Tracking Changes in a Cross-Platform Environment

Change is an intrinsic component of an IT professional’s work-life that can manifest itself in many different ways. Completely new paradigms such as cloud computing need to be incorporated into the lexicon and shortly thereafter, a degree of proficiency is expected. Less disruptive changes such as those used to tune or optimize systems are constantly being implemented in most organizations. If you are not comfortable with consistently changing conditions, IT may not be the right career choice.

Working as a DBA or system administrator brings with it the responsibility to be conversant with any changes made to your systems and the potential impact they may have on performance or the user experience. This is a challenging task which is further complicated when the environment is comprised of diverse platforms that may be located on-premises or in the cloud. Trying to keep track of what’s going on in your head is not recommended.

Why Track and Manage Changes?

Just about every aspect of an enterprise’s computing environment is in flux to some degree. In fact, there are so many changes that crop up daily that some may be treated less carefully than others. This can prove to be costly if problems develop in systems where changes have not been accurately tracked.

There are multiple benefits that a business can reap by initiating a robust change management policy. Among them are:

Refining the processes involved in changes - Since changes are a constant in the IT world, getting better at implementing them can only benefit your organization. Studying how prior changes were handled and addressing problems that were encountered will help streamline and improve future changes.

Controlling the amount and speed of changes - Without proper management, changes may be introduced at too rapid a pace for assimilation by the user community. End-users, as well as the IT staff, can be overwhelmed when multiple changes are implemented in a short window. The confusion caused by rapid-fire changes may negate any anticipated benefits.

Developing more efficient procedures - Here we are referring to the procedures required to implement the change. Part of managing changes involves monitoring the steps and tools used to perform the planned upgrades or modifications. Lessons learned from past changes can be instrumental in avoiding mistakes or optimizing future implementations of a similar nature.

Reducing the incidence of mismanaged changes - A badly managed change can cause serious problems and permanent harm to an organization. Changes often involve system outages which can impact many users. Poor change management may have allowed the change to proceed without an adequate backout plan in place. Extended outages can cripple a business, and recovering from problems encountered during a change should be in place for any actions that pose the risk of affecting users.

Impediments to Successful Change Management

Successful change management requires coordination and planning. Changes can be unsuccessful due to a variety of technical and personal reasons. Failure to pay attention to these factors decreases the chance that a particular change will be successful.

Poor planning is responsible for many failed changes. Spending the time and energy to fully develop a plan for a change is a wise investment that will be repaid handsomely. Details that need to be incorporated into your plan include any compatibility issues which may be caused by the component. The steps required to implement the plan should be documented. As mentioned previously, a backout plan is vital if there is any chance that the change will impact users. Realistically, this will apply to almost all changes.

The full support of the individuals or entities who may be affected by the change is key to its success. If you are introducing new software tools to your development team, there should have been some discussion concerning the utility of the tool and reasons for the switch. Changes that modify user access to sensitive data need to be understood and agreed on by the administrators who are responsible for the process. Confusion or contention over the change being implemented can lead to inconsistencies and compliance deficiencies.

Lack of adequate communication is a common problem that causes a change to fail or causes unintended consequences. During the planning stage, all possible impacts need to be identified and the appropriate stakeholders notified that the change is under consideration. Legitimate reasons to reschedule or postpone a change can come from unexpected sources. It’s much better to find this out before rather than during the change.

A Comprehensive Change Manager for SQL Databases

DB Change Manager is one of the tools contained in DB PowerStudio from IDERA. It provides a vehicle from which you can manage all of your SQL database changes across multiple platforms. Using DB Change Manager can dramatically improve the success rate of your database changes and help you comply with regulatory audit requirements.

The tool gives you the ability to manage, track and report on all database changes on Oracle, SQL Server, Db2 and Sybase. You can run it on physical and virtual machines in your data center or the cloud. Advanced features include the generation of scripts to roll-back modifications and uncover problems caused by improper changes. Audit requirements can be fulfilled with reports that detail changes made to a database over time. It’s a specialized tool that should be part of your overall corporate change management policy.

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