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Change Control and how to manage it

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As a principle, the project manager should proactively be monitoring and working to eliminate the need for any changes, while at the same time having a process in place to manage such eventualities.
First let’s summarize the main steps – there are FOUR change control steps that the project manager should follow:

  • First, evaluate and assess the impact of the change to the project. For example this may be in terms of time or cost increase, different processes or resources or outsourcing, etc). Do you remember the ‘triple constraint’? Well, this would be included when carrying out the above impact analysis.
  • Create change control options. The objective here is to suggest several ways forward that would be achievable and realistic

Change Control options

Each change control option may include aspects such modifying some of the future activities, using techniques such as crashing the schedule, fast-tracking, changing the resources in some way (eg. quantity, skills level, etc).

In addition, options may consider including actions to decrease threats further or increase opportunities, compressing the schedule through crashing, or fast tracking.

Other change control options may include changing the manner in which the work is performed or modifying quality (this does not mean ‘lower quality’ but reconsidering what level of quality is needed.

Adjusting quality. Another may be to reduce the scope of the project so that other aspects of this change option can be considered. The project manager will want to calculate the above options by using project management software and doing ‘what-if’ analysis.

The project manager would be looking at minimising the proposed change control  impact to the project, and a recommended option should be chosen along with the reasons why.

3. Communicate the above to appropriate stakeholders – this may also include the customer and users for example.

4.  Get approval from the appropriate authority.

Okay, let’s now revisit those change control in a little more detail:

  1. First, the project manager should try prevent the root cause of change, rather than just fix the impact.
  2. A change may come from the project manager themselves, for example as a result of measuring current progress against the performance measurement baselines. However, very often they could come from such sources as the sponsor, management, users, the customer or from any stakeholder.
  3. A change request can cause changes against the project scope (for example time or cost, product scope (for example functionality), the project management plan containing the cost/time/scope baselines.
  4. The change should now be assessed. Always check that the change falls within the boundaries of the Project Charter. This will have an affect on the business case.  If the change does not have a positive effect on the benefits for example, then why is it being considered? If it is not required then don’t do it! Beware of those who want to ‘gold plate’ the project…Any such changes should NOT be approved.
  5. When assessing the impact of the change, as already stated, determine what the impact is actually against – is it time or cost? if so, how much and where?
  6. Perform integrated change control. This is where you will determine the various potential impacts to other aspects of the ‘triple constraint’
  7. When looking at options, balance needs to be exercised. Take care not to increase project risk by including it within impact analysis of the options. The main point here is that the project manager should not just blindly minimize the impact of every change without considering the consequences to the overall success of the project.
  8. The change should now be approved or rejected. This would normally be done by the project sponsor if there is a change to the project charter. This also holds true if the change affects any of the project baselines or constraints.Your project may have a change control board in place, in which case the change would need to be considered and approved by them.In certain circumstances, the project manager may make their own decisions and approval with regard to change requests.This is particularly true if the project manager can adjust the project management plan to accommodate such a change.A caution here, the project manager should take care not to bow to pressure to accommodate these too often, as this may result in the ubiquitous ‘scope creep’, where such changes subtly box the project into a corner where there are no options left but to come in late or blow the budget…
  9. Always remember that approved changes need to be incorporated within the project baselines. Do you recall that a baseline includes all approved changes? The project management plan contains these baselines – scope, cost, and schedule.
  10. Communication. All stakeholders affected by the change need to be notified. Use your configuration management system to ensure they have copies of all updated documents regarding the approved change.
  11. The project manager now continues to manage the project against the newly updated project management plan.

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David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for US multinationals and now develops a wide range of project-related video training products under the Primer brand. In addition, David runs training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management. He currently lives in Spain with his wife Jude.

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