Project change management is a must whenever changes occur to the project you’re working on … big or small.
Whether that change involves a software change, scope change, personnel change, a schedule change, or something else, change management is a necessity.
After all, project changes can incur a range of problems, such as:
- Timetable changes
- Staffing changes
- Changes to software, tools, or workflows
- And more
Before getting into the details of effective project change management, let’s clear the air.
It’s important to make the distinction between project management, change management, and project change management.
Project Management vs. Project Change Management vs. Change Management
In short, here is the difference:
Project management involves the management of people and activities, related to a specific project or task.
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It focuses on process management, the use of goals and milestones, scheduling, management tools, and planning to ensure that a project is completed on time and on budget.
Change management refers to management of business changes.
Specifically, it deals with transitions and changes related to business processes, practices, workflows, and operations.
Project change management refers to managing changes that occur to projects.
Regardless of the nature of the change, effective management is required to ensure the project itself maintains its course.
The roles of project manager and change manager often overlap in today’s evolving, digital workplace. This is especially true when changes occur to a project.
In such cases, project managers need to exercise their change management skills.
These 5 steps will help you manage that change and maintain order … before it turns into chaos.
1. Evaluate the Change Request
The first thing to do is evaluate the change request.
It’s vital to have a review process in place before change requests come in. This is especially helpful as projects grow in size and are more likely to receive change requests.
A review process should track, at minimum:
- The Requestor – The person who initiated the change request
- The Priority – How critical the change is, ranging from normal to urgent
- The Change – This should include a description of the change, the reasons for the change, and other relevant notes
This type of review process can streamline project management changes and minimize negative effects.
Once you have evaluated the change request, it’s time to calculate the impact.
2. Assess the Project Impact
To assess the impact on the project, look at how the proposed changes will impact:
- Time constraints
Any changes to these three constraints — whether they exceed or fall short of previous targets — will require a project change.
3. Revise the Project Plan
After evaluation and assessment, you must revise the project plan itself.
When revising the plan, document estimated changes to the above 3 constraints.
That is, the revision should include:
- Timeline changes for the project
- Scheduling changes for staff
- Changes to the budget
- Reallocations and changes to resources, tools, or workflows
- Impacts on project scope or outcome
Even small changes can have cascading, long-term impacts. It is important to analyze, predict, and estimate these changes as accurately and as thoroughly as possible.
Document your assessment and project revision, then bring it to your meeting with the shareholders.
Whether your shareholders are customers or managers, it is necessary to meet and sell the proposed change.
Holding this discussion is vital to the health and integrity of the project.
The more thorough your documentation, the better. Be sure to include the request, the potential impacts, and the changes to the project.
Of course, some project changes are due to uncontrollable circumstances. In such cases, stakeholders may not be able to reject the change, per se.
However, decisions will still need to be made about how to handle the change.
In the discussion, you should:
- Be transparent
- Be a leader and offer guidance
- Be realistic about what is possible and what’s not
Leadership is an important trait to adopt in this situation.
Guidance, straightforward answers, and transparency can go a long way towards maintaining the project’s health in the long run.
5. Implement the Change
Assuming the change is approved, it must be implemented.
Implementation is often simply a matter of making the changes to the project scope and communicating it to the appropriate parties.
Once you have clarified changes and input them into your project management software, the change request can be recorded as complete and archived.
Large or small, project changes can have a significant impact on a project’s scope, budget, and timeline.
Poorly managed changes can have serious consequences. It is important to handle change systematically.
Being thorough, up-front, and transparent with stakeholders — as well as team members — can ensure that everyone remains productive and motivated.
Following a project change management process can ensure that risks are mitigated and negative impacts are minimized.