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The fast paced changes to business environments, mergers and acquisitions, the need to automate processes, emergence of new technologies such as Web 2.0, and other technological developments all mean that changes to a company’s software is a regular and ongoing feature. The importance of software change control management stems from the fact that such changes in software are, in effect, changes to the business processes itself as the software that aids implementation remains inextricably linked to the business process.
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The lack of proper controls for software changes can lead to loss of critical data, overwriting of important components, overlapping of different versions of the same code, incompatibility of some modules, and various other confusions and complexities. Very often, retrieval might not be possible, leading to restoration of previous versions, which means the changes fail.
Without proper controls in place, such failures are easy to come by even when each individual entrusted with the job does their role perfectly. For instance, discovery of deficiencies that stem from failure to map the test maps to appropriate requirements, or by the application of a wrong patch might take place only after deploying the application, causing delay of the resolution. When the affected process remains too critical to shutdown, rectification becomes difficult, and with the passage of time, complex problems may arise that lead to failure of the change.
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Organizations usually adopt component software architecture such as a client/server application, Web-based applications, cross-platform applications, and service-oriented architecture for greater flexibility. Such flexibility results in a greater movement of software parts, increasing the risks associated with software and data integrity and security.
Companies adopting effective software change controls can mitigate such risks largely. For instance, software controls ensure access control, meaning only the right person has access to relevant data or software codes, verifies the address or user before transferring data, and ensures backups remain in place before applying changes.
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Poor Software Quality
Regardless of the architecture, failure to adopt a good software change control management leads to poor software quality. Without proper version control systems or other measures to control the different versions and components of the software, the software may hang, critical data may be lost, critical processes may fail as the software fails to link to databases, and process efficiency as well as data integrity suffers.
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Increased Customer Engagement
The poor software quality resultant from uncontrolled software changes directly translates to dissatisfied business customers. Uncontrolled changes can lead to loss of critical data, processes held up, and customer-interfaces breaking down or slowing down, manifesting in cases such as the self-service industry whereby they become dysfunctional, a transaction not showing as recorded and other glitches. These directly lead to customer dissatisfaction, and the company suffers from having to spend more time and resources engaging the customer through customer service, support, and other mediums. Regardless of the effectiveness of such interventions, some customers remain dissatisfied and withdraw their patronage, leading to overall reduced patronage for the business.
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Poor software change control that leads to overlapping, loss of data, and system instability results in unnecessary rework to restore the system. Such reworks are very often lengthy exercises requiring much trial and error, and involving a detailed scan of the system and possible system downtime. The time and resources spent could be put to better productive activities. Such reworks may also lead to missed deadlines.
Failed changes, higher risk, dissatisfied customers, and unnecessary rework all increase the importance of software change control management. Good controls help eliminate unnecessary costs, improve process efficiency, and allow optimal utilization of business opportunity.
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Forrester Consulting. “The Challenges Of Software Change Management In Today’s Siloed IT Organizations." http://www.serena.com/docs/repository/solutions/software-change-mana.pdf. Retrieved 08 March 2011.
Image Credit: flickr.com/Wouter Kiel