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APM PPQ Manage change control processes and protocols

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 26th January 2024

Hello, my name is Paul Naybour. Welcome to another Parallel Project Training podcast. Today, we will be discussing the APM PPQ, and Tom O’Shea joins me. “Good morning, Tom.”

We’re discussing change control, which is a necessary project management process. There are four assessment criteria for change control, and we’ll go through each to understand their meaning and relevance to project managers. The first criterion is to evaluate the benefits and features that support the implementation and maintenance of an effective change control process. Before discussing the benefits and features, it’s important to understand why change control is necessary. This criterion asks candidates to think about the benefits of change control and the features of the process that enable these benefits. For example, change control allows you to rank the changes made throughout the process and keep a record of what happened. This helps stakeholders understand the progress of the change and provides a record for audit and lessons learned. Change control also supports transparency and visibility of the project’s governance. This criterion helps to establish the case for introducing change control, especially if there isn’t an effective process already in place. It’s important to sell the reason for implementing change control, especially if the organisation has been operating without it for a long time.

Would you say that implementing change control increases the chances of project success? It allows for better control of cost, time, and quality. Without change control, anyone can make changes without proper consideration or governance. The case study provides several examples where changes were made without a formal introduction. This supports the need for change control to be introduced in the organisation. Additionally, the negative consequences of uncontrolled changes further demonstrate the benefits of formal change control. This evidence reinforces the rationale for introducing features that provide these benefits. So, would you say that the case study demonstrates the tangible benefits of change control?”

We can consider governance as a part of transparency and visibility. It also leads to improved success. Are there any other key benefits that you can think of?

When it comes to effective change control, it depends on which aspect of the change control process you are looking at. For instance, one of the features of change control is having designated authority levels for approving changes. This means that the Project Manager (PM) could be given the authority to approve small changes up to a certain value or those that do not significantly impact the end product. On the other hand, the sponsor should have the authority to make changes overall in the project. However, since this project is part of a program in the case study, there may need to be a change control board at the program level.

Having designated authority ensures that decisions are made at the appropriate level and saves time by avoiding the need to escalate decisions to a higher level that can be made by the PM. This is related to the other topics that we discussed, such as clearly defined delegates, policies, and clear rules.

Interestingly, all the features are linked to the benefits they provide. For example, having a change log is a feature that offers visibility, and having a clearly defined approval process is a feature that provides clarity about who should make what decisions.

It’s an interesting way to approach things. Another feature to consider is performing a detailed evaluation of the cost impact. What are the benefits of this? It allows you to review the costs before you evaluate the potential benefits of any particular element. If you’re looking at the impact that a change might have in terms of cost, you’ll need to consider the cost of doing the change, as well as the cost of not doing it. You should also evaluate the time and cost required to investigate the change. This is often overlooked, but it’s important because it can affect what other tasks are being performed while the change is being evaluated.

To control costs, having a formal structure change, control process, or evaluation is key. Without it, costs can spiral out of control, or you might miss a change that could help reduce costs. If a change isn’t properly considered, it might seem like it would be too burdensome to carry out, but it may actually have benefits that aren’t fully understood until you evaluate it. Not all changes increase costs. Sometimes, a change can be more cost-effective.

So, evaluating the cost impact is important, but it’s not the only factor to consider. Other factors like time, resources, and potential benefits should also be evaluated.

I understand that you mentioned the importance of maintenance and effective change control processes. By “maintain” in the change control process, you mean ensuring that it remains suitable for the project and organisation’s needs in terms of governance and control. Sometimes, we may need to change the authority levels or adjust the change control process to be tighter or looser, depending on the project’s stage or products being considered. However, we should avoid changing the process too frequently as it could confuse stakeholders. Instead, we should periodically review and modify the process to ensure it’s relevant and up-to-date. This approach saves time and effort, especially when transitioning from concept design development to the implementation stage. Change phrases are also useful to consider, but we should avoid applying change freezes too rigidly, which could result in building things that don’t work. I hope this makes everything clearer.

This is 3.2 in the syllabus. Critically evaluate ways in which to capture, record, and review proposed options for change to determine the impact on project scope and objectives. This is an interesting topic as it reviews options for change. The key aspect here is to have a structured approach to capturing, recording, and reviewing changes within the organisation. Candidates for the PPQ are expected to have a formal process in place, but in the case study, the organisation has nothing like that. Therefore, it is important to think about the practicalities of the change control process and consider options for capturing, recording, and reviewing changes. For instance, one could use a simple Excel spreadsheet to manage changes or opt for a more elaborate solution like sharing on Teams or SharePoint. This could be rolled out at a program level over time, starting with your own project and then adopted by the program overall.

I worked on a large infrastructure project and discussed the enterprise-based change control system with the project’s head of IT. This system controlled drawings and documents and had a specific process for reviewing and approving changes, especially in safety-critical systems. Design changes can affect the configuration, so it’s important to have a structured system in place. The approach can be simple or sophisticated, depending on the project’s complexity and circumstances. Whether to introduce a formal structured system or use something simple like an Excel spreadsheet depends on the project’s stage, timing, and the experience of the team.”

I just want to test the proposed options for change. Is that referring to not just identifying the change but also looking at different options for how we could address it, such as the do-nothing option or, doing it now or deferring it? We should not just capture the change but also evaluate it. Which option should we consider and propose to the governance arrangements that we are making? We need to think about the third part of this process as given in the criterion. We’ve talked about capturing and recording the change, but we also need to review those changes and look at the way forward. We should consider options such as doing the change and not doing it. Within doing the change, there might be different ways to implement it. For instance, we could do a quick and easy solution or a full-blown implementation. We need to control the review process and consider how we’re going to do that. We could set up some kind of workshops or even a formal change control board. External expertise might be necessary, particularly if it’s something safety-critical or regulatory. We might need to pull in a cost engineer or an expert on costing options to advise us on the cost. This ties back into part of the evaluation process, which is how much it will cost and who’s funding it.

