Change Advisory Board

A change advisory board (or CAB) is a collective of representatives from different departments within the company who run that company’s formal change management processes. They are tasked with reviewing and approving or rejecting change requests before implementation is allowed to take place in production. In some environments, the change advisory board has no explicit decision making power, but instead makes recommendations to a designated change manager, who makes the ultimate decision about whether to let a change proceed.

A change advisory board is not directly involved in designing or implementing the proposed change, which is why the process it conducts is often known as an “external” review.

How to Set Up a Change Advisory Board

The change advisory board should have one representative from each team that may be affected by the change. This group is usually made up of IT and business leaders that will provide different perspectives on the changes being released. It must meet on a regular basis and have a well-defined process for submitting and reviewing change requests. To be successful, a change advisory board must strike a balance between reducing risk and allowing change to flow to stakeholders with the least possible friction.

The Evolution of Software Processes – How We Got to Change Advisory Boards

Change advisory boards were implemented to improve the visibility and coordination of changes that could impact multiple stakeholders inside and outside of the information technology function. The goal was to avoid situations where service delivery became unstable because “the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.”

As systems and the larger organization’s dependency upon them became more complex, fears of even an “isolated” change in one part of a system impacting other seemingly unrelated parts grew, accelerating the adoption of change advisory boards and increasingly more stringent change management procedures.

Delays of weeks or months to get a change into production while procedures were followed and approvals were granted, and stories of missing one change window only to be sent back to wait weeks or months again have forced a rethink of the role of change advisory boards.

Are Change Advisory Boards Going Away?

Rather than layering on more “external” review, companies that are embarking on digital transformation efforts have sought to reduce the dependencies between systems and, once systems are sufficiently isolated from impacting each other, to look to the individual teams running each component to “self manage” the change process. They may still retain a change advisory board, but allow a wider latitude of decentralized change management

What’s Better than a Change Advisory Board?

Intuitively, small teams with full ownership of service delivery for an isolated component are more likely to understand the impact of proposed changes to their component than an external review board would.

This approach delivers greater stability and higher throughput of value than the prior model of managing one or more monoliths through a centralized change approval board. In fact, DevOps Research Associates (DORA) found that organizations with lightweight or no formal change review process significantly outperformed organizations with a change approval board in terms of stability.

Want to go deeper on this topic? We’ve got you covered with a link to the above study and more in Do You Really Need that Change Advisory Board?