A Simple Change Management Process that Reduces Project Stress Levels

All project management teams need to handle change in a simple and effective manner. I'll show you how

by Rod Dunne on February 21, 2011

in Creative

You need a project change management process in order to clearly define go/no-go alterations that are made to your projects in the middle of implementation cycles. Its only when you manage a chaotic project do you realize how essential proper control processes are.
This is necessary to ensure your innovation goals & strategy and long-term project plans are being adhered to and scope-creep doesn’t occur.

In this article I’ll show you what the standard process is based on my 20 years experience handling change while delivering IT software solutions.

Definition of project change management

Your project change management procedure sets out how you want changes to software projects to be evaluated for adoption/rejection prior to being considered for implementation. Analyzing change requests involves looking at the impact on your project costs, impact to the schedule, changes in project scope as well as benefits.

You don’t strictly need to use project/schedule management software for this process. The key element is that you track what changes are being requested, which been approved and which have been rejected.

Larger companies may use a more complex change management strategy, but in essence you should focus in on the use of change request forms, change logs and change review meetings.

The major threat to these processes is scope creep in your project.  This basically means that the amount of work involved in your project slowly increases over the lifetime of the project implementation as many minor changes are incorporated. As these are included it will gradually push out time-lines. The process below aims to stop this happening.

The project change management process basic steps

The following story gives you a flavor of how you can arrange your own process steps. This can be easily altered to reflect different factors within your company (e.g. smaller firms may be able to more rapidly evaluate and approve changes) or when using project management services.

  1. The project manager (PM) receives change requests forms (see below) from stakeholders.
  2. The PM logs the change in their change log (see below).
  3. The change is evaluated to see if it affects the company’s overall innovation strategy and the impact it will have on the project (cost, scope, quality, scheduled, benefits).
  4. If the change is deemed to be minor then the project manager themselves may simply approve the change at their discretion. This is done if they have sufficient contingency in their plan for small pieces of additional work.
  5. The norm however is that all changes are reviewed as part of a steering/change-decision meeting. Attendees can include the product manager, original change requester and any dependent stakeholders. The PM presents the list of changes for their project along with their evaluation of the impact. Changes are then approved or rejected following debate.
  6. An additional approval stage to receive financial authorization may be necessary in larger change requests. This approval is often sought from the project sponsor.
  7. If the changes approved then the PM should record these details in the change log, set about implementing the change with their team, update all project plans/documentation and inform interested parties are stakeholders.

Tools for the project change management procedure

- The change log

The change log is a simple project change management spreadsheet used to track updates to the product and any change requests that come in. The project change management process should update this log file whenever updates of meeting made the changes whether through approvals are being declined.

It is invaluable for formulating your product release notes at the end of the production cycle. moreover, it is an absolute necessity in your quality assurance plan for making sure we work and changes to system functionality is adequately documented, tested and paid for.

More defined processes such as the total quality management procedures can often provide better results in larger and more complex projects. Small projects however are just as easily kept in control by a simple change log and basic quality testing.

It should include columns for the following:

  • Change request ID
  • Description
  • Request originator
  • Date raised
  • Impact assessment completed by (person)
  • Approval by
  • Approved (Y/N)
  • Authorized by (for financial costs)
  • Date approved
  • Comments

- The change request form

You can use a change request form sample in the majority of cases as the basic data required applies no matter what industry or company you’re in. Here’s a basic structure you can use:

Section 1:  Details of the proposed change

  • Description of the change request
  • Goals, benefits or reasons behind the change

Section 2: Impact assessment

  • Identifiable benefits
  • Cost of change (in man days or financial cost)
  • Impact on time-lines
  • Resourcing impact
  • Effect on dependent projects

Section 3:  Change decision

  • Approved/approved subject to alterations/approved but deferred until (date)/rejected
  • Name of approver/decliner
  • Date

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Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on Product-ivity.com. This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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