Insight Blog

Managing Change Control as Part of a Project

by Stephen Smith

October 17, 2016 | Change Management, Project, Program, Portfolio Management

For those that have spent time managing large projects, one motto that stays consistent is ‘anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time left to change anything’. It’s true. That said, the impacts of change can be controlled through a well-defined, well-documented and a well-communicated change control process.


The Argument for Change Control

Change Control is typically a process which could be either fully integrated into and accepted within a program structure or has minimal, if any, consideration. A strong Change Control process can be cumbersome, tedious and viewed as a nothing more than a necessary evil. A weak Change Control process can lead to scope creep, budget overruns and unforeseen timeline extensions. Which would you pick? I would always take the former, far too often we have seen how unplanned projects costs stemming from an undisciplined approach to change control can have a material impact on project budgets as well as scope creep. Without quantifying these hidden project costs or scope impacts, the complete picture of project costs, timelines and deliverables will not exist, and any financial assessment of the project will be erroneous. For example, up front analysis around infrastructure and development requirements are easier to quantify as part of project definition; far more difficult to measure are the changes to business requirements that need to be supported (and paid for) so that Leadership vision is not lost.

Change Control can also have an emotional component. If a new project is being undertaken to replace an older system there may be some emotional ties to the system being replaced. Change requests may be entered to mimic the former system’s functionality to provide an experience that is familiar to the current end users. Leverage Leadership and Architecture to review requests against requirements to ensure that maximum benefits are realized. A ‘Like for Like’ replacement is typically not what the approved project request had in mind.

Proper Change Control will lead to:
  • Increased project timeline commitment and transparency
  • Improved customer visibility into project schedule and deliverable changes
  • Increased financial control over approved project requests including management of cost overruns not approved through confirmed PMO Governance channels
The Execution of Change Control

It’s never too early to design, develop, advertise and implement Change Control. By implementing early in a project, overall change control adoption rates increase and the process is better positioned to be accepted as the norm. To get started, design the overall Change Control process conceptually, including how it may integrate into a larger ITIL service-based organization and functions. Be sure to include functions from the PMO, including Finance and Leadership teams, so that all aspects related to timelines, costs / benefits and resources are always considered, monitored and measured. Typical Change Control deliverables include:

  • RACI (including a Change Control Board)
  • Change Impact Assessment Checklist
  • Approval Requirements
  • Escalation Policies
  • Change Control Log
A successful Change Control process should keep the following G-O-A-L-S in mind:

Governance – Change Control is implemented to ensure that scope, timeline and budget are only impacted in a controlled and approved manner

Ownership – A primary system integrator vendor should not own Change Control (rather it should be within the PMO) but integrators should be included on the Project Change Control Board

Accountability – The process has an active sponsor and leadership participants that understand who can approve what and when

Learning – Brown Bags are conducted to drive home the expectations of the Change Control process as well as the support that project teams can expect from the PMO-based process

Status – Change Control status reports generated on Day One will not be the same as reports generated as the process mature


If you would like to learn more about managing change control in your organization, please contact Lake Shore Associates