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Change Management, Simplified (Part II)

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Recap: In “Change Management, Simplified (Part I)", you read about how there are multiple meanings of the phrase “Change Management”, and also learned about how one of those meanings applies to Organizational Change.

In this second part of our four-part series, you will learn about how change Management is also synonymous with change configuration. We will discuss semantics of the phrase change management, and how it is be applied to in the greater Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) community. To set the right tone for this post, please watch the video below - Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?"

It is not often that something as serious as Change Management can be applied to the classic and funny Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on First?” The skit addresses one person asking who is playing first base in a baseball game, and the other explaining that “Who” (the name of the first baseman) is on first – the question sounds like the answer, and vice versa.

When dealing with any of the change management varieties, a sense of humor is a good quality to have. Change Management professionals have their own version of "Who's on First?", when they talk about their respective discipline without clear context. People will say "change management" out loud and to the receiver it means something else. Like the two actors in the video above, neither the sender nor receiver of this communication is wrong.


Language and industry standards have not caught up to address the confusing nature of "change management," applying to more than four disciplines. When change management is applied to OCM, as we learned in the previous post, it could easily be confused with the same change management a project manager is going to apply to their scope, schedule and budget of a project. The same project change management could be confused the change management action of forming a Change Advisory Board to assist change management (change configuration) for the infrastructure of a utility, server farm, railway system, or busy seaport. There are even more examples of how this word can confuse a person; and, true to the title of this series, the intent is to simplify these differences for you.

Change Configuration and the ITIL Community

Change configuration is the most technical member of the change management family. Unlike OCM, which addresses communications and stakeholder needs, change configuration is synonymous with change management in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) community. This type of change management applies to the life-cycle of IT assets.

The entire discipline of ITIL was started in 1980 by the United Kingdom's "Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency", and became "a set of standardized best practices for IT services used in government agencies." To work in this field of change management, there are various credentials from ITIL Practitioner to ITIL Master. Read more about that here, in the "ITIL Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths." Because today's technology will either be worn down, irrelevant or dangerous to use with other IT assets tomorrow, an ITIL professional is concerned with the overall life-cycle of IT assets in their purview and the timing in which they should be upgraded or replaced.

It's natural to question: instead of calling ITIL's change management discipline "change management" why not keep it simple for everyone, and call any change relating to IT assets "change configuration"?

Some in the ITIL community already do this. Some refuse to. There is an ongoing debate to the merits of how to identify ITIL change management. Those of us who function both inside and outside the ITIL world have to acknowledge that not all four definitions of "change management" are competing with each other all the time in every industry. While ITIL scholars debate that topic and professionals remain divided, it is up to us to communicate context clearly, already know what the context is, or insist on clarification when someone says the words "change management" out loud.

Next: Project Change Management

Media Referenced:

  1. Abbot and Costello "Who's on First", 1933

  2. "ITIL Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths", Ed Tittel and Earl Follis, 2019

  3. "Change Advisory Board (CAB) - Purpose", it-QMS, 2015

  4. "3 Differences Between Configuration Management vs Change Management", Praveen Malik, PMP

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