Managing Change

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It is difficult for anyone, regardless of his or her skills at prediction and forecasting, to completely and accurately define the needs for a product or service that will be implemented 6, 12, or 18 months in the future. Competition, customer reactions, technology changes, a host of supplier-related situations, and many other factors could render a killer application obsolete before it can be implemented. The most frequent situation starts something like this: "Oh, I forgot to tell you that we will also need..." or "We have to go to market no later than the third quarter instead of the fourth quarter." How often have you heard sentences that start something like those examples? Let's face it, change is a way of life in project management. We might as well confront it and be prepared to act accordingly.

Because change is constant, a good project management methodology has a change management process in place. In effect, the change management process has you plan the project again. Think of it as a mini-JPP session.

Two documents are part of every good change management process: project change request and project impact statement.

Project change request. The first principle to learn is that every change is a significant change. Adopt that maxim and you will seldom go wrong. What that means is that every change requested by the customer must be documented in a project change request. That document might be as simple as a memo but might also follow a format provided by the project team. In any case, it is the start of another round of establishing Conditions of Satisfaction. Only when the request is clearly understood can the project team evaluate the impact of the change and determine whether the change can be accommodated.

Project impact statement. The response to a change request is a document called a project impact statement. It is a response that identifies the alternative courses of action that the project manager is willing to consider. The requestor is then charged with choosing the best alternative. The project impact statement describes the feasible alternatives that the project manager was able to identify, the positive and negative aspects of each, and perhaps a recommendation as to which alternative might be best. The final decision rests with the requestor.

Six possible outcomes can result from a change request:

It can be accommodated within the project resources and time lines. This is the simplest of situations for the project manager to handle. After considering the impact of the change on the project schedule, the project manager decides that the change can be accommodated without any harmful effect on the schedule and resources.

It can be accommodated but will require an extension of the deliverable schedule. The only impact that the change will have is to lengthen the deliverable schedule. No additional resources will be needed to accommodate the change request.

It can be accommodated within the current deliverable schedule, but additional resources will be needed. To accommodate this change request, the project manager will need additional resources, but otherwise the current and revised schedule can be met.

It can be accommodated, but additional resources and an extension of the deliverable schedule will be required. This change request will require additional resources and a lengthened deliverable schedule.

It can be accommodated with a multiple release strategy and prioritizing of the deliverables across the release dates. This situation comes up more often than you might expect. To accommodate the change request, the project plan will have to be significantly revised, but there is an alternative. For example, suppose that the original request was for a list of 10 features, and they are in the current plan. The change request asks for an additional two features. The project manager asks the customer to prioritize all 12 features. He or she will give the customer eight of them earlier than the delivery date for the original 10 features and will deliver the remaining four features later than the delivery date for the original 10. In other words, the project manager will give the customer some of what is requested earlier than requested and the balance later than requested. We have seen several cases where this compromise has worked quite well.

It cannot be accommodated without a significant change to the project.

These change requests are significant. They are so significant, in fact, as to render the current project plan obsolete. There are two alternatives here. The first is to deny the change request, complete the project as planned, and handle the request as another project. The other is to call a stop to the current project, replan the project to accommodate the change, and launch a new project.

An integral part of the change control process is the documentation. First, we strongly suggest that every change be treated as a major change until proven otherwise. To do otherwise is to court disaster. That means that every change request follows the same procedure. Figure 10.14 is an example of the steps in a typical change process. The process is initiated, and the change request is submitted by the customer, who uses a form like the one shown in Figure 10.15. This form is forwarded to the manager or managers charged with reviewing such requests. They may either accept the change as submitted or return it to the customer for rework and resubmission. Once the change request has been accepted, it is forwarded to the project manager, who will perform an impact study.

Figure 10.14 A typical change control process.

The impact study involves looking at the project plan, assessing how the change request impacts the plan, and issuing the impact study, which is forwarded to the management group for final disposition. They may return it to the project manager for further analysis and recommendations or reject it and notify the customer of their action. The project manager reworks the impact study and returns it to the management group for final disposition. If they approve the change, the project manager will implement it into the project plan.

Project Name

Change Requested By

Date Change Requested

Description of Change

Business Justification


Approved by Date

Figure 10.15 Change control form.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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