Project Practitioners > Tracking Change: Identification & Categorization - Part I

Tracking Change: Identification & Categorization - Part I

By Ann Drinkwater

The adage "what gets measured gets managed" can be applied to many endeavors. While it may not seem important initially to know why the client requested significant changes to the project, since the schedule and cost plans have been adjusted, these changes, regardless of origin, are symptomatic of a larger issue. Yes, the changes may stem from indecisive clients, or they could indicate that the original requirements were not completely accurate, thorough, flexible, or the system wasn’t designed with usability in mind. In any case, it is our job as manager of the project to control change and to properly manage scope, schedule, cost and quality.  I have been on the receiving end of incomplete requirements as well as seen the other angle from a systems implementer side.  To me there are three main areas that change requests typically fall in:

1) Misunderstood Need/Business Process: Not properly designing a system to meet the client’s needs stems from first not understanding the client’s business to the level it should be understood. It is often then succeeded by not taking everything that is known of the business into account when architecting a technical solution.

 

2) Usability: While you may understand your client’s business and have designed a system to meet their needs and goals of the project, the design may leave room for improvement. In my opinion, if an end user has to study the screen in order to understand what to do and how to interact with the page, improvements could and should be made.  Not all end users will realize that the screen is not designed with optimal flow in mind and may look to adjust the way they interact with the screen to make their life easier. Software implementations are not meant to make processes more difficult or confusing, but to efficiently support business functions. While the page may get the user from point a to point b, there are often better ways to make that journey. Those who don’t identify weaknesses within the system may remain silent and, while changes will not be requested by the client, your role as client advocate and PM should be to make things as easy and efficient as possible. Consequently in your review of the system and how it is being used, you may identify changes that are needed in order to optimize usage and performance.

 

3) Extremely Dynamic Business: All businesses change over time and the more time that transpires between system releases, the greater the chance that some component within the client’s business will change. Depending on the magnitude and impact of the change, the software system being built may need to be altered as well.

If you simply classify everything as a change request or defect, you are missing the granularity necessary to eliminate changes from being introduced in the first place. The first step in reduction is awareness and a clear understanding of where the lack of clarity originated.

 

We are often faced with nearsighted decisions that impact the schedule and cost of the project and are too quick to forget all the other effects of an improperly designed system. While we all wish for projects to be completed on time and within budget, there is nothing more frustrating than rushing a system or not taking the time up front to truly understand what is needed. The end result to an incomplete understanding or rushed system is a list of change orders, time delays and budget overruns. A lack of complete understanding will be evident to the client or business user and will eventually result in change requests. Check back for the second part in this series, which will highlight ways to mitigate change, creating a product that is done right the first time.



Related Links
Matt Glei wrote in October about how to manage complex project changes successfully. In Alan Koch's words, Quality is Conformance OF Requirements. To improve (or begin) documentation of project changes in your organization, try our Change Control Form.




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