Change on projects from a practical viewpoint is inevitable and must be allowed for by having a process to handle it. There is no rocket science is that but all too often we can either overcomplicated the process or sadly over-engineer it. Ideally, when the project begins, there are some agreement in place on how to manage any deviation and even simpler than that is what constitutes a change. The management of change means that no surprises come the way of the project, yes there will be crisis points, there will be arguments and dispute but there is a knowledge and understanding that change can be managed and is not going to be ad-hoc.
Sources of changes are far reaching but a lot of changes to the project come from the client while other sources include changes necessitated by erroneous assumptions or misleading / conflicting specifications or stipulations, by changed conditions. So, in simple facts keep the client near to you, do good scoping and make the vision of the project clear it may result itself in reducing the level of change. That does not mean elimination but simple reduction which is a major value in itself to the change management process. The less contentious change to deal with, the more robust the process should be.
Everyone on the project has the responsibility for early identification of change. As soon as a potential change is observed, it needs to be flagged and understood. So here is our 7-step process to dealing with project change:
- Step 1: Do you have the time? Every work involves more time and the impact analysis of change requests also requires time especially when it is a large change request. Do you have the contingency to cover it?
- Step 2: Determine the reason for the change? Why the change request is made in the first place? Can you avoid it / defer it or is it inevitable? Determine the business need for this change and how the change is going to benefit the project, the process, the work product, the quality and the stakeholders and the organisation.
- Step 3: Analyse the impact on project. The word impact and change hand in hand. Let forego the opportunity to understand the change and this is done through simple but effective impact analysis:
- Scope Impact: Determine the impact on the overall scope of the project, Work Breakdown structure (WBS) or scope documentation
- Cost Impact: Identify any changes that need to be made to the project resourcing
- Schedule Impact: Estimate the time required to define and plan the proposed solution and the time required to implement the proposed changes. Evaluate the changes to the milestones and to the critical path.
- Step 4: Identify dependencies. Your various project activities are interwoven by r relationships. Identify other tasks or projects that are dependent or influenced by this change being approved.
- Step 5: Examine the risks. Look at the risks that are associated with this change. Identify all the risks that the project is facing or will face in the future due to this change.
- Step 6: Determine the impact on the project system. Identify and list all the changes that would need to be made to the project procedures description or to the project decision structure (i.e. milestone plan)
- Step7: Document your findings. Properly document all the results of your impact analysis. Prepare a detail report for the change control board to approve changes.
Every change must be defined, evaluated and costed along with its potential to affect the time schedule or the budget cost. Based on this information, the proposed change can be worked on and actioned.
Simply put change control should not just be around the paperwork and documentation trail, as it often is, but it should also be concerned with providing value to the project on take the right action at the right time. To do this, change control should focus on:
- Influencing the factors that create changes to the project plan.
- Determining when changes have occurred.
- Managing changes as they occur.
- Developing robust procedures to ensure that changes are properly analysed before approval and to ensure they are implemented appropriately after they are approved.
Experienced project managers know that change is inevitable and there are many consequences of failing to manage project changes. Changes may negatively or positively impact a project so let’s not just do the paperwork but embrace the process the steps in managing the change. It can add so much value to what we do in projects.