Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Project Management & Change Control

In any new product development project, the market conditions are constantly changing & hence there will be need for changes to the project requirements & deliverables even during the execution of the project. Successful project management is all about understanding the need for changes and dealing with it i.e, Deciding on when & how to make the required changes in the project.

Any change to the project requirements can have an impact on the project cost & schedule. It is therefore important to understand the importance of the change & the impact to the current project of the change is agreed upon. And once a change is approved, the project plan may have to be revised and the revised project plan will have to be communicated to all stake holders.

In the initial days of project management, it was the role of project manager to decide on the required changes, but today, it is common to have a larger group called as Change Control Board (CCB) to manage all the requested changes. CCB is a decision-making body controlling all project changes. The CCB must consider & review each planned or unplanned change. The name for this group could vary, but the function it provides does not. The main objective of CCB is to control the change process in a disciplined, visible, and traceable manner.

This article is about the role & process used by CCB.

Formation of CCB

Who should be the members of CCB? Ideally, the members of CCB should include the key stake holders & decision makers for the project. Ideally, the CCB consists of project/program manager, product/account manager (who represents the customer), Project's engineering lead, Project's QA lead, Product Marketing lead (for product development projects), Project's financial controller. Other members may be included - based on the project's specific needs.

Once the CCB is established, a standard process for the operation of CCB needs to be established. Normally, the CCB mechanisms are standardized by the PMO office.  The PMO office establishes the CCB charter and the rules of engagement at start of the project.

Planned & Unplanned Changes

As the project progresses, there could be changes introduced into the project requirements. These changes could be planned changes or unplanned changes.

Planned changes are those that occurs in the project from orderly progress of the project - i.e, as the project progresses from: (1) requirements definition, (2) preliminary design,
(3) detailed design, (4) coding, (5) production/deployment, and (6) operational use.  These planned changes in project do not have an impact on the project schedule.

However not all projects progress in an orderly fashion. Additional requirements may be added by the customer, or upon detailed design - new requirements/test cases are identified etc. Such changes are unplanned changes and may have an impact on project schedule.

CCB reviews all changes - planned & unplanned and constantly reviews the project cost & schedule impacts due to these changes. CCB also documents all the change requests and minutes of meeting for future needs.

Activities of CCB

Program Management office works with CCB to define the main activities of CCB. The main activities of CCB are:

  1. CCB meets regularly to review all change requests. CCB members consists of customer or customer representative - so that the customer is aware of the review meetings & its decision. This provides the customers an insight into project progress to support more effective decision making.
  2. Establish Norms for requesting any changes. CCB can publish a standards/templates to make any change requests.
  3. CCB review & triage the impact of all change requests: Any addition or deletion of functional features, changes in project plan, project execution sequence etc. CCB may ask for impact analysis on the proposed changes from the execution team and based on joint review with customer or customer representative - may approve or reject the change request.
  4. Upon triage of all the change requests, CCB can recommend project management to bundle up a number of small changes into one big change in the project and re-plan the project if necessary.
  5. Once the change request is approved, the execution team implements the change & upon implementation, publishes a project change notice and documents the changes done in the project.
  6. CCB should also review the project viability at every stage gate - as the project moves from one stage to another. This is the review of a planned change & the review is to see if the project is progressing as per plan and does the project makes sense to continue on.
  7. CCB also publishes a change freeze date for the project. After this date, no change requests will be entertained. All proposed changes to the product development will be deferred to the next version of the product.
  8. Record & document minutes of every CCB meeting for future needs. Program Management Office can use this records for future use.

Closing Thoughts 

CCB plays a very important role in project management, especially in new product development projects. When developing new products, there is a constant pressure from customers or product managers to add new features, but making that change can have adverse impact on the project schedule & costs. CCB acts as a judge, reviews the requested change and weighs the consequences and them makes the final call.

Program Management office establishes the CCB. The CCB provides a vital function in project management in managing all the changes to the project. CCB provides a controlled approach to deal with all the changes to the project requirements and works as a communication platform between the project team and customer.

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