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Change Control Guide

Blog: Biz-Performance, David Brown


This guide provides information on the project scope management process. It covers the requirements, considerations and steps for the scope change control procedure and is supported by the document.


Effective change management is a key element of project management. Uncontrolled changes can lead to escalation of project costs, dissatisfaction amongst users, lower quality of the end product and/or significant delays in the project schedule. The most significant impact of uncontrolled change requests is an alteration of project scope without a thorough analysis of the related impacts. An increased project scope will generally increase project duration and/or lower the overall quality levels as project team members attempt to meet pre-established target dates. A decrease in project scope may result in dissatisfied users as the full functionality and benefits they anticipate may not be realised.
Any project change relies upon a baseline of project deliverables, therefore it is essential that a comprehensive asset management process has been put in place for project deliverables, as a foundation to support the change control function.
The primary objective for change control is to establish a standard method to document, analyse, approve, and communicate changes.
The project manager is responsible for the overall management of changes arising during the project, although they may delegate day to day management to the project office. Regardless of the delegation of duties, effective change control involves the following responsibilities:
  • provision of a centralised change request cataloguing, monitoring and communication service
  • co-ordination of all change requests to ensure completeness and consistency and to reduce duplication of effort
  • maintenance of current status information for change requests in the review and approval process
  • processing of change requests by referrals to appropriate project participants for analysis and input
  • compilation of summary statistics and reports to reflect the status of all change requests
  • updating of project plans, based on information received from team leaders to reflect changes directly related to approved change requests
  • monitoring the impact of approved change requests and resolved issues on the overall project
  • preparation of reports to appropriate management personnel and the Project Review Board for review.


At a minimum, the following three categories of change request elements are required for effective change control management:
Change Request Element Description
Change Request Number Unique, sequential number assigned by the Project Office
Code indicating relative priority of the change (Assigned by the Project Office, with input from the Project Manager)
Business Area
Project team, user department, or other work group requesting the change
Date Submitted
Date the originator issues the Change Request
Name of the team leader, or other individual, assigned by the Project Office/Project Manager to analyse the change request
Name and contact details of originator of change request
Date Due
Date team leader is expected to have change analysis completed
Description of Change
Concise description of the change which generally indicates why the change is necessary (attach additional documentation if needed)
Reason for Change
Describe briefly the reasons for the change request
Change Analysis Element Description
Impact Analysis What are the areas (e.g. budget, schedule, performance etc.) analysis of the change to have an impact on.
Impact of Change (Affected area/s) What are the areas (e.g. budget, schedule, performance etc.) and/or the components (if the project is e.g. about software development) where you expect the change to have an impact on. Detail by who and when the analysis was made.
Benefits of Change
Narrative and cost figures supporting the anticipated benefits of the change
Change Approval Element Description
Approval Date of approval and signed by whom (e.g. Project Manager, Review Board, customer)
Change Management Review Team Where a review team has been established, additional approval is required


Adaptation of standard procedures for the specific project

The Project Manager should carefully review standard or sample procedures for change control before attempting to implement them for the specific project. Frequently, the procedures will require tailoring and adaptation to effectively serve the required purpose for a specific project. For example, forms may require alteration, approval authorities may need to be adjusted and prioritisation or classifications may need to be modified to accommodate specific project characteristics.
For small projects, the project manager may be able to modify the procedures and produce the required changes without assistance. For projects using a project office team, input and assistance from project office personnel is desirable as this team will be the group with primary responsibility for monitoring and reporting on change requests and project issues.
During this step, specific responsibilities for monitoring the change control processes should be defined and assigned, particularly for large, high visibility and/or long duration projects.
At the conclusion of this step, appropriate approvals and support should be obtained for the detailed change control procedures. Often, user organisation buy-in is essential in this process to ensure users will actively support and participate in these critical processes.

Impact assessment

In considering the impact of change requests it is important to balance the cost of carrying out impact assessments with the benefit of the change itself. One strategy may be accept approved changes that have a cost or schedule impact below a certain, pre-set, low level. This again needs to be balanced against the danger of numerous small changes having a disastrous overall impact.
In a contractual change situation, it may be appropriate to charge the client for change impact assessments. This would need to be agreed in the original contract.

Development of documentation, forms, and databases to support procedures

The following documents should be assembled and produced:
  • hard-copy and/or electronic copies of the approved procedures for change control
  • hard-copy and/or electronic forms for submission of change requests
  • hard-copy and/or electronic logs for recording, tracking and communicating information on to change requests.
Appropriate means for storing information pertaining to change requests should be developed. For small projects, a spreadsheet may be sufficient for tracking and reporting. For larger projects, a personal computer-based database application may be more efficient for tracking and reporting the data.
The change control log should contain key information to track and manage the situation effectively. The log should provide a clear distinction between high priority changes, and those of a less severe nature. In addition, the status and due date for the change should be clearly displayed. The log should be readily accessible to all team members, preferably in electronic format.

