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Dealing with Change and Avoiding Scope CreepDealing With Change and Avoiding Scope Creep – Part 2

Budgeting for change

In the same way that you need to set aside some time in the project for dealing with changes, so too you are going to need some budget allocation. If there is no change budget, then any change requests must go to the sponsor or the project board because it is not on the plan that those people originally authorized.

  • How much should be in a change budget depends on two main factors:
    The amount of change anticipated in the project. If it is rather unclear what will happen in the project, then you can expect more change than if things are very clear and definite and can be put on the plans.
  • How much the project board wants to be involved with authorizing changes and how much of this decision making does the project board while to delegate to the project manager.

Another option here is to set up a change authority who deals with some or all the changes on the half of the project board.

The project board can set two dimensions of a change budget, first, a total amount and second an item amount. An example here is the total changes allowed in terms of cost, and an amount for any single change request.

Looking at change impacts

Any change to your project that is implemented can have an impact in one or more areas, and the usual metrics of potential impact are:

  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Scope
  • Time

If your change impact is for example, cost, then this may impact one or more of quality, scope, or time metrics.

You could say that impact areas are a bit like juggling plates and they must be kept in a sensible and agreed balance. It is unrealistic to expect a change within a project without examining the potential to increase the workload.

It is quite normal for one or more of those elements to be fixed for very good business reasons – for example delivering the project by a certain date is vital for the customer, or that the cost cannot be changed because there’s simply no more funding available.

Most organizations have a very strong focus on time and cost, and somewhat of an open mind when it comes to scope – hence the dreaded scope creep!
Indeed, it is the quality metric that is most likely to suffer.

In the heat of battle, it seems easy to accept that we can reduce testing and documentation to deliver on time and to meet the budget.

A good yardstick is to ask the question “can we deliver that scope, to that quality level, without resource within that timescale?”

Responding to change requests

Some changes may be managed formally, and some informally, however it is important to follow the following steps:

  1. When you receive a request to change to some aspect of your project, clarify exactly what the request is asking you to do
    Unless your project is very informal, ask for the request in writing
  2. In the change control system, people must submit every request for change on a change request form. This provides a clear record of the request but it does not have to be lengthy.
    Assess the change potential effects on all aspects of your project. Also, consider what may happen if you do not make the change.
  3. Decide whether you will implement the change. If this change affects other people, involve them in the decision as well.
  4. If you decide not to make the change, tell the requestor and explain the reasons.
  5. If you decide to make the change, write down the necessary steps to implement the change. In a formal change control system, all aspects of a change are detailed in a written change order.
  6. Update your projects plans to reflect any adjustments in schedules, outcomes or resource budgets because of the change.
  7. Tell team members and other appropriate people such as stakeholders, about the change and the effect you expect it to have on them and on the project.

If you have an effective change control system, you can handle very big changes as well as the small ones. The key question is always “is the change justified?”

If a big change would bring very substantial additional business benefit, then it may well be worth doing. In that case, the project board will make the decision to accept a change, and the project plan and stage plans can be adjusted to accommodate the additional work.

In this way, the extra time and resource will be allocated and the project brought back into balance.

Eliminating scope creep

I started this article with a warning that scope creep is a major project killer. In surveys of the causes of project failure, expect to see scope creep in the top five reasons, it is nearly always occupying the number one slot.

Two elements of project management will help you to eliminate scope creep:

  • A change control procedure has covered above
  • Clear, precise and agreed definitions of project deliverables

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