Change is an integral part of any NOC environment, with new technologies being introduced and existing ones being upgraded or replaced. However, changes can often lead to unforeseen issues or incidents, with some statistics suggesting that up to 80% of network issues are due to changes. Therefore, efficient and reliable change management is vital, and automation can play a key role in supporting this.
In NOCs, personnel often spend a lot of time executing and supporting change requests. Inconsistent and unauthorised changes can add to this workload, leading to outages and negatively impacting the overall network performance. Automation support for change management can address these challenges and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of NOC operations.
Firstly, automation can facilitate the implementation of standard, non-impacting changes that are routine in nature. For example, enabling and disabling switch ports for end users who move offices, or changing VLANs. Implementing these changes through an automation tool can significantly reduce the risk of manual errors, ensure consistency, and minimise access to devices. More complex, non-standard changes could also be automated, but they should still follow the organisation’s standard change management process for approvals and risk assessment.
Secondly, automation can support configuration change reporting. It can validate and report on changes made to the network during change windows, ensuring integration with the change management process and any Requests For Change (RFCs) that have been opened. This ensures that all changes are accurately recorded and can be referenced in the future if required.
Lastly, automation can aid in correlating Configuration Notifications, Configuration Management System Policy, and Change Detection Alerts with Network Management System (NMS) incidents and alerts. This can help to highlight and track change-related incidents, providing a clear record of what changes were made on which devices. This information can be invaluable in reducing Mean Time To Repair (MTTR), as having a clear record of what was changed can speed up the troubleshooting process significantly.
Moreover, the use of automation in change management can alleviate some of the burden on NOC personnel, reducing the need for late-night or weekend shifts. This can lead to improved staff satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
In conclusion, automation support for change management can provide significant benefits for NOCs. From facilitating the implementation of standard changes, supporting configuration change reporting, and aiding in the correlation of configuration notifications, automation can greatly improve the efficiency and reliability of change management processes. By embracing automation, NOCs can better manage the inevitable changes that occur in their environments, leading to improved network performance, reduced MTTR, and a more efficient, effective operation.
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