team. The IT project manager or team lead will draft a project plan for the work efforts that was agreed upon in the meeting. Define timelines and resources needed. Schedule another meeting with the business user team lead and other resources identified to further define requirements, business processes, test scripts, testing plans, and training needs. Confirm the schedule with the resources to ensure they are available to work on the enhancement or project.

Change management

If you have an enhancement or small project always include change management practices. Document and communicate the business drivers on the changes that will be deployed. The business user will provide the message to the business users, and coach them through the change no matter how big or small. With any application change, time and effort spent to complete the work will ultimately provide benefits to the organization. When you incorporate change management into small work efforts the more likely change management will be included in other work efforts and the organization continues to realize more productivity gain in the business.

 

Susan Oasheim, PMP, has worked in high tech for over 20 years, in various management roles within Accounting and Information Technology. She has been PMP certified for seven years, managing various projects, mostly ERP implementations.  She is a champion for implementing project management and change management processes.

This was first published in March 2011

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