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Keys to a Successful Change Request

Any project manager who has spent time in the industry has no doubt been exposed to the change request process. More often than not it can be (or at least start off as) an uncomfortable conversation with your project sponsor. After all, you’re asking for more money and/or time (in most cases).

So…you’ve reached the point in your project where you need a change request for your project. First off, you need to look back at how you got here. In a perfect world, it’s because of additional scope or an uncontrollable environmental factor that has driven the need for a change to your project. In other cases, perhaps your original estimates were a little too optimistic and you now need more budget and/or schedule to complete your original project scope.

Before formally submitting a change request a conversation needs to be had with your project sponsor outlining the reason behind the proposed change request as well as the project impacts (budget, schedule, scope, risk). The reason for this is more around relationship management than anything – you want your sponsor to keep their trust in you and by socially communicating the reasoning for and details of your proposed change request. Basically you want to communicate these details face-to-face first before adding any formality to the process. If all the details are presented clearly, this all but eliminates a lot of the uncomfortable-ness of future discussions on this change request. A lot of PM’s are worried to have this conversation however if you’ve got a trusting relationship built with your sponsor, this doesn’t need to be a scary topic.

Once you’ve had that conversation with your sponsor and assuming you’ve got a green light to proceed, you need to draft up a change request document that will outline the following key areas, to the level of detail as dictated by the organization and/or methodology.

  • Budget

  • What are the impacts to your project budget? How much more budget do you need to complete the work?

  • Schedule

  • Will your change request extend the schedule? By how much and what is the justification for this?

  • Risk

  • Does the change introduce new risks to the project? If so what are the probabilities and impacts?

  • Perhaps it reduces risk to the project – it’s important to note these as justifications for your change request.

  • Scope

  • Are we introducing new scope? Reducing existing scope?

  • Resourcing

  • Are we adding new team members as a result of the change? Are team members rolling off the project sooner than expected?

Change management is one of the hardest aspects to control in project management. Protecting your scope while ensuring that you’re delivering on what the client really needs can be a difficult balancing act to achieve. Ensuring that you have properly communicated your justification for and magnitude of change effectively, you’re making sure that your sponsor has all the information they require to make the right decision for your project.

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