Project planning can help your initiative stay on track, but rarely does everything go according to plan. There will undoubtedly be times during your project when your plans are threatening to change, and your organization will need to be able to manage these changes without derailing your progress.
Organizations that prioritize change control in project management are able to anticipate and efficiently respond to requests and fluctuations.
What is Change Control?
Change control is a systematic approach that helps you manage incoming change requests throughout the life of your project. This approach focuses on thoroughly documenting and evaluating each change request to determine its feasibility and potential value. After this evaluation, the team can decide to approve, reject, or defer a project change until a later date.
This internal mechanism ensures you only change elements of your project that actually need to be changed, avoiding unnecessary disruptions to your time and budget.
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Different Types of Change Requests
Throughout the life of your project, there will be two kinds of changes that occur:
- Changes beyond your control
- Changes that are specifically requested
Changes that occur beyond your control might include weather events, team attrition, or employee sickness. Each of these events could affect your project baseline, and there should be internal mechanisms in place to make sure your project is fortified should they occur.
Then, there are change requests that may come in from a project stakeholder or employee. These might include:
- Adding features to software applications
- Updating network equipment
- Installing system patches
Take your stakeholders, for instance. If they’re frustrated with the ERP system’s out-of-the-box functionality, they may request customizations.
Requests like these can alter the overall scope of your project and can even lead to project failure if not properly managed. In our Software Expert Witness engagements, we’ve seen a number of ERP failures that involved a lack of change control.
Change Control in Project Management: 6 Steps to Follow
Once a change request is initiated, there are a few key steps to follow. Sticking to an organized sequence helps standardize the process so everyone knows how to proceed.
Step 1: Document the Change Request
When a change request occurs, your first step is to categorize and record it. This is required even if you ultimately decide not to pursue it.
Along with this documentation, you’ll include an informal, early assessment of the change. You’ll note its priority, as well as how feasible it will be to implement it.
Step 2: Conduct a Formal Change Evaluation
Next, your project team will meet and formally evaluate the change. Key questions to ask include:
- Is the change justified?
- What are the risks and benefits of making the change?
- What are the risks of not making the change?
- Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
If you decide to accept a change, you’ll assign the next steps to a dedicated development team. If you reject or defer it, you’ll include a note that reflects this update and communicate it to team members and stakeholders.
Step 3: Plan the Change
Then, the team that you task with developing the change will create a detailed plan outlining how it will be designed and implemented.
At this juncture, there should be methods in place to define and verify success. Note what you expect to happen once the change is up and running, while considering both administrator and end-user perspectives.
There should also be safeguards in place that describe how the change will be scaled back if it doesn’t deliver the expected value. This is formally known as a blackout plan. It can be as simple as uninstalling a software patch or as complex as rebuilding an entire server.
Step 4: Design Software Changes
If the requested change affects your ERP software, the team will design the new program and test it for accuracy. If it passes successfully, they’ll request approval and set a date for implementation.
Step 5: Conduct an Internal Software Review
If the software change is approved, the team will proceed to implement the change. Then, they’ll perform demonstrations for stakeholders so they can review and accept the final change.
Step 6: Conduct a Final Assessment
If everything is implemented and reviewed successfully, the status of the change request will change from active to closed. If there are any issues to adjust, the project team will reassess the change and certain steps might need to be repeated.
Change Control is Critical to ERP and Business Transformation Success
A formal change control plan is only one component of project management, but it’s an important one. When changes occur to your project, knowing what to do and how to respond can set your team up for long-term success.
As your company prepares for digital transformation, remember the importance of change control in project management. You’ll likely find that you can’t live without it. If so, our team of ERP consultants can help you establish the necessary project governance and controls. Contact us below for a free consultation and let’s get started.