Change Request in Project Management

Change request is a formal proposal for an alteration to some product or system. In project management, a change request often arises when the client wants an addition or alteration to the agreed upon deliverables for a project. Such a change may involve an additional feature or customization or an extension of service, among other things. Because change requests are beyond the scope of the agreement, they generally mean that the client will have to pay for the extra resources required to satisfy them.

One of the more challenging aspects of change management is ensuring that all details are sufficiently explicated and that all parties are in agreement as to what is expected. Explicit and detailed documentation makes it easier to identify when a change request must be submitted. Change requests can also organize internally. Internal change requests can invoke a wide variety of actions, including patching in software and hardware upgrades.

Once a change request has been made, the process of change control should be undertaken to make sure that the request is satisfied efficiently and without unnecessary use of resources. As a project manager, you know that made project pivots are just part of the game. Often it's not the change itself that causes the most disruption; it's the process or lack thereof for requesting and implementing the change that throws a wrench in things. That is why proper change request management is so critical.

What is change request management? 

Change request management is the implementation of tools, systems, or processes to identify, document, and resolve project change requests. A change request management plan should include change request templates or change request forms to ensure consistency in the process.

Why is Change Request Management Important? 

First and foremost, a documented change request process is critical for increasing your organization's project success rate. Change requests may impact a project scope, budget, resource requirements, and timeline. Without a clear change request process though, you wouldn't have a clear grasp of the full ramifications of a given change. Change request management is also crucial for keeping project stakeholders and team members in the loop with regards to changes. A change request process ensures that all those involved with the project understand what the change is, why it's happening, what it will mean for them specifically, and how it will impact the project overall. Remember, communication is key when it comes to successful project management. A change request management process ultimately helps ensure that change requests are communicated and understood by all affected parties.

Key Steps of Change Request Process

So, how do you implement a change request management within your organization? Here are some key steps:

Understand what is scope change. The first step of a change request process is to understand exactly what the scope of the request is and what will be required to implement it. Keep in mind that change requests may originate internally from a project sponsor or externally from a client. Either way, you need to ensure your change request process captures the necessary data for you and all concerned stakeholders to make informed decisions on the requested change.

Determine the Impact: Along with understanding the full scope of the change request, you need to determine and consider the ramifications of incorporating the change. How will the change impact the project manager, project budget, what about the timeline? How many departments and team members will be touched by this change request? These are all questions that will help you, your team, and your leadership decide whether to approve or deny the change request.

Seek approval or disapproval of the change request: Many organizations have multiple levels of approval. For instance, if the change request only requires an hour of additional work, it may only need approval from the PM or the primary sponsor. However, a change request that has a more significant impact on resources typically requires approval from higher-level management as well. Then, your organization's change request management process should stipulate criteria for the different levels of change request approval.

Communicate and Implement the Approved Change Request: Of course, once a change request form has been approved, it's essential to communicate that change to the project team and all other vested stakeholders and parties. This also means following up with the client if the change request originated with them.

Types of Change Request

Change requests can be sorted into different categories depending on the objective of the change. Here are the four key types of change requests to be aware of. Each of these four can apply to both projects and organizations as a whole.

Normal Change: A normal change request addresses a significant alteration to operations, existing systems, or infrastructure. This type is not uncommon, but it does imply substantial, far-reaching changes need to be made. And as you can imagine, normal change requests often result in additional ones.

Standard Change: A standard change request proposes a low-risk change that occurs often. As we already mentioned, many changes are perfectly natural over the course of a project or in an organization. These changes can be thought of as evolution. They are proposals outlining what needs to be modified, but the modification itself will follow a pre-existing system.

Major Change: A major change request proposes a significant change that will require substantial financing. Major changes cause a high risk, but they can also reap high rewards. These changes don't occur often, and if they are handled poorly, they can do serious damage. That being said, they are necessary to make extreme modifications.

Emergency Change: The last one is the emergency change. An emergency change request means that it is a high priority proposal for immediate change. This type is generally the result of a mistake or something not going as planned and can be used to prevent these unexpected circumstances from wreaking havoc.

See also: Change log

Change Principle

Virginia Satir Change Model