Implementation of structured procedures for change control

Before procedures are implemented, a plan for communicating the change control procedures to the project team should be developed. The plan should address the following:
  • the audience; this might include only the immediate project team, or may include a broader base of users and technical personnel involved in the project
  • the format of presentation, such as project meeting, individual team meetings, video-taped session, or other presentation forum
  • the materials to be distributed, such as physical procedures and forms or handouts.
Introducing vital project control procedures such as change control in an informal manner (for example an electronic mail broadcast) is not recommended as this tends to dilute the importance and criticality of the procedures.
Once the procedures have been implemented, the project manager is responsible for ensuring the change requests are managed effectively. The project manager should remain closely involved with the process to ensure requested changes are analysed and acted upon in a timely manner and to facilitate the timely resolution of project issues.
The following sections describe suggested steps for inclusion in the procedures for change control:

Suggested Steps for the Change Control Procedure

Step 1. Request logging

A comprehensive listing of all changes should be maintained.
If possible, an automated system should be used for maintaining the log. A simple spreadsheet application or a more comprehensive database application should be considered, depending on project size and complexity.

Step 2. Completion of the change request detail

Once the need for change has been identified, the change should be documented. All individuals associated with the project should be encouraged to document change requests. Standard forms for documenting change requests may be developed during the set-up of the administrative processes if desired.
Often, project participants will be reluctant to take the time to fill out the required forms. The project manager and team leaders need to be proactive in meetings and other discussions when the need for change arises. If necessary, the project manager or team leader should assist users or others with the completion of the necessary documentation, to ensure all changes are logged.
If possible, electronic submission of change requests should be encouraged. A standard electronic-mail system can be used, or a separate electronic bulletin board can be established.

Step 3. Assign for analysis

Most changes will require research and analysis to fully evaluate impacts and identify alternative solutions. Generally, a project team member working within the relevant area is assigned to the change by the Project Manager. In some cases, changes may be assigned to other individuals within the organisation or to an external entity. Sufficient time and resources should be allocated to the research and analysis effort. This resource commitment is necessary to develop a realistic understanding of the scope of the change and for effective management of the change processes.
Analysis work often involves additional discussion with the originator of the change to ensure all salient points are considered and may also include other team members where the change potentially cuts across the project. Research may be required to identify the scope of the change. In addition, a cost/benefit analysis may be required.
At the conclusion of this step, a decision may be reached to cancel the change request. As information is gathered, it may be determined that the change is not needed due to additional requirements or because it is already addressed within the existing project scope, or the change itself may be inappropriate or conflict with future strategic direction.

Step 4. Identify options

After thorough analysis, the assigned project team member should identify relevant options for proceeding with the change. Options should include both costs and benefits, with any impact on the project schedule or resource assignments clearly identified.

Step 5. Decide on action

Often, the project manager, initiator of the request and the assigned project team member will be able to decide on a course of action. Depending upon the size and impact of the change resolution decision, additional agreement may be required.
At this point, some changes will be cancelled or deferred based on the impact of the various options identified.

Step 6. Obtain appropriate approvals

In many projects, the Project Review Boards will review and co-ordinate all proposed changes. Where separate review teams have been established, additional approval from these specialised teams is required.
For relatively large changes, additional management approval may be required.

Step 7. Log action and communicate decision

Once final decisions are approved, the Change Control Log should be updated. Similarly, the final decision should be communicated to the requester and other interested parties.
The Change Control Log should be maintained on a regular basis. The log should be reviewed at least weekly to ensure analysis and decisions are being made on a timely basis. Logs generally include a field for recording “follow-up” dates to ensure changes are not overlooked or ignored.

Step 8. Update plans and budgets

Once changes are approved, any impacted project plans should be revised to show the additional work effort. Similarly, if an approved change has a material impact on the project budget, updates should be made and communicated.


Change Control is a proactive risk reduction technique

Due to the extremely high level of risk associated with inadequate project change control, a written change control procedure is recommended regardless of project size. The procedure should be formally adopted prior to the start of any project task work. The earlier in the project lifecycle a change is incorporated, the lower the overall cost to the project.

Change Management Review Team

A Change Management Review Team is often established to review and approve changes. When establishing such a team, the following guidelines should be considered:
  • members of the Change Management Review Team should be empowered to approve, defer or cancel change requests
  • the team should have members, representing both technical and functional stakeholders in the project
  • the project manager and project sponsor should serve as members
The team should meet weekly (or as frequently as required) to:
  • review all formal change requests (in large projects, it might only review requests requiring a certain number of hours (e.g. 40 or more) to implement, smaller requests are being reviewed by the project manager)
  • evaluate the risks, costs and benefits of proposed changes
  • review the impact of requested changes on the project and the organisation
  • determine change recommendation priorities
  • approve, defer or cancel change requests
The Change Management Review Team should review decisions and recommendations with the Project Review Board at its regular meeting.

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