Think of change control before you need it
The term change control management already implies that it is a structured process. When it comes to project management, it is crucial for successful deliver to take potential changes into consideration already during the planning phase. With a change control procedure in place necessary changes can be implemented in a timely and effective manner.
Do changes mean that the planning failed?
No, absolutely not. It lies in the nature of project based work that not all aspects can be foreseen and uncertainties remain despite the most sophisticated and thought out plan. Changes will happen and they can result from a variety of things. They happen as markets or technology change, the client’s requirements change or the project leader gains a better understanding of the project needs as things progress. Better get used to acting within a dynamic work environment and the changes it includes.
No change without change request
Every change will impact the project schedule, staffing, costs and risk. It is therefore important that everyone involved knows about the effect of changes before they are being implemented. Make sure that changes are not being agreed on in passing. Change requests should be submitted in some formal way, via email or ticketing system. A solid documentation of change requests will be very helpful at the end of a project and helps prevent misunderstandings with clients.
Change control process - Steps for effective change control
1. Define the change request
Everyone who submits a change request should be able to explain what the actual change entails, why it should be implemented and what additional value it brings. This includes negative results from not implementing the change as well as what effects it will have if the change cannot be implemented before considerable time has passed. Make sure that the change request clarifies what the stakeholder expects to achieve with the change.
2. Review the change request
Analyze every change request and evaluate their impact on the project schedule, costs and resource utilization. Depending on the complexity of the change request, the entire project team should participate in the review and get their opinion on expected response and delivery times.
3. Define options and respond to the change request
Offer solutions for the requested change, including an explanation why the solution is advisable and how long it would take to implement the change. Make sure to communicate impacts on the initial project plan, especially if they are above the budget cap and mean that the planned delivery date is being outrun. You should also explain whether or not a change requires an extension of the project team. This gives the client a good basis for the decision making process and prevents uncomfortable surprises later on.
4. Decision and change approval
You should set a deadline for the change control response document. If the client doesn’t respond to it until it expires, you should do a re-evaluation of the change request. The delay in response might have changed the timeframe as set in the initial solution options.
Effective change management means that you don’t have to approve every change request that is being submitted. Especially when the change results in a major increase of project scope it is advisable to implement the requirements in a follow-up project.