If you determine that you will not be able to meet the promises you made in the project plan or if a key stakeholder wants you to change the plan - that is, add features or functions to the final deliverable, add a new deliverable, shorten the schedule, reduce the budget - then you'll need to employ your change-management process.

First, a change-request form must be completed

The person requesting the change should complete the top portion of the change request form (see figure).

When you receive the change request, give it a number and record it on your change log. If you recall, this is merely a record of each change request that is received and the status of the change request. Let's suppose you receive a change request for a department move request that adds 25 individuals and all of their equipment and materials to the move list. The justification is that one of the vice presidents has identified additional people who need to be included due to an impending department merger.

Change is a good idea or not

Next, ask the team to consider if the change being requested is a good idea or not. If the change does not make good common sense, then go back and discuss the change request with the sponsor. If the sponsor agrees the change is not a good idea, then you'll need to discuss the change request with the person who requested it. Maybe he or she has more information on why the change is important than was supplied with the request form. The next step, evaluating the impact to the project of a requested change, will take project resources - at least time and effort - and you don't want to expend those resources for requests that don't make sense. So, before you do the impact analysis for a change, make sure it makes sense.

Evaluate the impact of the change

Next, evaluate the impact of the change on the approved project plan. We would evaluate the impact of increasing the move list by 25 individuals. We would evaluate the impact to

  • Scope (it may require we move to area of the building, for example).
  • Risk (more people may increase certain risks or create new ones).
  • The resource plan - does it affect the schedule, staff effort, spending?

Let's take another example. Suppose the sponsor wants to reduce the budget by $2,500. In our impact analysis, we would evaluate ways of reducing costs, such as moving the department after hours to decrease downtime or we might be able to convert outside labor to internal labor (ask for volunteers). We could reduce costs by eliminating counter measures or we might offer several options for how we could reduce the scope to accommodate the cost reduction, such as having them move at a later time and combine it with another project if possible.

In order to develop the impact analysis, you'll need to conduct a miniplanning session with the team, working through each of the planning areas again, asking the question, 'How will the requested change impact the current plan?” Once you've completed the impact section of the change-request form, the sponsor and customer must approve the change.

If the change is approved, then the project plan is amended and the amended plan becomes the new official plan. Moving forward, all progress on the project should be tracked against the new amended plan. As previously discussed, always choose a good project management tool that allows your team to view and collaborate on project task status updates such as Seavus Project Viewer software that integrates with MS Project.

If the change is denied, then you'll need to return the change request form to the person who requested the change and explain to him the reasons for the denial. It's usually best to do this in person or at least over the phone, so that you have a chance to answer any questions the person might have. If the person who requested the change is at a higher level in the organization than you and you feel you need support in delivering the bad news, ask your sponsor to help. That's what the sponsor is there for.

Complete the change-request section of the status report by indicating the change that was requested, the date the change was received, whether the change was approved, and if it was approved, the changes made to the project plan.