Change control - impact assessment

Impact assessment of project change requests

This week’s post is going to cover step 2 of the project change control process, Impact Assessment.

  1. Identify change
  2. Impact assessment
  3. Review change request
  4. Approve / reject change
  5. Implement change

You can read the overview post by visiting Overview of project change control process, where I covered the 5 core steps of project change control.

Purpose of Impact Assessment

In the majority of cases, a change to the project will have an impact on one or more of the scope, budget, timeline and benefits.

The purpose of the project impact assessment is to conduct sufficient analysis to identify the impact.

Why is this important?

The consequence of the proposed change needs to be understood so that the stakeholders can make an informed decision if they wish to approve the change (or not).

This is logical, how can a sponsor or stakeholder agree to a change, if they do not understand the impact it will have on the project.

For example, the sponsor requests that an additional report is added to an application.  While the request may sound simple, it could involve a complete rework of the database and input screens to accommodate the additional information, resulting in 6 months extra work.

Understanding the increased timeline and budget, the sponsor may decide that the report is not worth the impact.

Who conducts the impact assessment process?

The impact assessment should be conducted by team members with the appropriate skills in respect of both the change being requested and, the overall project.

This will typically be members of the project team.  However, it is also possible that the change being requested requires input from teams outside of the project team.  A good example being specialist technology teams.

However, it is normal for the project team to manage and complete the overall impact assessment.

Impact assessment template

The change request template is typically in the form of a word processor or spreadsheet document with predefined fields to capture the key aspects of the request.

Some organisations may have enterprise wide project management platforms that have online forms for the submission of change details.

The principles are the same, a structured form that ensures the correct information is captured.

A change request template and change log template can be found in the PMO Template Framework.

Impact assessment process

The person(s) completing the impact assessment should conduct analysis to understand the impact of the change.  Note: before you can conduct the impact assessment the identification and capture step of the change process must be complete (see Identifying project change requests).

It is a good idea to capture the impact in a structured manner and, where appropriate, detail the specific impact in respect of:

  • Scope
  • Budget / Costs
  • Schedule / Timeline / Plan
  • Benefits / Outcomes
  • External to Project

It is worth spending a moment on the last item, “external to project”.  It is possible to have a change that does not impact or even assists the project.  However, it could have an adverse impact on an external project.

For example, a project may be delivering a new piece of functionality for online and telephone sales, in doing so there is a need to upgrade the security infrastructure.  If a decision is made not to implement the online sales element, then the security infrastructure upgrade may no longer be required.  This could impact another project that was dependent on the security upgrade.

Cost of change

While the impact on budget is one of the areas to consider in assessing the change, it is sensible to capture this in a separate field to ensure the cost of the change is fully understood.

If it is a complex change, it may be necessary to work up a complete cost breakdown.  This will then allow the sponsor and stakeholders to understand the impact in detail and to allow further scrutiny.  A change request is no different to when you complete the planning and budgeting step at the start of a project.  The principles are very similar.  You are looking to achieve an understanding of scope, the timeline and costs.

Impact of not making change

This is important.  In order to make an informed decision, you should include details of the consequence of not accepting the change.

For example, if not including the requested change means that an audit point cannot be closed, the sponsor and stakeholders need to fully understand that they accept the consequence of this by not approving the change.

Change deadline

When considering the change, you should include the deadline by when a decision is required on the change request and, if known, the date the change should be implemented.

Again, this is to make it very clear to the sponsor and stakeholders that a decision is required by a specific date, if not again they are accepting the consequences.

Important consideration

When capturing the impact of not making the change and the deadline, do not over state the impact in an attempt to gain approval.

If the sponsor realises this, 1. they will not be happy and 2. they will not trust future requests.  It is critical to only state the facts to the best of your knowledge.

Sign-off and submission

Before the completed impact assessment form is submitted, it should be reviewed by the project manager.  If the information is correct, the project manager should sign-off the impact assessment and formally submit the request for review.

It is a good idea for the project manager to discuss the change and impact with the sponsor before submission.  This allows for any final adjustments.  Plus, it does not make sense to submit if the sponsor does not agree or is not supportive.

Summary

The impact assessment step is the process for identifying the impact of the change on the project.

Using a change request template should allow the structured capture of all of the relevant information.

The objective is to allow the sponsor and stakeholders to make an informed decision.