The Foolproof Guide to Change Management Documentation

The Foolproof Guide to Change Management Documentation

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.”

Whether or not he was talking about document management is up for scholars to debate, but two things are certain: your business is constantly changing, and you need a way to document those changes.

Change management documentation does just that—it documents change management. This guide will explain the essentials of change management, what kind of documents it generates, and how you should manage those documents.

Key Takeaways:

  • Businesses use change management documentation to formalize and record their change management process.
  • Document management software gives users added abilities and control over their change management documentation.
  • FileCenter has all the features that make document management software a valuable asset for businesses of every size.

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Change Management Crash Course

Goolrick’s Pharmacy is America’s oldest continuously operating soda fountain, and it’s among dozens of still-operating old-fashioned soda shops that opened over a century ago. Many of these shops have used the same recipes and uniforms for generations, but soda jerkers are few and far between these days.

Out of the 155,000+ restaurants in the United States, most have changed their recipes, policies, menus, and uniforms over the years. Even the most stalwart oddments have made changes over the years: prices, hours, salaries, etc.

Some businesses solicit ideas for changes from their staff and customers, while others have a more ad-hoc approach to change management. But all companies undergo changes, and all companies should document those changes appropriately.

Change management aims to create a process for soliciting, documenting, approving, reviewing, and implementing changes. These changes can range from menial to significant and span every department of an organization.

Who is responsible for change management document? 

Typically project managers and people managers are the fulcrums of change management, but change is everybody’s responsibility—from executives to new hires.

Change management starts with managers and decision-makers but includes everyday employees and stakeholders
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Why Use Change Management Documentation?

It’s entirely possible to make a change without ever documenting it. Why should you use a change management documentation process? 

  • To create clarity across your team. While most organizations create written policies and procedures, many don’t. Employees rely on word-of-mouth to remember policies and best practices. This can lead to inconsistent procedures and make it difficult for companies to disseminate new policies. Change management documentation creates an authoritative source for policy and procedure over time.
  • To set a precedent. Every new employee at a grocery store grows tired of customers asking for directions to the dairy section at the back of the store. They each suggest moving it closer to the front entrance. What they don’t realize is that dairy is at the back by behavioral design, so customers may see another product they’d like to buy on the way. Change management documentation provides a record that can eliminate redundant requests, streamline the approval/denial process, and ensure consistency across managers.
  • To record decision reasoning. It’s a familiar sitcom premise: a character sees a rule they don’t understand, breaks it, and learns the hard way that it was there for a reason. It’s funny on the silver screen, but not in the office, yet many workplaces subject themselves to the same kind of Sisyphean loop: a manager finds a policy they don’t understand, changes it, and then realizes why it was there. Rather than subject your colleagues to that, change management documentation not only details decisions but the reasons for decisions.

What to Document

What types of documents do you need to record? To answer that question, it’s best if you start at the beginning and step through the process chronologically:

  • Change requests. Whether you solicit suggestions from employees, customers, or not at all, every change starts with an idea. The first piece of information you should record is the request for change (RFC), including the name of the requester (if applicable), the date of the request, and any relevant information about the request (the departments it affects, the policies it references, etc.). 
  • Supporting documents. When somebody makes a change request, they should typically include some supporting documentation. For instance, they may include a screenshot of the problem they’re trying to solve, a specific policy they would like to amend, or a link to the solution they’re proposing. You should record that information along with their change request.
  • Manager approval/denial. You should record not only the final decision and reasoning but also any communication attendant to it. Notes, emails, and comments are all relevant information to document along with the final approval or denial of the request.
  • Implementation. Choosing a destination is only one part of a journey. For it to mean anything, you have to put your decision into action. You should document the ongoing implementation of your changes, including policy updates, employee handbooks, and any other relevant changes.
  • Change review. Once you’ve made a change, continue to monitor results and asses your implementation. Has the change helped? Can you measure the impact? Should you reverse the change? Should you increase your implementation? As you review your changes over time, document this step in the process.
Change management starts from the request and continues through implementation and review
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How to Store and Access Change Management Documentation

In 1953, young artist Robert Rauschenberg created a controversial piece of art (“Erased de Kooning”) by erasing a drawing by his more established colleague Willem de Kooning. Nearly 70 years later, collector Martin Mobarak destroyed a Frida Kahlo painting to turn it into an NFT.

While these controversial contrivances attract the attention and ire of the art world, most documents are meant to be seen. Unless you plan on turning your change management process into performance art, you should record your documents using a secure and reliable method.

Today, the best document storage for your change management process is document management software. It allows you to digitally preserve, index, sort, search, and convert your change management documentation for a fraction of the cost of paper storage.

Key advantages of change management documentation include:

  • Create a searchable database of change requests. This allows you to record all the change requests along with their details and supporting documents in one easily accessible location. You can use document management software to search for change requests by date, keyword search, author, etc.
  • Access change requests from anywhere. You can only read a paper document if it’s within about 15 inches. You can read a digital document from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud-based document management is a huge asset for your company because it allows you to access documents remotely.
  • Preserve documents indefinitely. The oldest scraps of paper date back to about 2,000 years. Meanwhile, 30% of documents today don’t even make it off the printer. Long-term paper storage requires specific humidity, light, and temperature controls, low-acidity storage materials, and regular pest control. Meanwhile, even the best-preserved papers begin to lose fidelity when they’re copied. Digital documents, on the other hand, maintain their integrity over time. 

Document Management with FileCenter

From change management documents to contracts to templates, organizations use more documents today than ever before. To make the most of this abundance of information, it has to be accessible, organized, and consistent, and FileCenter is a powerful tool for doing just that.

FileCenter gives you the power to digitally store and search for documents based on titles, keywords and other types of metadata, and even the contents of the document itself. By using nested cabinets, drawers, and folders, we make organization straightforward and intuitive. Plus, our suite of tools, like optical character recognition and automated routing, takes the stressing and guessing out of your document management journey.

Ready to revolutionize your change management documentation process? Get started with FileCenter today.