Projects often go off the rails because of “scope creep” and other unmanaged changes. Three deliverables become five. Timelines expand or become compressed. Products or personnel must be replaced due to unexpected constraints.
Change is inevitable in the most carefully planned project. Field personnel often face challenges that were not foreseen on the project team’s whiteboard. Long-term projects can be affected by changes to business strategy or market conditions.
Controlling the impact of change is the project manager’s responsibility. The project manager must monitor the project’s status against the established scope, using variance analysis to determine how the actual work performed compares to the original plan. When changes occur, the project manager should use an integrated change control approach to assess the changes, gain buy-in from key stakeholders, and incorporate approved changes into the project plan.
Management and Control
Integrated change control includes both traditional change management and change control. Change management helps ensure that changes are handled effectively to minimize risk to the project.
Change control is often overlooked. It’s the process of analyzing change requests to determine if the change is necessary and beneficial. With change control, requests are denied when they are unwarranted or would cause unnecessary disruption to the project plan. Changes are approved if they improve upon the project plan and will likely contribute to a successful outcome.
Some project managers make the mistake of accommodating every change request. This is particularly true of third-party providers who are focused on what the customer wants. However, the customer isn’t always right. Uncontrolled change can lead to missed deadlines, cost overruns, frustration and disillusionment. In a worst-case scenario, the project will fail to achieve the desired objectives.
Integrated change control begins with a well-defined and realistic project plan in which requirements are carefully defined and approved by stakeholders. The plan should also include the interdependencies of the various project components.
Skilled project managers anticipate change and include time and cost buffers in the project plan. That does not negate the need for change control, however. A few unneeded changes could eat up the buffers and cause problems when a critical change is required.
Interdependency mapping helps the project manager evaluate the impact of a change on the project constraints. How will the change affect project costs or scheduling? Are the resources available to implement this change? Does the change introduce new risks?
Project managers should have a template for change requests that collect the detail needed to perform the change control process. There should also be a process for approving changes, with well-defined roles and responsibilities. It’s important to get input from field engineers and technicians.
The Final Analysis
Once a change is approved, the project manager must decide on a course of action. For example, it might be necessary to add personnel rather than extend the project deadline. After these decisions are made, the change can be incorporated into the project plan.
If the change is extensive, or if there are numerous changes, the underlying project assumptions or business case may need to be reevaluated. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to terminate and reinitiate the project.
SirviS performs integrated change control as part of our project management process. Our experienced project managers develop a comprehensive project plan, identify risks, and take steps to control scope, costs, scheduling, procurement and quality. They also monitor and control all work performed by our Global Super Network of professionals. Let us show you why our comprehensive approach to project management helps ensure a successful outcome.