One Step At a Time

The key to continual improvement is small, iterative improvements

by Mark Morton

Let me start by saying that I am not a traditional IT guy. I’m a process problem solver. When I was first hired by my current employer, I was part of the IT quality assurance team. I got into IT through the quality door.

One of my first assignments was to help mature our IT change management process. From there, I became the IT change management manager, where there were many opportunities for process improvement.

As the change activity grew and we became more rigorous in our change process, we recognized that our application development teams were under a lot of stress to test how their applications performed after monthly server patching. To streamline testing, we bundled several changes into one window. Emphasis also was placed on not disrupting the applications our customers used.

After mapping out the current state and where we wanted to be, we launched a process with regular patching dates. Then came growing pains. That’s when continual service improvement began.

One growing pain was we were causing incidents that affected the business through this patching release process. Typically, it was because we left application maintenance pages up beyond the end of their maintenance windows. I’m a process guy, so lessons learned are a key tool. When we looked at all the incidents caused by the process, we began holding planning meetings during which we made sure we covered critical success factors (CSF). We:

  1. Reviewed all the IT system changes planned for the time period (release) in question.
  2. Determined who would be in the meetings representing their areas.
  3. Collaboratively built a run book everyone could reference.
  4. Assessed how ready we were in a dry run meeting prior to the release.

Several more detailed parts underpinned these four areas, but having these CSFs in place made a difference. The incidents that occurred as part of the patching process dramatically decreased.

Over time, more and more small, iterative improvements were made to the process to streamline it and ensure it delivered reliable, effective results. This is core to continual service improvement in IT—even though I’m not an IT guy!

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Mark Morton is an IT change management manager at First Citizens Bank in Raleigh, NC. He received an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A senior member of ASQ, Morton is an ASQ-certified Black Belt and an information technology infrastructure library expert. He also is a former chair of ASQ section 1113 in Raleigh.

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