Dealing with Change and Avoiding Scope Creep – Part 1
So, your project is underway, you are tracking progress and keeping tight financial control over your plan. As you have probably already heard, you will need to exercise change control if your project is not to experience problems.
The project bad guy is called scope creep. As the name suggests it is a change to the scope of the project, but made up of very small movements and adjustments, so small in fact that it is easy for you to overlook it.
So, the project killer here is that such scope changes are all very small. If a massive change was being requested that you must complete the project within the current budget, staff resource and time, then you would turn down that request immediately.
So, if the changes are big, then the organization in a project would see it as such and react.
Remember that although small changes might be forced upon the project, it is usually the cumulative impact of such changes that prove fatal.
The answer to scope creep is change control with an emphasis on the word control. Be clear that this is not about change prohibition as ultimately this may be damaging, but simply about allowing uncontrolled change.
Indeed, stopping changes entirely can thwart project success.
Consider the following:
- Changes in the project to reflect changes in the business environment
- Correction of mistakes
- Good ideas that will make things simpler or cheaper
- Legislative changes such as new electrical or safety standards
- New technology that is easier to use and cheaper to maintain
So here is how to setup a change control process to manage changes in your project and to do so in simple step-by-step fashion:
Different types of change
Is important to understand the different types of change because you may find them in different ways. Consider if something has been delivered by a supplier and it is wrong and so needs to be changed to be put right.
If the original specification is clear, then the cost of this corrective change will fall to the supplier. But when the changes because the project customer has had a change of mind or something has changed in the business environment will fall to the customer.
When additional work forces an external supplier to change, there will normally be an additional charge.
To control change you are going to need some simple procedures and usually a change budget.
Setting up change procedures
To get a change, it must be cost for, considered, approved or not, and then implemented. If you want to avoid uncontrolled change, then this needs to be control.
You can do this very simply with the use of a change request form.
The name of the person asking for the change which may be electronic and sent by e-mail as it does not have to be on paper.
A change request should set down basic information, but that may be supplemented by the project manager often request has been analyzed. It should have basic information included on the ”what and why” of the change as an absolute minimum.
In some cases, until some exploratory investigation has been done, it may not be possible to say exactly what is involved in making the change.
Basic information includes:
- Name of the person asking for the change
- Date of the request
- Description of the change including any products it affects
- Reason for the change, including advantages, or saying if the change is mandatory
- Impact of the change
This information may be recorded in a change log and then supplemented with more information and the eventual decision on the change request.
Such additional information may include:
- Work needed to affect the change
- Decision taken, to agree the change or refuse it
- Dates the change request is closed
Having a change log is helpful in the project, because it gives you an overview of the change requests received and what is happening to each. You can use a spreadsheet overview alongside your log and you then have the advantage that it can be sorted in different ways.
For example, you may normally keep it so that large changes are at the top, and closed change requests that have now been dealt with are sorted to the bottom.
It is important to remember that you may need to consult with other people about a change request, such as technical experts or your project board if it is something that requires authority beyond your own delegated authority.
An example here is that the cost may be too high and a change therefore needs to be escalated.
An interesting point to remember when you create the project or stage plan is that it would be useful to allow time and effort for specialists to also help examine change requests.