Change Control Procedure: 5 Steps To Implement And Tips

Updated 16 October 2022

Change controls are a necessary business process that ensures the management, approval and implementation of changes to projects. Change controls help keep projects running timely, meet deadline expectations and sustain business goals. Understanding the role of change controls and developing a system for them helps a business run more efficiently and face fewer uncertainties. In this article, we define change control, discuss the importance of the change control procedure, provide steps to implement it, describe a change request and share tips for change management.

What Is A Change Control Procedure?

A change control procedure evaluates the change and provides details of its aspects to help ensure they align with the business requirements. Change control is a method for regulating and monitoring modifications to a project's baselines, such as documentation and extensive specifications. This includes modifications to the project's scope, budget and schedule. It involves documenting the reasons and approving every change. Many industries use change control, usually for projects that changes in the environment, requirements or regulations affect. The following are some industries that typically implement change control processes:

  • IT

  • Software development

  • Health sector

  • Engineering

  • Manufacturing

Related: What Is Quality Control? A Complete Guide

Why Is The Change Control Procedure Important?

The change control process has multiple functions and provides documentation for past and future project modifications. These procedures reduce the implementation of unnecessary changes and decrease the likelihood of a reversal of any change. Change management introduces changes to a project in a controlled manner and evaluates their risk and reward. Ideally, it is important that changes are minimally disruptive and efficiently uses resources.

Related: What Is Change Management And Why Is It Important?

Documents Required For A Change Control Process

Typically, a change control process requires the following two documents:

Change log

A change log is a documentation that contains a record of requests and decisions and an archive of previous modifications throughout the management process. It monitors the progression of each modification based on its review, approval, implementation and closure. A change log also includes the date of the change and its risk, time and cost implications for the project.

Change request

A change request document provides details of the change and initiates change control processes. When a customer requests changes to goods or services or believes that a certain modification may improve a project, it is a change request. Change requests are essential for documenting and tracing modifications because they enable the project manager to identify duplicate requests or prior solution options. They may also help communicate recent changes to team members and ensure they understand them. Most change management programmes use change requests.

Related: Change Leadership Vs Change Management (With Pros And Cons)

Steps To Implement Change Control Processes

The following are the steps to analyse a proposed change thoroughly and determine its necessity and efficacy:

1. Plan a proposed change

A change control process starts with a proposal using essential documentation, including a change request form. The initial proposal details the change and addresses the budget, deadlines and barriers. It also covers the ideal methods to communicate the change to employees or management. Individuals or teams initiate proposals with members providing feedback and suggestions. Proposals also assess the change's significance or value to the business and steps to evaluate its success or identify its weaknesses. The plan may set timelines and designate who can authorise changes. It records approved and unapproved changes to the change log for historical reference.

Example: Shubham is collaborating with his team members using outdated software and is certain a new system can improve communication and speed up response times. Shubham researches the new system and uses a change request form to propose the idea to the project manager. His form defines how the software can benefit the project, calculates the time it can take to learn the system and provides cost estimates for the change.

Related: A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Manage Projects (With Tips)

2. Assess the change and analyse the risk

This step determines how the proposed change affects the project and provides solutions or provisions. This stage analyses cost savings or benefits and details the necessary resources. It is important to address any legal or regulatory reasons for the change. This procedure identifies the timeline for the change and its impact on other projects and addresses unknown risks. Change risks can be low, moderate or high. A low-risk change generally requires less documentation and faster approval, while high-risk changes may require extra steps for approval. This phase identifies exit strategies for high-risk changes and preparation for risky and uncertain scenarios.

Example: Shubham's proposed collaboration software change is a moderate risk since it requires employees to first learn the system before using it. The new system can save annual subscription costs for the company, even though it may financially impact the project at the start. Then, they set a timeline to assess whether the new system can have the impact Shubham promises and describe how to return to the previous system if necessary.

3. Review the change and decide

A review of the change helps ensure it meets business goals and requirements for using resources and determining its priority. An approved authority reviews documents, evidence feedback or other data to determine whether the change can proceed. After the review, the authority approves, rejects, requires additional provisions for or postpones the change to a later date. Next, the assignment of teams takes place to begin the implementation phase.

Example: A review of Shubham's proposal takes place alongside two additional change requests. Since Shubham's suggested change involves a moderate risk compared to the others, his proposal receives priority. Shubham's proposal outlines an impressive timeline to complete the change and earn approval. Now the implementation team plans to evaluate the new system to identify risks.

Related: What Is Organisational Change? (Benefits, Types And Reasons)

4. Execute the change and provide training

Small-scale development tests the change and records its findings. An implementation team performs tests and authorises incremental changes as they develop. Depending on the level of risk, testing can be extensive or not necessary. After testing and approval, the implementation process begins. This can include employee training on new equipment or software or meeting the requirements of new standards or regulations.

Example: A selected team tested the new collaboration system for a month to monitor communication efficiency. They trained other employees on the system and reported to the project manager throughout. After recording its success, they then set a date for the entire team to start using the system.

Related: 9 Change Management Skills (And How To Highlight Them)

5. Close the change

Closing the change means determining whether the change is complete and meets expectations and providing proof of its success. The close assesses the plan concerning the entire project. Documented proof of success can be a rise in efficiency, cost reduction or an accomplishment of a business goal. Closing identifies mistakes or inefficiencies and documents them to apply to future change proposals. It finally updates the change log to include all documents for reference and record-keeping.

Tips For Change Control

The following are some useful tips to help ensure the success of change management processes:

Prefer project management software

Using project management software is one of the most efficient ways to help ensure the success of change management processes. The advantages of project management software comprise improved communication, time management and resource allocation. Collaborative software solutions may assist team members in visualising their responsibilities and having a better understanding of their goals.

Related: What Is Project Planning? (How To Create A Project Plan)

Learn how to determine risk

In project management, a risk is a circumstance that affects the accomplishment of a project's objectives or tasks. During change management processes, project managers generally evaluate project risk to create change management measures with minimal impact on the organisation. Understanding how to identify, assess and plan for risk enables you to design effective change management strategies for anticipating and adjusting to potential obstacles.

Related: What Is Project Scheduling? (With Tips And Techniques)

Create a change management strategy

While implementing changes to a project, a change management plan can substantially improve productivity and efficiency. This is because management strategies allow a project manager to plan for potential obstacles, create change options and prepare solutions. These plans can assist a company in implementing a significant change without negatively affecting project timelines, operations or budgets.

Related: 11 Important Aspects Of Project Management (And 5 Stages)

Consider using a change log and change request form

Creating a request template can facilitate tracking, evaluating and executing change requests. Templates can streamline change management processes and provide team members with a clear and concise guide for submitting change requests. They may also help project managers keep records of previous requests and changes. A change request template may include the following elements:

  • Aspects of a project an individual wishes to change

  • Goals of implementing a change

  • Management and team members examining processes or solutions for approval and discussing how they plan to execute changes

  • Possible impacts of each process or solution on a project

  • Each solution's description and justification

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