What is Change Control?

Change Management | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes

A red grungy clock reading time for change

Change control is a subset of change management and is an essential part of the project management process. With the pace of change today, it is almost certain that projects will face the demand for change during their life. While change may help ensure the project's alignment with business needs, it is essential to consider and approve each change carefully.

The change control process in project management ensures that each change proposed during a project is adequately defined, reviewed and approved before implementation. The change control process helps avoid unnecessary changes that might disrupt services and ensures the efficient use of resources.

Change control contains five stages:

  1. Proposing a Change
  2. Summary of Impact
  3. Decision
  4. Implementing a Change
  5. Closing a Change

There are two documents used during the process:

  1. Change Log: used to record all changes requested and decisions made.
  2. Change Request Form: used to document details of the change, including the business case.

1. Proposing a Change

This process allows anyone in the project team (including the customer) to suggest a change to the project. The change is presented using the Change Request Form and added to the Change Log for the project. The proposal must include a description of the change and expected benefits or other reasons for the change.

2. Summary of Impact

The project manager carries out this process and will consider the overall effect on the project, covering the following items:

  • Quantifiable cost savings and benefits.
  • Legal, regulatory or other unquantifiable reasons for change.
  • The estimated cost of the change.
  • Impact on timescales.
  • Whether extra resources are needed.
  • Effects on other projects and business activities.
  • New risks and issues.

After this assessment, the project manager recommends whether to carry out the change.

3. Decision

This process involves a review of the change request by an approved authority, who will consider all the information provided by the project manager and the person making the request. The decision will usually be:

  • Accept.
  • Accept with comments and special conditions.
  • Reject.
  • Defer (change is not approved but is left for consideration later).

4. Implementing a Change

If the change is approved, it is planned, scheduled and executed at a time agreed with the stakeholders.

A regression test plan is created as part of the planning for circumstances where the changes need backing out.

After implementation, it is usual to carry out a post-implementation review.

5. Closing a Change

Once implemented, the requester checks and agrees on the change, and it is closed in the Change Log by the project manager.

A Final Thought

Managing any changes that impact the baseline of your project is crucial. Uncontrolled change can derail projects and severely reduce the chances of project success. Implementing the simple change control process outlined in this article will prevent many questions later when your project lies in ruins.

Duncan Haughey is a project manager with decades of experience in private organisations, both large and small.

Recommended read: Managing Change Successfully: Six Layers of Resistance, by Samuel Okoro.


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