When it comes to projects, it is pretty safe to say that they are all different. Given this, a smart PMO or project manager needs to consider what is the most appropriate, indeed pragmatic approach to tools and processes.
For example, the level of governance and process applied to a multi billion, mission critical healthcare project is not appropriate to a reporting project costing a hundred thousand. While both need to be managed and follow sound governance, the level applied will (and should be) different. The governance applied to the larger project in this case would probably cost more in time and effort than the cost of the reporting project.
However, in this post, I want to build on this theme. Namely how to you manage the change activity that sits in the grey area between Business As Usual (BAU) and Change. The activity that is sometimes known as “Small Change Projects”.
Definition Small Change Projects
Small change can cover any type of change. The typical characteristic is that it is small in both cost and duration, while not being BAU activity.
An example could be a small report change for a new column or field. This type of change may only take a few days or a week to make. However, they are not defects, so not BAU, it is an enhancement, so it is change.
A way that many organisations choose to manage small change, is to allocate a budget amount for the year. For example, Reporting Enhancements may be allocated $100,000 for the year. The rationale being that enhancements will be required so instead of each one being approved and managed separately, efficiencies are gained managing as a single project.
This is good in that it reduces the overhead of completing project governance and reporting for each change. It would not be sensible to insist on a business case, status report, etc for each one as a change could only cost $2,000.
However, likewise, the organisation will want to ensure that the budget is being invested wisely. That the appropriate enhancements are being prioritised. That there is visibility and transparency on what is being delivered.
For this reason, some form of project governance is required.
I have faced this challenge on a number occasions. What I have found as a good solution is to setup a simple process that allows enhancements to be captured, reviewed, approved, prioritised and tracked as part of an umbrella small change project. You can think of it as a bucket of change.
Small Change Capture
There needs to be a mechanism for new enhancements to be raised. This can be a simple 1 page form that allows for the request to be explained and benefit / driver. Just because it is a small does not mean that some effort needs to go into explaining the enhancement including why it should be done.
Each request should be recorded on a simple register with the key details.
There should be a simple process to review each request to ensure it is complete and makes sense. This step should also allow for the estimate of effort and cost. Remember the small change project will have a set budget for the year.
There needs to be a mechanism to review the requests and determine which ones should and / or can be approved. If there are different sponsors or people with a vested interest, it makes sense to do this via a regular prioritisation meeting.
This allows each sponsor to put the case for their change.
This can be part of the approval step if all sponsors are represented. Similar to making the case for the change, the sponsors can state the priority for their change. The idea being that they all reach agreement.
Tracking / Reporting
The work is then executed. Instead of using a single status report for each enhancement. I suggest using a report that has a summary RAG, budget and commentary at the top. Then there is a line to give the status of each enhancement. A really smart and efficient method is to be able to use the register that you captured the initial request.
This ensures the visibility and transparency of all the enhancements in the small change project.
Providing transparency and visibility of all change is important. However, you also must be pragmatic in ensuring the project governance process is appropriate and not a burden.
The approach outlined above hopefully shares the principles of this important point as well as providing a possible approach to managing small change projects.
In the next post I will go into more detail on how you can setup the small change process.