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PM Essence

Change Management in Projects

- Indu Sharma, PMP
“Change is the only constant thing in Life” and in the same manner Changes are inevitable in Projects too.
Changes in projects can be a client scope add request, a small suggestion from team member, change in frequency of status meeting, change in any legislation which may impact the project or it may be replacement of a team member. Anyone or everyone can raise a change request in a project. It is the responsibility of Project Manager to have a Change Management Process defined for the project and adherence to this process in case of each and every change request.

Now question is “What is Change” As per PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, 


“Change Request is a formal proposal to modify any project document, deliverable or baseline. “


The reasons for a change request can be:

Preventive actions – Pre-emptive action for potential non-conformities in the project

Corrective actions – Actions to correct non-conformities in the project

Defect repair - Rework against the identified defects

Request for any change in project specifications, whether resource, scope or cost related or any change against project baselines.


For exemplification, let's take a scenario: 

Imagine yourself as Project Manager of a big size , complex sof tware product development project. Design phase has already been over and all design artefacts are baseline. You have a baseline Project Management Plan as well, which is supposed to be followed in the project. 


In stakeholder meetings, different stakeholders suggest changes in the product.


The intention of few suggestions is to improve performance and few talks about Gold Plating the product i.e. Let's do these Changes, surely Client will like it. There is no harm is contributing suggestions for product feature or performance enhancement, but for EVERY change, project's change management process need to be followed.


Let's come back to our story , you decide to implement the suggested changes in the product without following any formal change management process and the assumption is that these are “Good to have” features for Client, ignoring the part that client has already given all the requirements and scope of project is baseline. Product delivered to the client with assumption that client will be happier with more features added than asked.


First delivery of Product to the client with specifications from Scope Baseline and few added “Good to Have” features was planned, but the things didn't turned up like what had been assumed. Emails from client informing about flunked Product and all the defect metrics of your project resulted in outliers with respect to defined upper control limits.


Let us work in finding out the Root Cause of this scenario. List of few causes:

• Features added without taking formal consent from the client,

• No Impact analysis done for the changes added,

• No approval taken for any change,

• No change in baseline project plan done.

In waterfall or traditional lifecycle projects, this is very usual mistake many projects tend to follow. Non-compliance or lack of Change Management process costs a lot to the projects. As per the graph shown below, the relative costs of changes which are identified at the later phases of the projects are very high compared to the changes identified earlier. Logic is Very Simple, Cost is directly proportionate to the impact on the project, earlier you identify the change, lesser will be the impact and cost.

Adaptive life cycle is meant for the projects where several changes are anticipated and in Predictive life cycle projects a Change Management process is required to have change management strategies defined for the project which can reduce the loss to the project because of cost of changes which are not managed.


Change Management for any project need to follow the following features:

Log the Change – Don't see size of change, Remember that change is change. Whether a good practice, an extra feature in product, a resource change or a defect reported by client, each change need to be logged in Change register or Change log (we need a place holder for all the changes).


Impact Analysis of Change – Is the project manager alone working on project? Involve everyone for impact analysis like team members, SMEs or other stakeholders, who can provide inputs for the impact of proposed changes. Like in the example taken above, client was looking for a lower grade product and the gold plated features which were added without taken consent, have increased the maintenance cost of the product taking it to another grade slab, so the product delivered was deviating from the primary requirement of the client. If impact analysis would have been done in the above said example, it must been analysed that the feature suggested is not complied with the basic requirements of the customer.


Decision on Change - Decision authority for approval or rejection of change need to be defined in project management plan. In most of cases, it is recommended to have CCB (Change Control Board) for the project and Project manager can be part of this board. CCB can take decision on the proposed change taking Impact analysis as an input.


Approved Changes – For approved changes, update project management plan and all subsidiary project management plans to incorporate updates against approved change request. While incorporating changes, take care of configurable items version numbers. Keep configuration status accounting intact for the project with the updates done. Update Change log with the changes done against logged change request.


Rejected Changes – Few reasons for change request rejection can be, change request doesn't come under the purview of the project objectives or cost of change is too high or intensity of change is too high, advisable to start a new project itself. In all the cases of change request rejection, change log need to be updated for the change request status as well the reason for rejection. The change request originator needs to be informed about the rejection of change request along with the justification.


Adherence to project's change management process for all identified changes save projects from unnecessary risks and help project to meet its objectives successfully.