Define the Change Control and Issue Resolution Process
The project manager is responsible for the overall management of changes and issues arising during the project and the delegation of duties. Effective change control and issue resolution involves the following responsibilities:
- Provision of a centralised change request/issues cataloguing, monitoring and communication service.
- Coordination of all change requests and issue forms to ensure completeness and consistency and to reduce duplication of effort.
- Maintenance of current status information for change requests/issues in the review and approval process.
- Processing of change requests/issues by referrals to appropriate project participants for analysis and input.
- Compilation of summary statistics and reports to reflect the status of all change requests/issues.
- Updating of project plans, based on information received from team leaders to reflect changes directly related to approved change requests.
- Monitoring the impact of approved change requests and resolved issues on the overall project.
- Prepare reports to appropriate management personnel and the project steering committee for review.
All projects need some form of change control and issue resolution processes.
This Execution Plan outlines specific steps to be included in such processes but suggests the project manager tailor and modify the processes for the specific project. A detailed listing and description of the suggested steps is presented in the following task. In addition, appendices contain complete examples as follows: a change control procedure and a change control log, Appendix D; an issue resolution procedure and issue resolution log, Appendix B; change request and issue status reports, Appendix C.
Adapt Standard Procedures for the Specific Project
The project manager should carefully review standard or sample procedures for change control and issue resolution before attempting to implement them for the specific project. Frequently, the procedures will require tailoring and adaptation to effectively serve the required purpose for a specific project.
For example, forms may require alteration, approval authorities may need to be adjusted and prioritisation or classifications may need to be modified to accommodate specific project characteristics.
For small projects, the project manager may be able to modify the procedures and produce the required changes without assistance. For projects using a project office team, input and assistance from project office personnel is desirable as this team will be the group with primary responsibility for monitoring and reporting on change requests and project issues.
Appendices D and B contain samples of change control and issue resolution procedures. Similar high-level processes are generally followed for managing both changes and issues.
Change and Issue Management
Step 1: Log the request
A comprehensive listing of all changes and issues should be maintained. Samples of logs for Change Control and Issue Resolution are provided in Appendices D and B, respectively.
If possible, an automated system should be used for maintaining the logs. A simple spreadsheet application or a more comprehensive database application should be considered, depending on project size and complexity.
Step 2: Complete the initiation form
Once the need for change has been identified or the existence of an issue has become apparent, the change or issue should be documented. All individuals associated with the project should be encouraged to document change requests and/or issues. Samples of change request and issue forms are included in Appendices D and B respectively.
Often, project participants will be reluctant to take the time to fill out the required forms.
The project manager and team leaders need to be proactive in meetings and other discussions when the need for change or identification of an issue arises. If necessary, the project manager or team leader should assist users or others with the completion of the necessary forms to ensure all changes and issues are documented.
If possible, electronic submission of issues and change requests should be encouraged. A standard electronic-mail system can be used, or a separate electronic bulletin board can be established.
Step 3: Assign for analysis
Most changes and issues will require research and analysis to evaluate impacts and identify alternative approaches. Generally, a project team member working within the relevant area is assigned to the change or issue by either the project manager or project office personnel.
In some cases, issues may be assigned to other individuals within the organisation or to an external entity. Sufficient time and resources should be allocated to the research and analysis effort. This resource commitment is necessary to develop a realistic understanding of the scope of the change or issue and for effective management of the change and issue processes.
Analysis work often involves additional discussion with the originator of the change or issue to aim to ensure all salient points are considered. Research may be required to identify the scope of the change or impact of the issue. In addition, a cost/benefit analysis may be required.
At the conclusion of this step, a decision may be reached to cancel the change request or to consider the issue as resolved or closed. As information is gathered, it may be determined that the change is not needed due to additional requirements or because it is already addressed within the existing project scope.
Similarly, an issue may be resolved by the acquisition of additional information during the analysis process.
