Change Control Plan

Purpose

The change control plan allows project managers to affirm organizational protocols for change and to assert project-specific change control practices and policies in an effort to more effectively manage project modifications. It serves as the common process for all changes, and assets when changes may be deemed as formally "accepted."

Application

The change control plan is established either independently or with the support of the project management office (PMO) or project support office (PSO). It is provided to all project stakeholders who may either have an interest in changing the project or be affected by such a change. It is used to gain consensus on how and when changes will be implemented (or rejected).

Content

The change control plan should identify organizationally standard change process information, as well as information specific to the project. It should account for a variety of stakeholders, including team members, customers, management, project office personnel, end users, and the project manager. As such, the change control plan has a far reach and can cross-reference a number of other change-related documents.

The change control plan may have an outline similar to that discussed in the following subsections.

1.0 Rationale

The rationale for the change process should be clearly explained, because some personnel are likely to see change control protocols as an unnecessary administrative layer. The rationale should explain that the plan incorporates both internal and external change, and it should identify the key players in the change process.

2.0 Process

The single longest component of the change control plan, the process should clearly identify how change is initiated, the sources of change, where change requests or change notices are directed, and the administrative procedures for tracking and following up on the change of approved requirements. There may be numerous cross-references to other documents, including change control forms and a change request log.

2.1 Background The project-specific background information should be provided, identifying key personnel and their roles and any regulatory agencies with project oversight responsibility.

2.2 Change Initiation For all changes, some initial sorting function must be done to determine the scope of the change, the level of responsibility for approvals and/or acceptance, and the procedures for notification.

2.3 Change Documentation Normally, basic change documentation comes in the form of a change request form or a change control form. The latter may be more appropriate in dealing with changes driven by the environment (technical or natural), rather than by a specific "request" from a project stakeholder.

2.4 Change Process Flow Often in the form of a flow diagram, the flow may illustrate how different levels of change are managed, such as when cost or schedule thresholds are exceeded or when the change might require the approval or acceptance of a regulatory or executive authority. A sample flow diagram is shown in Figure 4.1.

2.5 Tracking Any long-term tracking or monitoring processes should be clearly identified and should, again, cross-reference other documents required specifically to

Figure 4.1 Change process.

track or monitor the ongoing success of a change implementation. Specifically, any procedures for regular monitoring of change status should be identified here. This section should also capture any protocols for expressing information for lessons learned or process improvement associated with the change.

2.6 Approvals The names, roles, or levels of any approval authorities required for any level of change implementation should be clearly identified. The level of their authority should be clarified as well.

3.0 Attachments

The attachments to a change control plan often include change control forms, any process documentation, a roster of members for the change control board (if applicable), and a change request log. Ideally, all of the change-related information should be available in a common repository, and the attachments section of the plan often becomes that repository.

4.0 Signatures

The change control plan should be signed and approved by those parties directly affected.

Approaches

Because some organizations do not favor a document-rich change control process, the change control plan may be a simple guide on who to turn to in the event of a proposed change. Because other organizations may be engaged in intense configuration management, the change control plan may have numerous extensive cross-references to detailed processes and subprocesses for implementing even the most seemingly benign of changes. The details of the change control plan should be a direct reflection of the level of rigor of the organization's change control practices.

Considerations

Change control plans are politically charged, because they put the project manager in an enforcement role. As such, the more that can be done to achieve early buy-in on the change control plan, the forms, and the processes, the less pressure the project manager will be under to serve as the "change police." The change control plan should set expectations for team members, customers, and management and should be applied even when the changes are perceived as no-cost or low-cost changes. Through consistent application, the change control plan can become a calming force even in the most volatile projects.

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