How to control change in a project

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In a well-planned project there will be scheduled milestones and regular formal reviews, which allow those involved to assess progress, discover new risks and identify issues that might require a change to the project, such as:

  • Inadequate business requirements
  • New information coming to light
  • External changes in the market
  • Changes in organisational strategy
  • New technology becoming available
  • New regulations being imposed

As are result it may be necessary to change the project scope or requirements. These change need to be managed very carefully and uncontrolled changes to the project plan can cause chaos and confusion within the project team. So just how do you implement alterations in a way that will not risk losing control of  changes but still ensure the project is viable and can meet the business goals?

A change control process is simple but needs to be followed rigorously; it provides a way to document, assess and prioritise changes so that each change has a defined, measurable purpose in contributing to project success.

The basic elements of a change control process are:

  • Submit change request

Document each issue separately in a log because the chances are you will have to prioritise them if inadequate resources are available (which is quite likely).

  • Initial review

Determine if the change should be considered at all; each change must have a single, clear problem that will affect the project outcome.

  • Detailed assessment

What would be the outcome if the change were not implemented and what will be the impact on time, quality, cost and benefits if it is implemented?

  • Recommendation

Decide whether to approve, reject or defer the change, giving reasons for the decision.

  • Modify the plans

And communicate the changes to those involved

  • Implement the modified plans

Documenting changes in this way will be a learning experience for future projects in addition to a way of controlling change in the current project.

Projects of all sizes and levels of complexity should have a good change control procedure in place because no matter what type of project, unrestrained changes will eat into your resources, often with several tasks competing for the same resources, and put the success of the project in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, without changes the project will not deliver what is needed so clearly changes are required but change control is all about determining which changes are essential to success and how implementing such changes will affect schedule, budget etc.

The importance of regular in-depth reviews cannot be stressed enough – without them you will not identify gaps in the project and this can be just as much of a problem as uncontrolled changes because the end-result will not meet the business needs.


Other blogs in this series:


This is a project management fundamentals blog written and sponsored by Parallel Project Training. For more about our project management training courses visit our website or visit Paul Naybour on Google+.

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Posted by .pnaybour on 23rd Mar 2015

About the Author
Paul Naybour is Business Development Director for Parallel Project Training. He is a well known speaker in the APM Branch Network, a Project Management Training and Consultant, working for Parallel Project Training. He also runs the PM news site Project Accelerator.

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