A project manager is primarily responsible for overseeing all stages of company projects and ensuring their successful completion. They develop documents to inform stakeholders, direct team members and determine the length of time needed for a project. They can also create change management plans to adjust for changes in project operations and timelines.
In this article, we define change control, examine why it’s important in project management, explain how to implement it and offer tips to manage it.
What is change control in project management?
Change control is the process of managing and assessing changes to a project and its procedures. Change controls can give a project manager the information they need to regulate projects and alter them based on changing environments, conditions or requirements. Change control often involves using a change management plan to ensure a project reaches completion regardless of changes that may occur in procedures or conditions. A project manager is responsible for documenting, evaluating and proposing change requests and ensuring a project efficiently adapts to approved changes.
Importance of change control
It’s important to monitor changes to a project and implement change control procedures effectively to manage potential risks and reduce the chances of negative effects on business productivity. Change control helps a project manager make decisions regarding change requests for a project and its framework. The goal of change control management is to overcome unpredictable situations and minimize unwanted project outcomes. Project managers may use change control processes to determine if a project is within its budget, improve team productivity levels and evaluate progress.
What is a change request?
A change request occurs when a client asks for alterations to products and services or feels a project could benefit from a specific change. It’s essential to document all change requests and keep track of changes so project managers can identify any duplicate requests or previous options for solutions. Documented change requests help project managers communicate the most recent project changes to team members to confirm they understand the changes.
Most change management plans often require change requests. The project manager analyzes each request, then chooses to accept or reject the change. A client can request a change for any reason, but usually, change requests arise out of issues that occur either internally or externally. For example, if the client’s budget changes halfway through the project, they can submit a change request to account for the updated budget.
How to implement change control in 5 steps
Here are five steps to follow to implement change control effectively in a project:
1. Define the scope of change
One primary factor of change control is understanding the scope of a potential change. The scope describes your entire project plan, including the goals of the project, responsibilities of each team member and specific timelines for the completion of project responsibilities. Understanding the scope can help you verify if the change request is relevant to project goals. Then, you can identify if a request has important information stakeholders need to make an informed choice. A well-crafted project scope may identify the following factors:
A description of project goals
Products or services a project might design and deliver
Quality assurance standards
2. Evaluate the impact of potential change
Once you understand the project’s scope, you may gain better insight into solutions for implementing changes and what outcomes may occur after implementing them. It’s important to consider all options for change and what aspects of a project each option may affect. Here are some questions you may ask yourself to evaluate the impact of change:
Can the change affect the project timeline or budget? If so, how?
Who on the team might this change affect?
What tools does the team need to implement the change?
3. Submit a formal change request to higher-level management
Organizations typically have a chain of command for approving changes to workplace policies, procedures, job roles and projects. Most major change requests often need approval from company stakeholders as well because the stakeholders can provide resources for changes that may have a greater influence on a project and its scope. Using a change management plan may assist with streamlining request approvals and designing quality assurance standards for potential changes in a project.
4. Adjust project plans
After receiving the approval of a change request, adjust project plans accordingly and document the changes. Some requests may require you to revise a project scope entirely and explore new objectives, methods for delegating tasks to team members or the possibility of increasing a project’s budget allocation. You can create a new timeline to account for the change, and adjust the project goals if necessary.
5. Communicate and implement the approved change request
The final step of the change control process involves implementing change processes and communicating new plans and procedures to all team members. This is to ensure that they understand the new project objectives and how to successfully proceed with completing a project while staying within budget and being on time. Communicating approved changes might also boost productivity because team members can use the information about the changes to assess their project tasks and their relevance to project objectives.
Tips for change control
Here are some useful tips to review before creating a change control strategy:
Use project management tools
One of the best ways to ensure the effectiveness of change control processes is to use software programs specific to project management. Project management software can allow for benefits such as improved communication, time management and resource allocation. Collaborative software programs can also give team members a way to visualize their responsibilities and have a better understanding of their goals.
Understand how to identify risk
Some define risk in project management as a situation that affects the successful completion of a project or its tasks. Project managers consider project risk during change management processes so they can create change control strategies that result in minimal impacts on a business. Knowing how to identify, assess and plan for risk can help you develop effective change control strategies to prepare for obstacles that may occur.
Develop a change management plan
A change management plan may greatly improve productivity and increase efficiency while implementing changes to a project. This is because management plans can allow a project manager to plan for potential obstacles, develop options for changes and prepare solutions. These plans may help a business establish a major change without facing adverse effects to project timelines, operations and budgets.
Related: What to know about change mangement?
Use a change log and create a change request form
Developing a request template can help you track, assess and implement change requests. Templates can help streamline change control processes by giving team members a clear and concise guide for making change requests. They also may help project managers track previous changes or requests. A strong change request template includes:
Aspects of a project an individual wants to change
Purpose for making a change
The processes or solutions management and team members reviewed for approval
The way they expect to implement the changes
Impact each process or solution may have on a project
Description and explanation for each solution