Every organization should have a change control process. Either a formal process, with meetings, reviews and approvals or a simple change tracking process where the changes are logged after implementation. You'll find that most organizations use a combination of the two. But logging changes after the fact, is mostly for unplanned changes. An example of an unplanned change is the discontinuance of a product by a supplier.
All changes that don't add value should be stopped.
Change Control Process
Change control, according to the APM Body of Knowledge, is the process through which all requests to change the approved baseline of any project, program, or portfolio are captured, evaluated, and then approved, rejected, or deferred.
Change control is an important aspect of every project management process. If there is one thing that we can always count on, it is the need for change either because an old process is no longer viable or because you now have access to new information. With this, it becomes clear that some projects, along the line of execution, will demand some changes. However, change has to occur in a controlled setting so it does not derail the entire project from its goal.
While change may help to better streamline the project to meet your business needs, one also needs to consider the importance of each change and approve them carefully. This is where the change control process comes into play. It ensures that each proposed change during a project is properly defined, reviewed, and either approved or rejected. This process helps to prevent the implementation of unnecessary changes that may disrupt order, cause confusion, introduce faults, waste resources, or undo previously approved changes already made.
The Importance of the Change Control Process
With a change control process, you always have the purpose of the project at the fore of your mind. From start to finish, irrespective of the number of things you add or take away from the original plan, you should still be able to achieve the goal you set out to do. For instance, a party planner hired someone to cater to guests for a party, and the initial plan was for 100 guests, but along the line, some people opted out of coming. Without control, checks, communication, or agreement, the caterer will end up catering for 100 guests when only about 50 showed up, wasting resources.
Another reason why change control is important is the cost of the change curve. The longer time it takes to implement change at a later stage of the project, the greater the cost of implementing the change. Now, let’s take our previous example and switch it up a little. Say it is the morning of the party, and the caterer is already on the way to deliver the food, but the party planner calls to request for an additional entree for the menu, not only will it cost more for the caterer to meet these demands, but they might also end up missing the delivery time for the party.
Implementing change outside a controlled and coordinated environment is counterproductive. Without control, there will be constant miscommunication, misinformation, and confusion among members of the team, and ultimately, too much time will be wasted trying to clear things up and getting everyone back to speed. For example, after everyone involved in planning the party has settled for a menu, the party planner sends a different menu plan on the eve of the party without informing the party organizer; there is a high chance that this would cause problems because the caterer isn’t bringing the food that everyone expects and they would also want to collect payment for the new changes.
Additionally, change control allows you to fully plan for the cost. When you start a project, the costs involved in seeing that project to the end have been fully considered, understood, and accepted. Any changes to the agreed parameters for which the project was approved will put the essence of the project under question.
Finally, another reason why change control is important is that it requires proper authorization from all the appropriate channels and will allow easy tracking and control of each change. In controlled change, a change control log typically tracks all change requests, their evaluation (initial and final assessments), recommendations, modifications, as well as the executed changes. A change request can only be authorized for execution once it has gone through these stages.
What are the Stages of a Change Control Process?
The change control process begins with identifying what needs to be changed, why it needs to be changed and what it takes to implement the change. But beyond identifying what needs to be changed, it is also important to evaluate why it needs to be changed. This is the core of the change control process. Once you have the wrong reasons for change, the entire change process becomes questionable.
Stages of a Change Control Process
- Perform Stakeholder Analysis, Risk and Impact Assessments.
- Estimate Cost and Hours.
- CCB reviews the change and either approves, declines or escalates to Steering Committee
- If escalated, the Steering Committee either approves or declines the change.
- If approved, change is implemented and documentation is updated.
- QA team verifies the change.
- Follow-up and monitor the change.
Implementing a change control process helps to ensure that a proposed change is adequately defined, reviewed, and approved before implementation. It gives you a proper framework to accurately controlling change.
1. Stakeholder Analysis / Impact Assessment / Risk Assessment.
While these concepts are intertwined when it comes to beginning the change control process, they essentially focus on different things. Let’s look at these concepts individually.
- Stakeholder analysis is a process used to identify the major partners that have a stake / investment in a particular project, program, or change. A stakeholder analysis will help you determine where each key player stands and how receptive they will be to the change. It also helps you determine which one would have the most impact on the change initiative.
- Although impact assessment analyzes the effectiveness and efficiency of a change process, its primary goal is to determine the change has on the lives of the parties involved. It measures the program’s effect on parties and seeks to understand the change processes to improve on them. At this point, it is necessary to differentiate between effectiveness, efficiency, and impact.
- The term risk assessment already defines how important the process is. “Risk” is a word that gets anyone uncomfortable. It often connotes a hazardous venture—one where something valuable can be lost. Thus, by intuition and logic, we perform risk assessment even in the tiniest details of our lives.It evaluates the potential hazards or risks involved in an activity or organization. As long as human and non-human components are involved in an activity or organization, there will be risks involved. Risk assessment is, therefore, useful in a wide range of professions. The risk manager in a hospital would assess potential hazards within the hospital that could affect staff and patients, while an environmental risk assessor would determine, among other things, the likelihood of a business to cause harm to the environment. Risk assessment provides information about the risk, but an impact assessment explains why the risk should be avoided. Stakeholder analysis will help you determine which stakeholders would be most impacted by the change and which would have the most impact on the change. All of these are important in the process of change control. You cannot skip this assessment during your change process.
2. Change is estimated (hours, cost of change), requested, and sent to Change Control Board Review.
Once the analysis and impact and risk assessments have been done, it is now time to estimate all the parameters involved in the change. Most importantly, how long will it take? and how much will it cost?
3. Change Control Board Review with an option to escalate it to a Steering Committee
The change control board is the primary decision-making body for all change requests. Once the change control board gets the change request, their job is to meet on a regular basis to address them and/or escalate them to project sponsors or the steering committee, if necessary. They also take action on change request decisions made by the project sponsors or the steering committee.
4. Steering Committee if escalated by CCB
If escalated, the steering committee is responsible for, as the name suggests, steering the entire project from start to finish. They are made of several people, including senior stakeholders, experts, executives, board officers, department employees, and client representatives.
Some of the responsibilities of the steering committee include:
● Identifying potential risks.
● Monitoring those risks.
● Providing input on the development of the project, including the creation of an evaluation strategy.
● Defining and helping to attain the change project objective.
● Identifying the priorities in the project for maximization of energy, time, and resources.
● Providing advice on the budget.
● Monitoring the quality of the project as it develops.
● Monitoring timelines.
● Providing advice and making decisions about further changes as the project develops.
Between both the CCB and steering committee, decisions on whether the change request is accepted, accepted with special conditions or comments, rejected, or deferred are made.
5. Implementation of change and update documentation if needed.
After the change is approved by the CCB or Steering Committee, then the assignee can proceed with implementation of the change. Documentation that goes over the steps taken to implement the change, should then be created or updated.
6. QA verification.
The QA team will then verify that the change was successful and the expected value and benefits have been achieved.
7. Follow-up or monitor the change.
How do you make sure that the changes you have implemented remain on track? How do you ensure that you have covered all the grounds for a fool proof process?
The answer is simple; you monitor the change process to identify any risks and address them. This stage is one of reflection. After implementation, the teams should carry out a review to determine if the project is still on track. It could take place during the closing procedures for the project or the next stakeholder meeting after implementation.
If you follow all of these procedures, it ensures that you are creating the right changes that add value, meet your business objectives and that you are doing the right things at the right times to prevent wastage of time and resources.