Proactively Manage Small Change Requests Using Alternative Processes

Everyone can recognize and appreciate that a scope change request process must be invoked for large changes to the project. However, you may encounter resistance to formal scope change management for small requests. The client and other project team members may consider this to be unnecessary overhead for such small decisions.

They might be right. There are three alternate techniques to employ that may help with small changes. Note that none of these options implies that you are not managing and tracking scope changes. These are just additional techniques to use that may be more appropriate for managing small scope changes. If none of these options are in place, the project manager should utilize the normal default scope change management process on all changes.

Batching Small Requests. It is not always practical to get the sponsor to approve all small scope change requests each time one is requested. The project team usually does not have day-to-day access to the sponsor and it is hard to get the sponsor’s attention for these small requests. It is a better use of time to batch the small changes up into a bundle. This means that you keep track of the small scope changes, their business value and their impact on the project. Then, when they hit a certain threshold, you take them all to the sponsor for approval. Instead of visiting the sponsor ten times for small scope changes, you batch them all together and see the sponsor one time. At that meeting you and the client discuss all the proposed changes (or perhaps just the larger ones in the batch) and get sponsor feedback on whether they should be done. Even thought these are small changes, they should still go through scope change management. Otherwise you are susceptible to scope creep. The benefit of having the sponsor approve the small changes is that if the scope changes are approved, the sponsor should also approve the incremental budget and time needed to get the work done.

Discretion. From a practical standpoint, it may make sense for the project manager and a tactical client manager to be given discretion to approve small scope change requests under some threshold of effort hours and cost. This decision-making authority should not be assumed. This authority must be explicitly delegated by the sponsor. This discretion assumes that the project is on or ahead of schedule, and that the changes do not make the project exceed the agreed-upon cost or duration. If the project is in any risk of not meeting its cost or duration commitments, this discretion should not be used – even for a one-hour change request. If the project is at risk of missing its deadline or budget commitments, all scope change requests must go to the sponsor for approval, either individually or in batches. If the sponsor approves the changes, the project should receive corresponding budget and schedule relief as well.

Scope Change Contingency Budget. In some organizations it is common to allocate a scope change contingency budget to handle small changes. Your organization may recognize that a certain level of scope change is inevitable and you may be allowed to allocate a percentage of the total project budget to account for this level of change. For example, you may have a 5% contingency added to your budget for scope change. If your total project budget was $500,000, your scope change contingency budget would be $25,000. However, the implication here is that this contingency budget will be all that is allocated for small scope change requests. The client must manage the budget to make sure all of the small scope changes can be accommodated. If the client uses the budget up early on small scope changes, there will be nothing left for later change requests. This puts the client in a position of rationing the changes to ensure that only the most important changes are approved. This budget is used for change requests under a certain dollar or hour threshold. Larger requests can still be made but they would go through normal scope change management and be evaluated by the sponsor.


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