Everything You Need To Know About CAB Meetings [+3 Mistakes To Avoid]

CAB (change advisory board) meetings are necessary for overall business success because it ensures system changes impact workflow positively. 

But many businesses use unengaging and monotonous meetings that don't accomplish anything.

This detailed guide looks at how you can run a more engaging CAB meeting. We'll also cover some benefits, the different types of CAB meetings, and three mistakes to avoid.

What is a CAB meeting?

Organizations utilize CAB meetings to assess, prioritize, and schedule change requests. This guarantees that all changes deliver value.

Change leaders head CAB meetings, review resources, oversee approval processes, and ultimately have the final say. Other CAB members include:

  • User managers
  • Technical experts
  • Third-parties like customers
  • Operations managers
  • Services desk analysts

These professionals double-check all changes from a technical and business perspective. Without CAB meetings, the IT department might implement a change that affects human resources. Or, the accounting team may utilize a new invoicing system which prevents marketers from gathering sales data.

Fortunately, CAB meetings can help because it allows your entire firm to understand the effects of changes, driving business growth.

Change management vs. release management

Change and release management may seem like the same thing, but key differences exist. Change management reviews the impact that potential changes have on business goals while release management puts these features into motion.

The change management process

The change management process involves:

  1. Going through a summary of all proposed changes
  2. Looking at the results gathered by user acceptance testing
  3. Confirming test sign-offs from the advisory board
  4. Implementing the change into business processes
  5. Tracking the change to see if it's worth the investment

3 types of CAB meetings

There are three forms of CAB meetings:

  1. Pre-approval CAB meetings
  2. Post-approval CAB meetings
  3. Emergency CAB meetings

Pre-approval CAB meetings

During pre-approval meetings, change leaders try to understand how a change will affect customers and other departments. Accountants also look at the cost of changes and if it's worth the investment. Once leaders approve, teams conduct post-approval meetings.

Post-approval CAB meetings

After applying a change, advisory boards meet to discuss its effects and if everything went according to plan. Change leaders use CSI (continual service improvement) to monitor operations and determine if it's worth pursuing. If not, teams record all shortcoming and lessons learned to understand what went wrong.

ECAB meetings

ECAB (emergency change advisory board) meetings occur when a business is under immediate threat and leaders declare an operational emergency. Here are some common reasons why teams call ECAB meetings:

  • Security breaches
  • System failures
  • Data hacks 

In these situations, engineers, cyber security teams, and operational managers gather to talk about risk management.

Benefits of CAB meetings 

Here are three reasons why CAB meetings are essential for the growth of every organization:

  • It allows you to respond to security threats quickly
  • Everyone is on the same page regarding future changes
  • Leaders can monitor changes over several months or years

It allows you to respond to security threats quickly

ECAB meetings are similar to regular CABs, but it speeds up the change process in response to threats. For example, if the IT department finds a weakness in the company firewall, they can raise an ECAB meeting and get changes approved within minutes. This allows them to strengthen the firewall and prevent security problems.

Everyone is on the same page regarding future changes

Without CAB meetings, teams work in silos because they don't know about the latest changes, which impedes a healthy workflow. For example, if your operations team starts using new software to complete transactions, the accounting department might be unable to track invoices. But if the entire firm is on the same page, members bring up concerns and leaders can use this to create backup plans.

Leaders can monitor changes over several months or years

What's unique about advisor board meetings is that you and your team keep track of changes for years, so you'll know if upgrades are worth the time and money. Use successful examples as a template for future changes. And if something isn't working, learn from your mistakes and avoid them going forward.

Now let’s look at how to run a CAB meeting.

How to run a successful CAB meeting

Because change meetings are necessary to the survival and expansion of any organization, here are five ways to streamline CAB meetings:

  • Set a meeting schedule
  • Forward a list of proposed changes to participants
  • Ask challenging questions
  • Follow up after your CAB meeting
  • Use the CSI model to evaluate changes

Set a meeting agenda

First, build a clear plan detailing everything your CAB meeting will cover. This plan is critical because it structures the meeting, so everyone knows the discussion topics, and if irrelevant conversations occur, it's easy to identify and avoid.

Agendas also ensure meetings are actionable since the change leader can assign tasks that employees need to complete. To create a meeting agenda, use a free Airgram template and record talking points like proposed changes, opportunities for continual improvement, and the impact of previous changes. Airgram even has a timer that notifies everybody when they need to move on.

Forward a list of proposed changes to participants

Upon planning your CAB meeting, share a list of proposed changes with all participants. This promotes productive virtual meetings because the board can review potential changes ahead of time and ask questions.

But if your team raises requests too close to the meeting date, consider implementing lead times for CAB routed changes. For example, if your CAB meetings are on Mondays, send a reminder to change owners on Thursday saying they'll need to propose changes by the end of the day.

Ask challenging questions

Many change leaders make the mistake of avoiding uncomfortable questions and topics. But by not asking challenging questions, you aren't prepared for the worst case scenarios. Consider questions like:

  • What happens if something goes wrong?
  • Do you have a backup plan?
  • What if this change doesn't fix the problem?
  • Should we account for transitional activities or proximity to business-critical months?

It's always tough bringing up bleak questions and outcomes, but it's vital because if you don't, an upset customer will.

Follow up after your CAB meeting

After the CAB meeting, send your minutes to your team since it’s like a meeting summary. In this meeting minutes, including information like:

  • An overview of emergency updates
  • Action items and deadlines
  • Key decisions made
  • Downtime and affected services
  • Implementation times  

These meeting minutes keep all participants up to date so they know what tasks they must complete and before when.

Use the CSI model to evaluate changes

Many leaders ignore CSI. However, it's a must if you're looking to implement positive business changes while removing those that don't work. CSI identifies methods that make IT processes more efficient by monitoring progress over time. So once you've added new changes, stay updated on their effectiveness. If changes improve work processes, continue using it. However, remove it if you find it doesn't make a difference or negatively impacts your business. By logging all mistakes into a document, these failed changes act as learning curves. Share this file with your team so everyone can learn from old changes.

3 mistakes to avoid

Here are three mistakes to look out for when heading a CAB meeting:

  1. Utilizing unclear change requests
  2. Not learning from negative changes
  3. Running a CAB meeting without an agenda

1. Utilizing unclear change requests

The first mistake change leaders make is instituting unclear changes. Before implementing a change, understand everything about it and the exact steps to take if it doesn't work out, so you’re prepared for the worst. For example, if you’re introducing a team wiki into your business, you want to know about potential downtime, backup plans, security features that’ll protect company data, and transitional activities.

2. Not learning from negative changes

CABs often forget about using CSI to evaluate the progress of changes and their effects on business. Without this insight, you won't know if changes are good or bad and can't learn from previous mistakes, making CSI critical for team growth.

3. Running a CAB meeting without an agenda

The third mistake is running a meeting without a plan in place. This has several consequences:

  • Participants won't be able to prepare for the meeting
  • Discussions will drift off into irrelevant topics
  • Achieving meeting targets are more challenging
  • Members won't know what to do after a CAB meeting due to the lack of action items

This leads to hundreds of wasted hours and employee engagement drops since meetings are tedious.

Final thoughts on running a CAB meeting

CAB meetings are essential to business success because it analyzes future changes to see if it's worth it. During CAB meetings, change leaders prepare for the worst-case scenario and create backup plans so negative changes won't affect customers or long-term milestones. But a common problem members face is CAB meetings that drag out forever. These are unproductive and harm employee morale. To counteract this, implement an agenda so everyone can prepare and leaders spot irrelevant talking points.