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A guide to ITSM change freezes

Having a period of restricted changes over Christmas, into the New Year, or in fact at any time that is right for your organisation can truly be of great benefit. ITSM change freezes can protect business operations at times where major changes are underway, when you have fewer IT professionals working, or simply during busy periods. They can minimise staff stress, prevent change errors, and restore project focus. Invoking a change freeze really can be in the best interest for your business.

If you are yet to implement a change freeze for this festive season it is absolutely not too late to start. This guide will help prepare you for rolling out a change freeze quickly and smoothly. Think of it as your checklist for change freeze success!

Gain insight

If one of the driving factors for your upcoming change freeze is that you will be thin on the ground staffwise, then be sure to talk to those employees who will be holding down the fort. (Or in ‘normal times’; talk with all IT resources.) Let them know that things may be stretched for a short period of time, and open up the conversation to establish what support they may need. Take this into consideration when preparing for your change freeze. Respecting and onboarding your teams is vital in any change management.

Consider your timing

Many IT Service Managers will opt to start a change freeze sooner than it is perhaps required. This risk management approach works to allow time to clear any backlog of changes, to have capacity for error or for any reworks, and it minimises last minute stress. But perhaps more importantly it extends the change freeze beyond what is necessary. Lengthening the freeze will allow teams to return from holidays or recover from busy periods. The first days back can potentially be the service desk’s busiest, so allow staff to get caught up and back into the flow of things before being met with change requests.

Communicate it clearly

Once your change freeze is ready to launch be sure to consider how you communicate it – letting people know in a way which won’t be missed and is clearly understood. For example, using the same template you use for other IT updates will be familiar to staff. However you opt to document it, make clear the dates the period extends from and to, as well as the time – factoring in time zone differences, if appropriate for your business.

It is worth sharing the news of your impending change freeze on multiple channels. By email, sharing it on Slack (or any similar chat service you use as a company), as a headline or banner on any ticketing software or intranet you use, and even adding it to calendars. It is paramount that all teams are aware and understand the change freeze and what it means.

Making allowances

On occasion there may be a change request you have to make an exception for. Such instances should purely be for the most business-critical issues. You must weigh up the risk of making allowances. Overstretched or low staff levels adds the risk of error, and hectic times mean changes could cause delays to other projects or work; and so, the decision to break a change freeze should not be taken lightly. But what you can do is plan ahead for these emergency situations. Map out the details of how to handle urgent changes, such as obtaining sign-off, who to contact, and how best to resolve various potential issues. Preparing your team for worst case scenarios could greatly pay off if something unexpected happens.

Finally…

We hope our top tips for change freeze success serve you well, with disruption kept to a minimum. Restricting change for a short duration can allow your IT resource some well-earned time off or relieve pressure during periods of high activity.

For more on the topics of risk management and change management take a look at our ITIL4 courses. These courses are ideally suited for IT Service Managers and IT Support teams.