Oh, the change order.  It can make a project sponsor squirm, shoot fire darts from their eyes, or runaway like a scared puppy.  Or it may be completely agreeable and justified in the customer’s eyes.  But we all know that sometimes change orders are hard to bring before a customer.  Hard to present to that person across the table from you.  Hard to tell the individual financing this whole affair that he’s going to have to cough up even more money – especially if he doesn’t think it’s out of scope in the first place.

When we come to the fork in the road where we need to perform some out of scope work, it’s critical that we do the best job we possibly can in documenting that need, the work required, and all financial aspects of it.  Leave no stone unturned, leave no question in your customer’s mind that you and your team definitely know what you’re doing and that you’re doing everything by the book.  To that end, there are some steps you should take before presenting the full-blown change order to your customer for them to sign.  Some steps that should be taken in order to make it a real piece of the project puzzle that you will now incorporate as new tasks in your schedule that you’ll share with your team and customer using a tool like Seavus’ Project Viewer.

These steps should include, but are not necessarily limited to…

Cost-benefit analysis

You might want to start the whole process off with a cost-benefit analysis depending on the nature of the work in the change order.  Having this detail to provide to the customer might make the numbers easier to swallow…especially if you can show them the overall value of the effort and it’s benefit to the engagement in black and white.

Lots of backing documentation on cost

Document the cost in detail.  Think everything through and then think it through again.  When I know a consulting engagement is likely going to come at a higher price than my customer is expecting, I take a deep breath and go back and rethink all the costs and efforts involved and make sure that I take the most clear documentation possible to that customer to back me up.  Because the last thing I want is to be questioned on the need for such a high cost.

Lots of backing documentation on need

The same holds true for need.  You don’t want your customer thinking that you’re just lining yours or your organization’s pockets.  Show why the work must be done and where it strays from the original, agreed upon requirements of the project.  Because if there’s a grey area there, it will be incredibly difficult to get the customer to signoff.

An accurate and error-free change order

Finally, present your customer with an error-free change order.  Check and re-check every number, every word, every calculation.  If it contains errors, your customer will think that you’ve not put enough work into it or that you’re not presenting accurate numbers and information.  Either way, you’ll once again have trouble getting signoff.