Step 4: Identify options
After thorough analysis, the assigned project team member should identify relevant options for proceeding with the change or resolving the issue. Options should include both costs and potential benefits, with any impact on the project schedule or resource assignments clearly identified.
Step 5: Decide on action
Often, the project manager, the initiator of the request and the assigned project team member will be able to decide on a course of action. Depending upon the size and impact of the change or issue resolution decision, additional agreement may be required.
At this point, some changes or issues will be cancelled or deferred based on the impact of the various options identified.
Step 6: Obtain appropriate approvals
In many projects, a Change Management Review Team is established to review and coordinate all proposed changes. Similarly, an Issue Resolution Team may be established for large projects. Where separate review teams have been established, additional approval from these specialised teams is required.
For relatively large changes, or issues with broad organisational impacts, additional management or steering committee approval may be required.
Step 7: Log action and communicate decision
Once final decisions are approved, the appropriate log should be updated. Similarly, the final decision should be communicated to the requester and other interested parties.
The Change Control Log and Issue Resolution Log should be maintained on a regular basis.
The logs should be reviewed at least weekly to aim to ensure analysis and decisions are being made on a timely basis. Logs generally include a field for recording “follow-up” dates to aim to ensure changes and issues are not overlooked or ignored.
Step 8: Update plans and budgets
Once changes are approved, any impacted project plans should be revised to show the additional work effort. Similarly, if an approved change or resolved issue has a material impact on the project budget, updates should be made and communicated.
During this task, specific responsibilities for steps in the change control and issue resolution processes should be defined and assigned. A Change Management Review Team and an Issue Resolution Team should be established for large, high visibility and/or long duration projects.
Change Management Review Team
A Change Management Review Team is often established to review and approve changes. When establishing a team, the following guidelines should be considered:
- Members of the Change Management Review Team should be empowered to approve, defer or cancel change requests.
- The team should have approximately six members, representing both technical and functional areas of the organisation.
- The project manager and sponsor should serve as members.
The team should meet weekly (or as frequently as required) to:
- Review all formal change requests (in large projects, it might only review requests requiring 40 or more hours to implement with smaller requests being reviewed by the project manager).
- Evaluate the risks, costs and potential benefits of proposed changes.
- Review the impact of requested changes on the project and the organisation.
- Determine change recommendation priorities.
- Approve, defer or cancel change requests.
The Change Management Review Team should review decisions and recommendations with the steering committee at its regular meeting.
Issue Resolution Team
For very large or complex projects, an Issue Resolution Team (IRT) may be established to review open issues and expedite the resolution process. When establishing the team, the following guidelines should be considered:
- Members of the team should be empowered to resolve project issues.
- The team should have approximately four members, representing both technical and functional areas of the organisation.
- The project manager should serve as a member.
The team should meet weekly (or as frequently as required) to:
- Review all open issues (in large projects, the Issues Review Team might only review issues with medium or high priority).
- Evaluate the risks, impacts, costs and/or potential benefits of the issues.
- Determine if further action or research is required.
- Resolve or defer issues.
The Issue Resolution Team should review significant decisions and recommendations with the steering committee at its regular meetings.
Develop Documentation, Forms, and Databases to Support Procedures
During this task, the following documents should be assembled and produced:
- Hard copy and/or electronic copies of the approved procedures for change control and issue resolution.
- Hard copy and/or electronic forms for submission of change requests and issues.
- Hard copy and/or electronic logs for recording, tracking and communicating information on to change requests and project issues.
Appropriate means for storing information pertaining to change requests and project issues should be developed. For small projects, a spreadsheet may be sufficient for tracking and reporting. For larger projects, a personal computer-based database application may be more efficient for tracking and reporting the data.
The change control or issue resolution log should contain key information to track and manage the situation effectively. The log should provide a clear distinction between high priority changes and issues, and those of a less severe nature. In addition, the status and due date for the change or issue should be clearly displayed. The log should be readily accessible to all team members, preferably in electronic format.