Controlling IT Change Across a Remote Organization

Currently, more companies are including remote workers in their business plans, and fewer are finding ways to reintegrate them since many processes can be done as effectively with telecommuting while reducing overhead. When you make IT changes, however, the remote management process becomes more complex and can work more fluidly when you keep a few tips in mind.

Make a Plan and a Backout Plan

The biggest challenges for remote teams include variations between in-person and remote communication, differences in time zones and feelings of isolation. When you consider these, you can build a better plan and backout plan. Include who is making the change, when it is happening and what the intended benefits will be as well as the best- and worst-case scenarios. Using tools like change management software, having multiple channels of communication and posting notifications on affected systems can help track and convey your plans.

Have Clear Communication Channels

Since the biggest moral issue for telecommuting is isolation, having multiple channels for communication and learning how to be clear without non-verbal cues can keep everyone invested. This means having frequent video chats, establishing a plan if a channel is disrupted and taking some time for one-on-one meetings. These do not have to be all-business either, keep in mind that remote employees often feel left out and offer incentives, swag or rewards for benchmarks.

Eliminate Risks and Conduct a Postmortem

There are risks involved for any change to IT which can vary in severity. Planning to eliminate or minimize those risks means brainstorming what each of them are and evaluating if there are too many to continue. It is also important to schedule a postmortem to help effectively plan future changes. Remember things like power outages in server rooms, who needs to be on-hand to handle which problems and even which adjacent systems are likely to be impacted.

Test Your Process and Appoint Staff Responsibilities

When possible, test your process on smaller systems and work up to company-wide changes. This can help you determine possible issues, whether the change has the desired outcome, and which departments should be included in the process. Assigning specific staff responsibilities, with multiple layers of eyes for review and approval, can help streamline the method as more complex systems are included. You can add fresher eyes and different perspectives when you include all qualified individuals in the review and remember that remote employees have career goals and paths of their own.

Assign a Dedicated Change Window and Verification of Success

Allow for various time zones when assigning a dedicated change window and planning verifications of success. For companies just starting remote work, most employees will live within driving distance, but some have workers around the world. The middle of the night for your team may be the workday for another.

Planning verification of success includes up both administrator and end-user goals. Pinging a server to make sure it rebooted properly does not mean that the software will load correctly or that there are no errors, and most notifications will occur as employees in each zone start their workday. Planning for that timespan can mean someone is on-hand as issues arise.

Document the Change Process With a Request

It is important to document the process with a request summarizing the tips included above. This helps with the postmortem and with building plans for future changes. Remember to include as many employees as possible to reduce feelings of isolation and ask that they document steps for more accurate records.

The challenges of IT changes increase in remote organizations because of the unique nature of telecommuting. There can be communication issues around non-verbal cues, time zones and feelings of being left out, so it is important to cover these issues and more in your plans, celebrations and success verifications.

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