A change control process is followed to improve service, product, or project-based outcomes in B2B and sometimes B2C relationships. It begins with a clearly defined request for change from a client. Options are then identified and evaluated, and finally, a decision is made. This could be a rejection of the request, deferment, or full acceptance and implementation.
Your customers are not always right, but they are always the customer.Shep Hyken
Because few project plans work out exactly as planned in practice, having a change management process in place is essential. It allows changes to be made smoothly, and it allows for better outcomes than would be achieved if a flawed plan or process remains in place.
A Formal Procedure for Change Control
Ad hoc changes made with the best intentions can result in chaos, so the Change Control process is formalized and makes use of a predetermined process that is in line with pre-set policies.
In its simplest form, a change control process will follow these basic steps:
Submission of Formal Change Requests
The person or group that wishes to suggest a change must do so in a way that is absolutely clear and unambiguous. Documenting the change request in detail allows for the clear definition of the desired change. When making provision for the change control procedure, companies must decide whether this consists of submission in a specific format or whether a simple email is sufficient.
Many prefer a formal document, since defining change requires certain information to be available. This includes:
- Define the need: What change is believed to be necessary?
- Why is the change needed? What will happen if no changes are made? Will delays to the requested change have a significant impact?
- What is needed for the change to succeed? What outcome does the person or entity requesting the change want to see? For example, changes in a service level agreement could be a prerequisite for change.
- By when? This may not mean that the change process is expected to be complete, but it clarifies expectations and provides extra information for the people responsible for evaluating the request.
- How will the change add value? Will the proposed change enhance customer experience? Will it bring about greater precision?
Submission and review
Once the change request is submitted, the review process begins. The project team will now discuss its options. Ideally, a formal meeting with all the affected parties should be called. This will result in better communication. The project team can bounce ideas off each other, raise concerns and ask any questions they need to ask.
First, the change request is presented in detail. Next, the team will discuss the possible impacts of the change, generate options, and reach a decision. Since clients will expect feedback within a certain timeframe, the project team needs to know how long they have to reach a decision or at least provide feedback. The person who liaises with the client should clarify time-based expectations when handling the change request.
Final definition of options and response documentation
There are few requests for change that only have one possible solution. The project team has to determine which options are feasible and present at least two options. As with the change request, the response must be documented, and certain information must be included.
- Option reference: This can be a number or a name
- Solution proposal: Both the suggested solution to the problem and the reasoning behind it should be presented. When technical solutions are offered as potential options, explain in detail what they would entail. If you are forced to reject the client’s request, reasons must also be given. Ideally, an in-person meeting to communicate this is most likely to be productive.
- Expected timeline for implementation: The client will want to know how long it will take to implement the options since this may affect the final choice.
- How will the changes impact the project? There are times when implementing a proposed change doesn’t have any significant impact on the project as a whole. However, most changes will also affect the project in some way. This could be changed in scope, timelines, project budget, or final product quality. Often, it will affect all three of these. Naturally, clients will want to know what the cost implications are, whether milestones and goals will need to be altered, and how this will affect the overall product or service scope and quality.
- By when must the client communicate a decision? Setting deadlines is good for all concerned. Lack of certainty and clarity can present a major stumbling block to progress, so to move the process along, deadlines are a must. For example, if the scope of the project and the attendant resources needed are likely to be reduced, your company needs to know when it should stop investing resources in the old project design. For this reason, clients who go over their deadline will have their change requests re-evaluated should they communicate their decision after the expiration date.
Decision Making and Approval
Official agreement and approval finalize the change control process. The team responsible needs to know who to inform and who in the client’s organization has the right to formally approve changes.
This is an absolutely essential step. Just as decision makers approve initial projects and contracts, so they need to be the ones to approve any changes. Trying to blame the client’s staff or management team if decision makers object to change that you have already adopted won’t cut the mustard.
Pros and Cons When Thinking About Change Control
Because you are dealing with clients who are, by their very nature, always right, you may encounter some resistance when you try to implement a change management process. However, simply reacting to ad hoc requests could harm the project as a whole, and therefore, the client.
The change control process is mutually beneficial since it clarifies what clients can expect and what the implications of the proposed change will be. Since this includes cost and final quality, the change control process is done not only in the interests of your business but also those of the client.
Clients may be reluctant to prepare the initial request for change documentation, but it is possible to prepare these based on a conversation and then submit them to the client to determine whether you have correctly understood what is required. Once the client is willing to formally agree that the request for change has been accurately captured, the process can move ahead.
Tallyfy and your Change Control Process
Since the change control process is… well… a process, Tallyfy is the perfect tool to manage and track it. Remember, clients can also be added to Tallyfy workflows. Giving them this access allows them to see for themselves how the process is going and what is currently being done. When the workflow involved in the change control process returns to them, your response will be placed in the context of the workflow, allowing the client to analyze the options given with greater clarity.
If changes are far-reaching, Tallyfy can be used to communicate and formalize changes as they apply to affected parties within your business, making the change management process easier.
This is just one of the many ways in which Tallyfy could be implemented in your business. Of course, in a blog post such as this one, we cannot address how Tallyfy would work for you in context – but you can get a free demonstration after defining what you would like Tallyfy to do for your organization. Reserve time for your custom demo now. It’s free!