Change is a part of almost every project, no matter how much planning takes place up front. The question is, when change happens, how are you going to react? Project change management helps your team address change quickly and deliver the outcome your organization is looking for.
What Role Does Change Management Play in Projects?
Change management at the project level involves the effective use of resources, processes, and strategies to meet project goals despite intervening changes. It’s about minimizing the negative impact of changes and maximizing any positive effects. Changes include anything that affects an aspect of your project, like new deadlines, price fluctuations for key materials, the unavailability of important team members, or changes to scope. They can impact stakeholders at every level of your organization and beyond, so planning for change should be a part of project management at every company.
The Benefits of Project Change Management
Robust change management processes give your team members the tools they need to keep driving business success no matter what comes their way. Here are some of the specific benefits of effective project change management.
Better Visibility Into the Impact of Change
Change management helps you take a step back and better assess how changes will impact project outcomes. Whether it’s an infrastructure project that must comply with new regulations or supply interruptions impacting a mining endeavor, take the time to ask questions that provide visibility into any risks to the project and potential next steps:
- Why is the change necessary?
- How will this change alter the schedule?
- Are there any additional costs?
- Do you need to hire additional personnel or acquire other resources?
- Do employees need training or coaching to adapt?
Without change management, these and other key points can easily go unaddressed, leading to unanticipated problems.
A change management plan provides a clear breakdown of roles and responsibilities, including who has the authority to approve changes. In crisis situations, the clarity this breakdown offers is critical. It allows team members to pick up and focus on their respective tasks while reducing the potential for internal conflicts and even contractual disputes and litigation.
Less Resistance to Change
People are naturally reluctant to accept change, so anticipating and addressing this resistance is an important part of change management. Open and transparent communication with all team members, partners, clients, and other stakeholders keeps everyone on the same page and helps them better understand the rationale behind the change and your organization’s response. When everyone is rowing in the same direction, successfully handling change is much simpler.
Time and Cost Savings
The final result of effective change management is improved efficiency. Modern project change management solutions let stakeholders easily analyze relevant data, build-out necessary workflows, and connect project changes to related changes at the portfolio and contract levels. This drives better and faster decision-making, saving time and money.
How to Implement Change Management at the Project Level
Your organization must turn the abstract concept of change management into processes that are easy to understand and implement. While change management must meet the unique needs of your industry and organization, there are a few key components of a comprehensive change management strategy every company should be aware of.
Build a Change Management Plan
A change management plan offers a structured approach and framework for the project team to follow. Your change management plan should include the following:
- A workflow listing out every task and activity required to manage changes step-by-step. These may include risk analysis, getting change approvals, and budget planning.
- A clear definition of owners for each task listed in the workflow.
- A clear definition of approval hierarchy.
- Templates for key documents like the change management plan itself, the communication plan, the change request form, the change approval form, the changelog, the impact assessment document, and policy and process documents.
Communicate Changes to the Project Team
As noted above, part of change management is helping stakeholders adapt to change through clear communication. Your team can’t succeed if they don’t understand the new processes and duties that come with a change. Here are some suggestions for communicating with your team:
- Ensure project information is easily accessible by adopting the appropriate project management tools. A centralized platform promotes organization which fosters clear and effective correspondence.
- Discuss relevant case studies or invite people who have gone through similar situations to share their anecdotes and experiences with your team.
- Share facts and data on the impact of change, whether that takes the form of a new deadline or new requirements for project success. Your team is more likely to successfully adapt to a change when they can see its effects on the project laid out in concrete terms..
- Have managers and other key stakeholders share the steps they’re taking to adapt to the change and ensure their team members have everything they need to succeed.
Provide Necessary Resources
Even if you’re fully on board with change, you still need resources and support to get through it. If the scope of your project expands during its lifecycle, you’ll have to transfer resources from other projects or otherwise acquire them to meet the project’s new demands. You may even need to negotiate a more relaxed timeline with your clients. Establishing a contingency budget at the planning phase of the project gives you more freedom to make resources available to your team when they need them most.
Adapt a Change Management Model that Fits Your Project
No two projects are the same, and your approach to change management should also vary. The complexity, budget, and type of project determines how rigorous your change management process should be and what types of changes you should plan for. Handling change management the same way when kicking off a new refining project and remodeling a small hotel is a recipe for failure.
If your organization takes on projects that vary significantly in size and complexity, adopt the right approach to change management for each while standardizing the change management process within specific project types. This lets your company successfully adapt to change while avoiding the inefficiency of reinventing the wheel for each new project. Enable this approach with a flexible solution that allows you to easily tailor change management workflows and rules as needed from project to project.
Integrating Change Management and Project Management
Managing change for enterprise-scale, complex projects isn’t possible without the right platform. EcoSys is a comprehensive project performance, controls, and project portfolio management (PPM) solution. It connects change management at the project level to critical disciplines like scheduling, budgeting and forecasting, while feeding directly into your portfolio and contract management processes. This enables better communication among all stakeholders, boosts efficiency, and helps you quickly analyze the true impact of changes and take appropriate action.
From establishing visual workflows everyone can understand, to managing contingency budgets, to performing quantitative risk analysis, EcoSys has your change management needs covered. Learn more about how EcoSys can help your organization thrive in these changing times.