Fast and on-time realization of projects depends on the stable and non-changeable scope. Classical project management understandings teach that the scope of the projects should not be changed once it is defined or the scope should accept minimum changes. Changes in scope are often related to causing delays, re-work, and a waste of resources. The motivation level of the teams working on the projects may drop if they are focused on fast and strictly predicted realizations.
Under real-world conditions, the scope of projects usually changes after its initial definition and consent. The frequency of changes may depend on factors such as changes in user and business needs, technical feasibility, and other topics described in the Business Value Oriented Program Management section.
Changes in the scope of the project are generally considered to be important especially in dynamic, innovative and complex products where real users and stakeholders provide frequent feedback on early versions of the product.
The following practices may be applied to minimize the damage of future scope changes:
- Initial detailing of needs
- Creating and evaluating sketches, diagrams, prototypes and other materials that may represent the future product clearly
- Prioritizing the emerging changes of the scope so project teams are focused on the high-prioritized change
- Ignoring changes if they are not critical for the project
The low frequency of change in the scope of the project may depend on factors such as:
- Defined clear goals
- Understanding and applying prioritization practices
- Understanding of Minimum viable product principles
- Dedicated stakeholders
- Competencies and skills
- Mature management roles
Changes in projects scope should not be always considered as negative events. When an early version of a product is released to real users, valuable feedback about the business value of the released version may be provided by them.
The current version may not cover usability and accessibility levels or have gaps in important functionalities or functionalities have been developed in a way different from user expectations. The current version of the product can be a source of new ideas and needs for users.
Any requested changes to the scope of the project may be processed by following the steps below:
- Assessing the requesting party
- Assessing the importance of the change request
- Assessing the impact on the project
- Documenting the change request
- Approval or denial of the change request
- Planning for implementation
- Communicating the plan with the requesting party
Assessing the requesting party
The requesting parties may be from different departments, stakeholders representatives or organizations.
Assessing the importance of the change request
Understanding the importance of the request is needed step in processing the change request. If it is not assessed as important its processing may be delayed.
Answers of basic questions at this stage may be helpful for assessing the importance of the change request such as:
- Who needs this change?
- How this change will affect positively the product or project?
- When does this change need to be fulfilled?
- What are the expected results if this change is not implemented in the project?
- Are most of the involved in the project parties aware of this change request and its expected results?
Assessing the impact on the project
If the change is expected to negatively impact general project parameters, although it is important, the request for change can be discussed with program managers, project sponsors and eventually rejected. If the impact is assessed as positive the change may be normally approved.
Project parameters that may be negatively affected by a change:
- Technical or development complication
- Negatively affecting other unexpected parameters as usability, product features, marketing, and sales strategies
- Negative acceptance from other customers, users, and parties
- Increased cost and project completion time
The competence, experience, and skills of the project management roles may affect the needed time for assessing the change request.
Documenting the change request
Documenting the change request may be formal or informal practice based on organizational needs.
Maintaining a register of all requests may be a valuable source of information, needs and requirements at later stages or for other and future projects of the organization.
Each registered request item may contain:
- The requested party (Name, team or department)
- Contact details for future communication
- Answers of the questions introduced in “Assessing the importance of the change request” step
Approval or denial of the change request
Actual formal approval or denial of the change request may be needed based on the organizational practices.
The BVOP suggests that if the organization has formal approval or denial process, the time needed for the decision need to be minimized.
Planning for implementation
Planning may include when exactly the change can be integrated, by which team and needed resources. Other change requests, project tasks already planned and resources are considered. Adaptation of the current project plans may be needed.
Communicating the plan with the requesting party
Communicating the plan back to the requesting party may be needed and feedback to be expected.
An actual implementation of the change.
The outcome of the implemented change needs to be validated and agreed as satisfactory.
Stakeholders, project team members, and other parties may participate together in prioritization, estimation, and planning of the changes.