IT Change can be highly disruptive to service desks and this is why Peter Hubbard of Pink Elephant says it’s time to catch a CAB.

What is a Change Advisory Board (also known as CAB)?  It is a group of people tasked with assessing changes to an organisation’s IT environment.  A CAB meeting, therefore, is one of the most important meetings within an IT department.  The purpose of the meeting is to get teams within the organisation out of their individual roles, and thinking about their part in the overall provision of a service.

The main purpose of a CAB meeting is to highlight risks to the business, and should motivate the IT department personnel to be aware of the potential impacts of their actions to the end user. The management of change is, without doubt, extremely important to the success of an IT department, and the most visible part of this critical process is the CAB meeting, where significant Changes for the period are discussed.

Who is your CAB Driver?
The driving force behind your CAB meetings should be your organisation’s Change Manager, who is expected to chair these meetings to ensure that they run smoothly.

Change Managers decide who gets in the CAB
So who should be invited?  Examples of who you might want in your CAB are:

  • Network engineer
  • Senior application development engineer
  • Operation managers
  • Service desk managers
  • Server infrastructure engineer
  • Senior security engineer
  • Information security officer
  • Business relationship manager
  • Service owners

These members are typically considered the core members of a Change Advisory Board.

Occasionally, you may also want to invite:

  • Project managers
  • Release managers
  • User representatives

The above individuals may only be required for input on one or two changes.  In this case, it is advised to move these changes to the beginning of the meeting so that, once discussed, non-core members can leave.  This shows that you care about keeping the meeting to the point, and that you are not unnecessarily wasting anyone’s time.

Knowing the Route
A CAB meeting requires preparation before the event, and the relevant Follow-Up after.  It is not a point in time exercise, or something that can be made up on the spot. 
It is important that an agenda is created to guide the topics for discussion and set expectation.  This goes beyond simply ‘what changes will be discussed this week,’ and into other areas, such as ongoing projects, planned releases, etc.

Let Everyone Else Know the Route
Establishing the expectations of the meeting, as well as having scheduled timelines, will be incredibly helpful.  It means that everyone will get into the CAB meeting knowing what will happen, and by when it will happen.

*As an Example

Activities

Day & Time

Cut off time for new RFCS to be considered at CAB

Monday 15:00

Agenda sent out

Tuesday 11:00

CAB meeting

Wednesday 10:00 – 11:00

Minutes sent out

Wednesday 17:30

Schedule of Changes Published

Wednesday 17:30

The change manager should send out the CAB agenda – including the changes to be discussed – before the meeting takes place.  They should then invite the technical members affected by the agenda.

The technical teams need time to read and consider the changes themselves.  The change manager also needs to read the changes and come up with two/three questions for each one.  It is important that, at the time of the CAB meeting, the change manager is leading the discussion in the room, and not allowing it to be steered into a tech discussion.  The CAB meeting needs to be kept on track.

There is no set maximum time for a CAB meeting, but a good rule of thumb is to keep it under an hour – ideally around 30-45 minutes.  The best way to do this is to ensure that the discussion is kept moving.  If a long, detailed technical explanation is occurring, look about the room and make a judgement call – if no one seems interested, then politely break in with a question to get things back on track.

The most important aspect of any CAB, is that the discussion is flowing, and everyone is focused.

Getting to Your Destination

Don’t make your attendees dread the weekly CAB meeting!  It is possibly the single most important factor in how they view the whole change process. The sign of a successful CAB Meeting is when no one is worried about asking questions and being involved.  The tips above should make this achievable.

Author Bio:
James West

James West

Editor, SITS Insight

If you have service desk news to share or would like to become a SITS Insight blogger, please get in touch with James

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