Very few projects are ever completed in line with original plans and budgets. Unforeseen changes are inevitable in project management. But putting proper change control processes in place can drastically minimize their impact.
Poorly managed or uncontrolled changes can harm your project severely, leading to missed deadlines, budget overruns, and even project failure. Adding extra work and requiring extra budget and resources may impact your ability to deliver on target.
In fact, poor estimates in the planning phase (39%) and changes in scope mid-project (41%) are reported as the top 2 reasons for project failure in the Global PPM survey by PwC.
Fortunately, change doesn't need to mean project failure. So long as the initial scope is clearly defined, changes made during the life cycle of your project are well managed, and you use project management software that provides change control features, it's still possible to deliver projects successfully.
Defining Your Project
Defining a project scope that is specific, clear, and attainable while ensuring any scope changes are carefully controlled is key to capital project management success.
Investing the time and effort in detailed project definition at the beginning of the project, before costs and deadlines begin to pile up, can clear roadblocks further down the line and keep the project on track in terms of time and budget.
Project scope management includes the processes required to ensure that the project includes all the work required – and only the work required – to complete the project successfully. Failure to define what's part of the project, as well as what's not, may result in unnecessary work being performed that can negatively impact your schedule and budget.
Ask yourself: what work do we have to do to deliver the required capability and what's required to achieve it?
At the outset of your project, ensure there aren't any gaps in the statement of work document that can lead to scope changes later in the execution phase.
When changes occur, for whatever reason, a tight change control process can help you keep the project on track. Once the changes are made, there is almost always an accompanying increase in the budget and/or extension of the schedule.
However, on some projects, even a high number of changes and a severe amount of scope increase have been added to the project without any schedule extension given to perform the same work. To make matters even worse, schedule impact hasn't been assessed as part of the change process.
It's vital that all changes are assessed in the dimensions of the budget plan, the resource plan, and the project schedule. Also, remember that if extra work is added to the project, it's not self-funding and more budget should be added to cover this increase in workload.
Scope changes can come from internal or external sources, but if requests for change are frequent and numerous, it can be a clear indicator of a poorly-defined project scope and an inaccurate project baseline.
Timing of Scope Changes
Everyone knows that the further into the project life cycle or phases, the costlier the scope changes get. The financial impact of even a small scope change late in the project can be large because it may involve reversing previous decisions, making completed work obsolete.
For this reason, ensuring your project scope is accurate at the outset is always the best option. If scope changes do occur, try to ensure they come early in the project to avoid unnecessary budget overrun.
Haunted by Scope Creep?
Scope creep happens when changes are included in the project scope of work without a proper change control process in place. Unfortunately, for many project managers, scope creep is still a real issue. To avoid scope creep and stay on schedule, follow these tips:
- Ensure the scope of work is well defined. The schedule and resource plan should focus on the deliverables and how to complete the deliverables described. Work that's not part of the defined scope should not be included in the project schedule.
- Verify scope and project execution plan with all stakeholders.
- Set the project baseline at the planning stage and measure performance against it.
- Set up a proper change control process. Ensure that scope, resource requirements, and schedule impact is assessed and improved before including new activities into the schedule.
- Any change in work should be accompanied by funds in resources and budgets.
To stay on top of the work, avoid scope creep, and manage changing requirements, project managers need a software solution that offers change management features, schedule impact analysis, and allows you to perform proper scope, resource plan, and schedule control. To find out for yourself how Safran Project can improve project planning, as well as execution, request your free trial here.
Editor's Note: This article was updated in 2020 for relevance and clarity.