Ringing in the Changes

29 June, 2015

You do not have to have any form of project management certification to appreciate that uncertainty is at its highest at the start of any project. Because each project has some unique characteristic, we are always, in some sense or other, breaking new ground. Embarking on a project without completely understanding exactly what we are trying to achieve, or even how we are going to achieve it, is what makes project management difficult. However, looking at things from a different perspective, if it was all clear-cut and well-defined, there would not be such a need for Project Managers.

Given the initial uncertainty, Project Managers have to budget for changes during the course of the project. Changes are not necessarily bad things. As we increase our understanding during the project, different techniques might come to light that will make our work easier to do; or the customer gains a better appreciation of what is needed and changes the requirements in mid-stream.

While it is always upsetting to have to alter the plan, the important thing with changes is that they are considered in terms of impacts across all the project management knowledge areas. If the customer wants an extra feature in the product, the project team needs to weigh up the consequences of adding that feature. Obviously it is going to affect the schedule, but in what way? We might initially think that we will need someone to develop the feature, but we might also have to increase testing because this extra feature is quite complex. There will be documentation impacts and even packaging consequences in some instances. A small change that looks like two extra days work may actually grow to several weeks’ work when all of its consequences are considered.

Doing this analysis allows us to return to the stakeholder who has requested the change and to explain the consequences. Always give a positive response – “yes, we can do this, but …”. The “but” is where you detail the consequences. Yes we can extend the living room in your new house but, because we already have the roof on, we would need to take the roof off, move the side wall out the required distance and rebuild. This will add three months to the build time and cost €40,000. Oh, we will also need to apply for planning permission as it changes the floor area of the house. Now the stakeholder may decide to proceed with the change or not.

For the Project Manager preparing to do the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, change requests appear all over the project management knowledge areas. In terms of inputs and outputs, change requests appear no fewer than 21 times. As you can imagine, many processes generate change requests, but there is only one process that receives then and that is Perform Integrated Change Control. After analysing these requests, this process will produce approved change requests. These are then forwarded to the Direct and Manage Project Work process for implementation. They also go to the Control Quality and Control Procurements processes. If there are repairs made as a result of change requests issued by the Control Quality process, then these need to be verified by the same process. Similarly, if we decide to change something that we are building or sourcing from outside the organization, we need to alert the Control Procurements process.

This only leaves the processes that generate change requests. Direct and Manage Project Work is one such process, as are Monitor and Control Project Work, Validate Scope, Control Scope, Control Schedule, Control Costs, Control Quality, Perform Quality Assurance, Manage Project Team, Control Communications, Control Risks, Control Procurements, Conduct Procurements, Manage Stakeholder Engagement and Control Stakeholder Engagement.

Because changes are to the original plans, change requests have to be originated when the project is up and running. In other words, change requests are generated by executing and monitor/control processes.

Velopi’s PMP® Exam Preparation courses cover all the project management processes, along with all their inputs and outputs. Please visit our training page or contact us directly if you are interested in this, or any of the other project and program management courses we offer. Velopi is a Registered Education Provider for the Project Management Institute so these courses will give you the best opportunity of succeeding in the PMP® exam.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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