Managing change in a SaaS environment

Migrating applications to the cloud poses a particular set of change management challenges for organisations.

The many benefits of cloud computing are well known. At a high level these can be grouped into infrastructure and application management benefits.

Let’s focus on some of these benefits from an application management perspective: scalability, rapid deployment, ease of configuration changes and a culture of iterative releases. These benefits inevitably result in key stakeholder groups requiring a change in mindset especially during the post roll-out release cycles.

The typical implementation consists of a rapid deployment to either the entire user base or a subset of users. This is then followed by a series of new functional releases and a roll-out to the remaining user base. This can be described as a rolling roll-out and requires the deployment team to think differently.

From the requirements gathering process right through to the training sessions the deployment team has to adjust to running multiple mini-releases in a compressed time frame. This is not sustainable indefinitely but can be done over a 12 to 18 month period as opposed to a having one massive release at the end of, say, a 15 month project.

The key to success lies in the ability of the deployment team to re-engineer and re-imagine the old way of doing things. This means defining the nature of application changes and developing a strategy to manage each of these types of changes. For example, basic configuration changes will not require the full suite of change control tasks while new functionality which requires some level of code customisation will require a more rigorous approach.

 Zaheer Ismail