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Change: Do I Manage It or Control It?

The terms change control and change management are often heard in the project industry. Unfortunately, they are also used loosely and seem to be used interchangeably. It is important that we know the difference as they are truly separate facets and are both integral to project success.

Let’s start with basic definitions.

Change Control: Analyzing impacts to the project’s baseline scope, requirements, schedule, and budget; managing to them within acceptable thresholds of variance; and, when necessary, seeking approval to modify the baselines in order to deliver the project within the realm of reality.

Change Management: Applying processes, tools, and techniques to manage the people-side of change so that an enterprise can achieve the required business outcome of a project. Change management involves helping individuals successfully adopt new behaviors and mindsets so that they and the organization can successfully implement change within the business environment.

A project manager (and the business analyst, when it comes to product requirements) will use change control once the project baselines have been set and the project work is underway. Change control is important because projects rarely go according to plan. A vendor raises their prices, so we file a change control to increase the budget. The team underestimated the effort the work would require, so we file a change control to increase the budgeted hours and lengthen the schedule. The business environment demands additional functionality, so we file a change control to add the necessary new requirements, increase the budget, and lengthen the schedule.

Some project managers and business analysts will say that change control is a CYA tactic…cover your anatomical parts. Yes, it serves as a record so that you can say, “Hey, I had permission to change these baselines. See?!” But it’s primary purpose is to ensure that decisions are made by appropriate authorizing parties known as the Change Control Board (CCB), and that those decisions to change project baselines are made in the best interests of the project, the organization, and other work that must be done across a portfolio.

Change management, on the other hand, focuses on getting stakeholders to embrace the ways in which their lives will change as a result of the project’s implementation. Projects by their very nature are intended to change the way an organization operates as it introduces new products, processes, and systems. As a result of a project, stakeholders may have to learn new things, take on additional responsibilities, acquire or relinquish a role or an element of power, work with different people, or, in some cases, find a new position elsewhere. Some people love change; others detest it.
Telling someone to, “Suck it up, Buttercup! Change is happening!” does not help people embrace change. If people resist the changes that a project is intended to create, that project can develop the best thing since sliced bread, but people will not use it or will find ways to circumvent it. And an unused project outcomes or deliverable is a waste of both time and money.

Successful project managers acknowledge the need for change management and incorporate change management activities into their projects in order for their projects to deliver their intended strategic results. Successful business analysts are always on the lookout for communication, training, public relations, and other requirements that will assist impacted stakeholders in progressing through change as smoothly and with as positive an outlook as possible.

Now you know the difference between change control and change management. Are you addressing both of them within your current projects?

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