How each change affects the project and how you deal with the changes differ from project to project, customer to customer, organization to organization. But changes are inevitable...it's how we deal with them that determines their overall effect on the project, the budget and the timeline.
Change doesn’t just affect big projects. Smaller projects also have to deal with changes, but the trick is to do this in a quick and easy way. It’s analogous to the methodology you choose to manage the whole project. For bigger projects you need to take more steps, for smaller projects you need more of a streamlined approach. We tend to make project management processes more difficult than they need to be, thus making the path to project success harder to repeat for ongoing project successes. Focus on the logical and practical project management processes – you can read more about a simple process for managing projects in this guide.
To consider how best to deal with change, let's consider a scenario: you’ve been asked to add a deliverable to the project. This is now a critical piece of the project, but how do you deal with it? How will it affect the team and various project resources? How will it affect the timeline? How will it affect the scope of what is being delivered on the due date?
Let's examine the basic options available to the project manager and team...
First, we could add resources. This is definitely going to affect the budget and could affect the timeline as new resources must be brought up to speed on the project before they can be 100% effective. But the real bottom line is this will affect the project budget. You’ll need to explore how to handle the excess expense that will be necessary to handle such a change with an addition of resources. You’ll need to justify what is required to get the work done within the specified timeline of the project and this will, of course, require approval from your stakeholders.
Another option is to trim the current requirements to make room for the new deliverable. This is where the project manager must put his negotiator hat on. To avoid adding much, if any, extra money to the budget or days to the timeline on the current project, you could suggest moving a currently planned, less critical phase of the project out to a separate phase. That phase could be handled after the current project goes live. Look over the timeline and, based on discussions you've had with the project stakeholders, select a project component as a possible candidate for such a move. Propose that to the key project stakeholders as an option to see if that works.
Accept late delivery
The final option – which is probably the most likely scenario – is to allow the end delivery date to move. This will likely not be as costly as the first scenario where additional resources were required. Additional work and time is still required, but if resources aren't added to the project and you stick with the core delivery team, the overall cost implications will be less than just throwing a bunch of new resources at the project to try to stay on the original project timeline as much as possible. However, you will definitely need the understanding and agreement of the project customer to accept this later delivery date.
Change happens. Always. Project managers need to be sure to look at all angles of how the project may be affected and let the key project stakeholders understand the options available. It can become too complicated if you let it. But it doesn't have to – project management really comes down to some logical simple steps toward success. Some cost more than others, some will take more time, and some may result in the need for a separate project piece to be delivered at another time depending on the critical need and nature of the project change request. The key is to always make sure you have the understanding and approval of the key project stakeholders and get signoff/approval for the changes.