Change Management

Change is inevitable.

The project management process is creative, and will naturally bring about some change and the need for change management. The project manager's job is to recognize the inherent discovery process in the project and manage the change - not stop it.

Set a tolerance level.

Attempting to formally manage small changes can overwhelm the project manager and distract user management. Informal change control can be used when the project budget and schedule are not affected. All changes are documented for reference purposes.

Manage expectations as well as scope.

To assess and manage change requires the project manager to be sensitive to the people dimension of the project. Managing the perceptions of team members and the user community is just as important as managing scope.

Purpose of Change Management

The purpose of change management is to ensure that the scope of work does not increase without appropriate approval. The change control process should provide a way for the Project Sponsor to approve all modifications to the budget, scope, or schedule of the project.

The Change Management Process

Change management involves the documentation, tracking systems and approval levels necessary to justify and manage changes to the budget, scope, and schedule for a project. The scope detailed in the project proposal is the baseline against which changes will be controlled. A change control system is put in place to preserve the integrity of the project charter and to allow for the management of change requests.

It is important to note, that the success of change management depends on a detailed project baseline (Statement of Work). There is a natural discovery process in all projects due to factors such as omissions, mistakes, creativity, misunderstandings, and external influences. This discovery process normally creates pressure to modify the project scope, schedule, or budget.

The purpose of the change management process is to constructively manage that pressure. A change to the project scope is acceptable as long as:

  • The project sponsors agree that change is justified
  • The impact of the change on the project is analyzed and understood
  • Resulting change to the project (i.e. cost, timing, quality, and human resources) are approved and properly implemented.
  • The project plan is updated and republished.


The change management process provides a means for retaining historical change information that can be used to enhance future project efforts.

Project Change Life Cycle

Initiation of the Change

Anyone within the project organization can request a change by completing a change request.

Impact Assessment of the Change

The project manager will review the change request; the impact of the change will be assessed across all knowledge areas. The project manager will document the impact of the change on the current scope, schedule, and project budget. The completed change document is submitted to the project steering committee that is identified during the project initiation.

Approval of the Change 

The appropriate project sponsor will ultimately approve or reject the change request. Upon approval of the request, the client project sponsor, and the project manager will sign the change request form. The project manager will maintain a hard copy of the signed change request.

Rejected Change

The Project Sponsor may close the change request at any point in the process prior to approval. If the change request is rejected, the change request is still maintained. However, the scope, schedule, and budget are not affected.

Implementation of the Change

The project manager will incorporate the change into the overall project scope and republish the project schedule, budget, and scope definition documents as needed.

About the Author 
Mark Hazleton has been active in Information Services delivery for over 20 years.