Monday, September 24, 2007

The Most Common Reasons for Change Requests

Change is inevitable. As a project manager, you will probably encounter many changes as you plan and execute your project. At least some of these changes will affect the project's scope, either increasing it or decreasing it. To better manage and control these kinds of changes, you should know what changes are most often requested.

A change request may be initiated internally or externally. It may be written or verbal, legally mandated or optional.

There are five common reasons for changing the scope of your project.
  1. an external event - The first reason for a scope change request is an external event. These are factors outside of your control that impact the scope of the project. External events can be general or project-specific.

    A general event, such as a state-wide power failure due to a violent hurricane, does not directly relate to the project, but could force a change request.

    A project-specific event could be a change in local zoning regulations that require immediate changes to the project. While this is out of your control, it affects the project.

  2. a "product" scope error - The second reason for a scope change request is a product scope error. This includes any omissions, inaccuracies, or miscalculations relating to the product of the project. Any of these errors could prompt a change request.

    Think about a software development project. An example of a product scope error would be the failure to include a required feature in the original design. Without a change request, the final product would be missing a desired feature.

  3. a "project" scope error - A project scope error is the third reason for change requests. A project scope error usually results from an error in estimating or planning the work in the initial phases of the project. This could include anything from underestimating the time it takes to complete each task to not properly defining the work in each phase. Although most project scope errors cause the project to run behind schedule, they can also result in phases or deliverables being completed ahead of schedule.

    Using an incomplete WBS for a telecommunications project would prompt a change request due to a project scope error. Since the project manager did not properly define some activities, activities were duplicated, causing schedule and budget problems.

  4. a value-adding change - The fourth reason for changing the scope of your project is a value-adding change. Value-adding changes are caused by factors that cannot be considered when the original scope is defined, but if implemented into the project scope, will improve the project or make it more cost effective. In a software game development project, a value-adding change could be new technology that enables players to play against other competitors online. This situation would require a change request due to a value-adding change.

  5. a contingency plan implementation - The final reason for a change request might occur if you implement a contingency plan to handle a risk on your project. A contingency plan is applied to the identified risks on a project to reduce the cost and impact if the risk does occur. If the risk has a higher impact than anticipated, a change in project scope may be required. Tom, a software engineer, is working on a software development project that will allow a home entertainment system to be activated by both remote control and a human speaking a command. Tom needed to implement a contingency plan—human voice recognition—because the project manager learned a competitor was developing a similar product with voice recognition capabilities. Without this change request, the company risked losing sales to the competitor once the project went to market.
Change requests act as a record of the project's evolution and progressive elaboration. Since change requests explain the reason for change, they help ensure that all stakeholders understand and agree to the proposed change.

Whether changes to your project come in the form of federal laws or an error in judgment, one thing is certain—change will happen. Familiarizing yourself with the most common reasons for changing the project scope will allow you to manage and control these kinds of change requests.

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