Change Embargo

Discuss and debate ITIL Change Management issues
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Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:51 pm

Wishing happy and prosperous Twenty-Ten to all. Hope all of us had a nice holiday.

Not much of activity on the Change management forum. Embargo could be the reason and this is what my question is . I am keen to know more about the change embargo. Basically, the background or the history behind it. Googling could have an option for me but am surely keen to hear from the horse's mouth.

I am aware the most organization public or private owned have an embargo on any FSC in a particular time period (however, some emergency changes can still go through if the change requester carries an exception letter. The organizations I know have the embargo period starting a week before the Christmas and ending in the second week of January. I don't think ITIL would tell when to do embargo but does it tell why to do embargo. I guess the CAB remains suspended in this period. To be specific, I am keen to know if there is a history behind embargo, is embargo a holy grail for all organizations, is there is particular time period recommended for the embargo etc.

Hope this question does some good to the blog embargo on the change management forum.

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Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:14 pm

Hi viv121,

First of all, happy new year.
What you say as change embargo could be found here under another name, which is change freeze. I think this is the more common name.

To your concern, change freeze period would depend.
I work for an IT company that serves airlines as its main customers.
For an airline, holidays are the period they make most of their money. They define these periods as critical. During these periods, anything (including a change) that is potential of disrupting IT Service is likely avoided.
Therefore during these periods they make an agreement with the IT Service provider to freeze any change to the production environment.

I'm sure other companies would have their own definition of freeze periods.
And also the decision to freeze comes from the customer, not from the provider.

Hope this helps.

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Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:09 am


Change Management exists to reduce the risk of failure when changes are made to an IT system. Change Freezes are a method reduce the risk of failure further.

The two main reasons behind a Christmas change freeze are:

1) it's traditionally a busier time for the customer (this may or may not be $$ related) , so any IT failure will have the biggest impact
2) the IT department are short staffed, so the time to restore a failure is likely to increase, impacting the customer more than usual

Hope that helps
Mick Smith
Change, Configuration and Release Manager
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Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:54 am

Thanks Asril and mnsmith. Glad to know that there is no 'prescription' to the embargo and it differs from industry to industry.

companies i have worked in IT manager capacity were telecoms and Banks. Two very different industries but had common embargo which was essentially the period around the Christmas. I assume that if the IT staff work full capacity and do the changes and action the related issues, even then the success and failure of the change couldn't be measured as people work hard throughout the year to have a happy christmas and great new year eve.

Thanks for your opinions. I believe ITIL has got nothing to day about it but any other known practices other than the ones highlighted already would be good to know.
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Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:32 pm

I wanted to say something profound but Asril and Mick have covered it.

It's risk and resource.

In theory there is no need for any kind of embargo because when you evaluate the risk and resource of any change request you are covering the issue.

But in practice it is a good idea to warn the whole organization that you will be entering a high risk and/or low resource period and therefore non-essential activities will be severely curtailed. Whether you call it a freeze (or embargo) or just sound very discouraging is a matter of your organizational culture.

Once you have done it a few times everyone should understand and then your only issue is to review the whys and wherefores that lead to it so that it is not just a habit but continues to have real value.
"Method goes far to prevent trouble in business: for it makes the task easy, hinders confusion, saves abundance of time, and instructs those that have business depending, both what to do and what to hope."
William Penn 1644-1718
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Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:53 am

Some companies I have worked with had established a change freeze for Accounting/Financial closing Closing: year end closing is a very business critical activuty that had to be performed with less ressources and IT support: risk mitigation called for not allowing any IT change (with the exception of emergency changes) during the closing period.

JP Gilles
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