Minimize Change Management Risks By Planning Ahead
Planned computer system change requires one set of tools and strategies for healthcare IT administrators, but it is the unplanned variety that causes most of the headaches, says a new whitepaper from Fluke Networks.
“Planned change is obviously the best kind to have,” the white paper says. But even that requires thinking ahead. Organizations are constantly undergoing planned change and evolution — including upgrading servers and adding users, applications, wide-area networks (WAN) links, and switches and routers. System administrators can better plan for these changes by measuring the real volume of online traffic affected by each potential change.
But unplanned change is the far bigger problem for most organizations, the white paper notes.
Change management is recognized as a core process in IT and something FDA inspectors often focus on when looking at how a regulated life science company operates.
Best practices to handle change management include gaining visibility in operations, quantifying the present situation accurately, understanding the potential impact of any changes, facilitating the change and then measuring the effect of any infrastructure change, Fluke Networks recommends. Among its best practices:
Application performance monitoring (APM): The role of APM is to quantify application performance by time, user group and infrastructure components. “These measurements are critical for troubleshooting and identifying changes needed to increase performance,” Fluke Networks says. APM allows operations staff to verify normal network operations and confirm that service delivery meets and exceeds acceptable levels. “Equally important as verifying performance is the ability to detect and view network and application activity outside normal performance range,” the white paper notes.
Baselining: This takes the guesswork out of managing applications by proactively monitoring application performance and determining the best opportunities for making improvements. Taking this kind of proactive approach allows IT system administrators to spot problems before they become serious.
Intelligent baselines: In the past, application performance baselines were usually created manually, demanding big time and money investments. Intelligent baselines should be built into the system to anticipate slow or fast periods such as the end of the month, which tends to be busier for finance departments. Many end users set up an application’s performance standards based on past performance without considering future usage patterns. But by monitoring application performance, a system can generate a report with an intelligent baseline that takes into account recent and historical system performance and indicates if performance is alarmingly below par. “Intelligent baselines automate the discovery of these kinds of developing issues and can alert the IT team to potential problems” before users are significantly affected, the white paper says.
Automated notification and incidents: Improperly setup automated notification systems can create more problems than they solve due to false positives and false negative alerts. The root of the problem is usually that the baselines are manually set and become dated or obsolete as business workflow patterns change. A solution is to leverage an IT system that ties incident reports to intelligent baselines so that the system won’t be triggered unnecessarily.
Proactive change and service-level management (SLM): A process for assuring the quality of services delivery relates directly to change management, Fluke Networks notes. Change management supports SLM by relying on established metrics and encouraging the use of a proactive, strategic approach to managing performance. It directly enables IT to implement changes in an orderly, professional manner to support continuous improvement of operations. Change management through APM takes advantage of the analysis of past performance and allows IT staff to identify areas of improvement that will provide the highest positive outcome to various service levels. — Michael Causey