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What is Project Change Management?

By Florence J. Tipton
Updated May 17, 2024
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Project change management is a process that allows teams to make changes to a project when necessary. The goal is to minimize the effect that changes in projects may have on meeting project deadlines successfully. Proposed changes are examined to determine the risk level in modifying the project. Once it is determined that the change will add value and does not require major modifications, it is implemented. If the proposed change is needed but requires modifying the project plan, a change request is submitted by the requester, typically a team member or the customer.

Some problems or requests for changes to a project plan are often unavoidable. Usually, a project change management plan is predetermined before the project begins. This enables a systematic way of dealing with project change and making revisions that moves the project goals and objectives forward.

When changes in projects are proposed, the impact of modifying the change is assessed. Having a project change management plan may provide cohesiveness to make certain the completed project will satisfy the needs of the customer. The influence of a proposed project change is typically analyzed for one of three outcomes:

First, the appropriateness of the requested change is considered. The change request is measured against whether or not the change can occur without modifying the project plan. A change can be implemented as soon as possible if factors such as the customer criteria, scope of the project, timetable, or budget do not require modifications.

Second, the change could be appropriate but does require modifying the project plan. A project change management order is generally completed by the requester. The change order describes the proposed change and defines the areas of the project that are impacted. This information may include specifics of the costs and possible risks to the project deliverables. The project manager incorporates the change and amends the project plan to reflect the modifications.

Finally, it might be decided that some proposed changes from the customer or a team member are unnecessary to adopt. It could be determined that implementing the change does not add value to the project. In this case, the request is moved to the project’s issues list and resolved with the requester at a later date.

The key project players are usually responsible for the project change management process. Usually, the project manager and the sponsor — the liaison between management and the project team — must approve the change order before changes in the project occurs. Customers must also sign off if the proposed changes will affect them.

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