So, two more left. Critically evaluate why and how to implement and manage approved changes. This part can be confusing because people often assume it refers to the entire process. However, it’s actually a simple concept. If you’ve recommended a change and it’s been approved, you now need to implement it. To do so, you must ensure you have the right people with the necessary authority and resources in place to carry out the change. They should also be fully briefed on what the change is and what the desired outcome is so they can effectively implement it.

The other part of implementing changes is that other documentation may have changed as well. For instance, your project plans may have changed, or your risk register may have been affected. If you have configuration management in place, you should update the records for the affected products. You may also need to baseline your project management plan. Therefore, you need to consider all the things that must happen to implement the change, as the criterion states.

Managing approved changes in a project involves receiving updates and feedback from the team or person making the changes. Depending on the duration of the change, which could take days or weeks, you may need regular progress updates.

I think managing multiple changes can be quite challenging for a team. It is easy to assume that implementing changes is simple, but communication is crucial, especially if there are several changes in a short period. It can be confusing for team members, and proper orientation and careful consideration are necessary. If there are numerous changes, it is essential to keep track of them to ensure they complement each other and align with stakeholders’ expectations. Critically evaluating the approaches to managing changes is crucial, and it is not a matter of either telling the people or documenting it. Instead, it is about determining priorities.

So, is it more important in this project to ensure that people are properly briefed and understand what’s happening and what’s expected of them? And I will focus on doing that first and get that underway. Or should I? As we work on this project, it’s important that we properly understand all the plans and their impacts on the documentation before briefing others. It’s not a black-and-white decision of doing one or the other, but rather a matter of prioritisation. Critical evaluation should be given to project managers, people, processes, and products. Communication is necessary to inform people of what’s going on, but it must be accompanied by proper documentation and processes. This might involve re-baselining the plan and changing the specifications of some of the products. Simply sending out emails saying the plans have changed won’t be effective; people need to see the paperwork and understand the process. Ultimately, it comes down to a choice between prioritising people or processes.

Now, just as an aside to this, in terms of the PPQ itself, one thing that, as a candidate, you need to be careful of is that you don’t just simply say, oh, well, I’ll do both. Yes. Because Evaluate is looking for a recommendation. It’s important to prioritise tasks when working on a project. You need to decide which tasks should be your focus and give a recommendation accordingly. If you try to do everything at once, it won’t be helpful. Depending on the project’s nature and deadline, documentation might not be a high priority. If the project management plan is already poor, updating it would take more time. If you can get everyone together in the same room and brief them, documentation becomes less important. However, if the project involves hundreds of people, documentation becomes a higher priority. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the project’s complexity, size, and scale while deciding the right approach.

The final criterion that we need to discuss is trend analysis and how it adds value to project management. This criterion can be a bit confusing because it’s placed under change control, and it’s not explicitly stated that it’s referring to trends in terms of changes. As such, it’s important to keep in mind that we need to talk about trends in changes. This concept is also mentioned in the project reporting section, where we use trend analysis to keep ourselves up-to-date with project progress. However, the term “trend analysis” is only used in the change control section.

During the assessment, the assessors will inform you about the learning outcome at the beginning of each oral question. As we have previously mentioned, the learning outcome for this question will be to demonstrate effective change control. It is highly probable that this question will be the last one asked, even though the assessors may not always ask the questions in numerical order. You may have already answered two questions on change control before this one. This question will focus on trends within the change control process, such as the number of new changes opened this month versus the number of changes closed out. The assessors may also ask about the number of changes remaining open, the time it takes to close changes from proposal to final decision or recommendation, and the cumulative impact of the change on the project budget.

There are several things that you can keep an eye on when it comes to project budgets. For instance, you can track the impact of changes on the project budget and overall benefits. You should consider the cost of changes in comparison to the overall budget and the benefits. You should also consider the impact on time. It’s better to work out these details as you go along rather than trying to figure them out retrospectively.

If you wait until the end of the project to figure out the impact of changes, you might find that it’s too late to take corrective action. Instead, you should periodically assess the impact of changes and take corrective action as needed. This will help you keep the project on track and avoid delays.

You can also use this information to improve the project management process. For example, if you find that the time it takes to evaluate and close change requests is having a significant impact on the project, you can improve the process by altering the authority levels or meeting more frequently to review and discuss changes.

By analysing the impact of changes, you can also identify areas for improvement and incorporate these lessons learned into future projects. You can identify areas where stakeholders weren’t properly engaged, requirements weren’t clear, technical problems weren’t anticipated, or estimates were poor. By analysing these issues, you can learn from them and ensure that future projects are more successful.

Yes, that’s good. I think the challenge with these criteria is that they all seem quite similar at first glance. Your approach of drilling into each one and clearly differentiating them is really useful. It’s often difficult to describe the various components of change control and the different perspectives involved. So, to summarise, the four criteria are: firstly, why you need a change control process and what goes into it; secondly, how you set it up to capture, record, and review changes; thirdly, how you implement and control a change once it’s been approved; and fourthly, taking a step back and evaluating the process to see if there’s anything to learn from changes that have occurred.

Unknown: Very good. Thank you, Tom. Okay.

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