Join Terri Wagner for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing changing requirements, part of Project Management Foundations: Requirements.
- Franklin Roosevelt once said, "Change is like fire, if uncontrolled it will consume us." Managing changing project requirements takes place across the project life cycle. Change management activities include, planning your approach and process for change management, deciding on the use of requirements tools, planning and managing requirements traceability, and then maintaining requirements for reuse. The key is being ready to recognize changing circumstances as your project life cycle proceeds.
As a whole, the team's level of project knowledge improves as the project progresses, picking up on things that have changed or need to change. Yet the ability to respond to change decreases as the delivery date draws nearer. Let's say you were going to build a dream home, think about the blueprints for that home. It's much easier to make changes as you examine the drawing or blueprints than after you've begun construction. The earlier you can recognize the need for change, the more efficient and cost effective you can be.
Let's look at what causes change. The further you get into a project the more interaction and information sharing will occur, helping you understand more, and also allowing you to see conflicting requirements. Another cause may arise from a lack of traceability, yielding poor understanding of dependencies. Then you have customers and users who change their minds about what they need, or developers who add their own special twists without letting anyone know. From the business you may experience changes in business plans, budgets, timelines, conditions, and objectives creating high level focus shifts, or changes in technology, law, policies, regulations or directives, so keep watching for changes, they tend to happen in every project.
Since your requirements come from many sources, conflict between requirements or between stakeholders for this project may be challenging. You'll need to accept that multiple stakeholder interests and positions are legitimate. Yet there's no guarantee that everyone will get their way. Typically, budgets and schedules are constrained, so creating a well-understood requirements negotiation and prioritization process will be essential to your success. Mature organizations tend to funnel all requirements and other change requests through a single point, such as a change control board or project management office, allowing for consistent control, evaluation, and decision making.
If your organization doesn't have a change control process consider these steps, first define your goals and criteria for the process. Then document your process to achieve those goals. Next, teach people how to use the process. Then, deploy and use the process in your organization. Once in place, continuously measure your new process against the original criteria you established, then you can adjust and improve over time. Within your change control process you'll want to create some structure, first create your formal change request templates, online submission process, or name the requirements tool you'll use for this step.
Once the change has been submitted, someone will need to research the change request, by looking at the cost to implement the change versus the benefit that will be received. Then you'll need some way to categorize and prioritize the change requests once they've been submitted. Your system for processing the changes, whether manual or automated will then need to track those changes that have been approved, as well as those that have been evaluated and denied. Here are some questions you want to ask about the proposed changes when they come in.
Is the change request valid? If not, reject it. What requirements are directly impacted? What dependent requirements may also be affected? What actual changes are proposed, and how much time or money will this cost us? If these costs go back to the customer, is the cost or schedule impact acceptable to the customer? Considering our wind farm case, the project manager may anticipate that the noise requirement or limits for the entire farm may change after the project has begun based on government regulations or issues from neighboring farms and residences.
Having a mature change management and control process in place before the project begins, will allow concerns about the noise to be examined by the proper individuals, and addressed. How well does your organization manage changing requirements?
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- Classifying requirements
- Developing requirements
- Investigating requirements
- Documenting requirements
- Validating requirements
- Managing changing requirements