What Exactly Is a Project Change and Whats the Big Deal Anyway?

What Exactly Is a Project Change and What s the Big Deal Anyway?

A project change is a change in any of the critical success factors (scope, schedule, costs, quality, and project acceptance criteria). The "big deal" is not that there is a change. In fact, for many projects, changesespecially scope expansionsare expected and encouraged. The big deal is uncontrolled change. Why? Because a change in any of the critical success factors impacts the other factors, which will then impact project performance and the project's ability to achieve the success criteria, which will then impact stakeholder perceptions and satisfaction levels. For example, an expansion in project scope will increase the work of the project. The increased work impacts project schedule and project costs at a minimum. In many cases, the increased work also impacts resource plans and adds new risks. On projects with contractual arrangements, the increased scope will likely have contract implications and needs to be formally managed to protect all parties involved.

Thus, any time a change occurs, the project needs a way to recognize the change, evaluate the impact of the change, communicate the change, and make planning adjustments if the change is accepted. This mechanism is commonly referred to as a project change control system. We will review the key elements of this system later in this chapter.

A project change is a change in any of the critical success factors (scope, schedule, costs, quality, and project acceptance criteria).


Project Change TypesMore Than Scope

As we mentioned before, a project change is a change to any of the critical success factors and not just scope. While scope changes are generally responsible for 80% or more of the project changes, and we will discuss these in greater detail in the next section, it is important to recognize that any of the following would also constitute a project change (and should be controlled using the project change control system):

  • An expansion or reduction of project scope
  • An expansion or reduction of product features
  • An expansion or reduction in performance requirements
  • An expansion or reduction in quality requirements
  • A significant change in the target milestone dates
  • A shift in the implementation or deployment strategy
  • An increase in resource costs
  • An expansion or reduction in the project budget
  • A change in any of the project objectives
  • A change in any of the final acceptance criteria, including return on investment forecasts
  • A change in any of the project assumptions, constraints, or dependencies, especially regarding resources and work effort estimates
  • A shift in project roles or responsibilities, especially on projects with contractual arrangements
  • A decision to reset the performance baselines due to an unrecoverable performance variance

Relation to Configuration Management and Organizational Change Management

To further clarify what is meant by a project change, let's review two other change-related components of project management: configuration management and organizational change. This is a common area of confusion, because they are somewhat interrelated, they all deal with change, and they all are a part of project management. As illustrated in Figure 11.1, we are focused on change control management in this chapter. Table 11.1 summarizes the key differences between the three.

Figure 11.1. Highlights this chapter's focus on change control management.

Table 11.1. Comparison of Change-Related Components of Project Management


Change Control Management

Configuration Management

Organizational Change Management


Project critical success factors

Project deliverables, product

Organizational impact of the project results

Primary Concern

Project performance; stakeholder expectations

Integrity of project deliverables; tracking changes in project deliverables

Preparing individuals, organizational units, and customers for the changes

Related Terms

Change control; scope management

Document management, versions, builds

Change management

Discussed In

This chapter

Chapter 12

Chapter 18 and 20


Focus on scope can overlap with configuration management

Can be part of project's Overall Change Control Plan

Not regarded as a project control activity

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169

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