Chapter 2: Network Configuration and Change Management
What can change management do for the stability of your environment? Wonderful things, to be
sure, but what does that mean in specific terms? What kind of return on investment (ROI) can
you expect from a change-management implementation? How will it affect the total cost of
ownership (TCO) for your network? How will a change-management implementation affect
downtime? How much training will it require? The answers to these questions are important for
making a business case for implementing change management. Interestingly, all of the numbers
come down to stability--how change management will decrease downtime. After all, downtime
costs money; reducing it saves money and creates a ROI. Reducing downtime can in many ways
reduce the need for highly trained network administrators because the change-management
process helps protect junior administrators from making mistakes. In addition, companies with
solid change-management practices can implement changes quickly and reliably, improving their
business agility and their ability to capitalize on new opportunities.
In this chapter, I'll focus on how change management can affect the stability of your
environment. I'll discuss the impact of changes on business performance and start you down the
path of creating a formal process to manage change. I'll concentrate on key areas such as
reviewing and approving changes, prioritizing changes, working with risk, and archiving
changes. No process is perfect, so we'll explore how the process needs to accommodate
imperfection by providing a means of restoring stability in the event of an error.
The Impact of Change on Business Performance
How can change impact business performance? Successful changes will modify the underlying
network to support new business tasks, helping the business remain more agile and responsive to
changing business conditions. However, unsuccessful changes can create downtime, hinder
network performance, and reduce the ability of the network to meet business needs. In fact, some
companies have such a poor history with making changes that they try to refrain from doing so
whenever possible. Although this practice helps prevent downtime, it also prevents the network
from adapting to the business' needs, forcing the business to accommodate the network rather
than the other way around. Either way, change impacts performance.
I recently spent several weeks at a network integration firm helping them develop a business case
for managing network changes more effectively. The firm had a fairly small internal network
with perhaps a thousand users, but their line of business was building and managing other
companies' networks. Their customers' networks often supported tens of thousands of users
spread across dozens of different locations and required fairly complex network infrastructures.
The firm had a form of change management in place: any changes to customer networks must be
approved by a senior administrator other than the one making the change. Manual archives of
device configurations were stored on a file server and could be used to restore a device if a
change didn't work out. A basic Help desk ticket-tracking system was used to manage change
requests, although the system usually wasn't used to store history or an ongoing status of the
Chapter 2 Chapter 2: Network Configuration and Change Management and Stability What can change management do for the stability of your environment? Successful changes will modify the underlying network to support new business tasks, helping the business remain more agile and responsive to changing business conditions. The firm had a form of change management in place: any changes to customer networks must be approved by a senior administrator other than the one making the change.