At one time or another in your project management career you will need to (or already have) defend a change request. Typically a change request is issued when project forecasts (budget, schedule, scope) do not line up with the contractual agreement that struck the project. Typically the most contentious change requests to defend are those that have budget impacts (although that’s not to minimize CR’s that affect schedule and scope are without challenges either). Here’s how you can diligently prepare to defend and justify your change request to your customer.
Clearly Indicate What’s Changed
Simply put, a change request is a document authorizing the project team to alter the agreed terms of the project (typically from the signed contract). Using the example of a budget increase (in my experience that’s the source for 90% of change requests), there needs to be a clear statement of what the change impact is. If your budget was, for example, $100k and you have a 15% forecasted increase where you are projecting your project will cost your customer $115k, the change request should state the original budget ($100k), the change amount ($15k) and the projected budget at completion ($115k). This is a very simple example but the change request should present the before and after picture and also indicate the specific deltas in the change request.
Cite the Contract
The most defendable change requests are those that state that the change is a result of scope deviation from the original contract. Perhaps there is a new piece of functionality that the customer has requested your team build that is not included in the scope of the original contract. Or perhaps the project team feels that more hours are going to be needed to adequately support the customer through acceptance testing than what was stated in the contract. Whatever the delta is that you state in the change request, if you can clearly identify that the delta represents a piece of work that is not in the contract, your change request becomes much more defendable.
Demonstrate the Value of the Change Request
At the end of the day, your job as a project team is to bring value to the customer. Remember that you’re working with a customer as a partner and the relationship should be treated as such. When presenting a change request to your customer it’s important that you clearly demonstrate why it’s a value-add to the customer and to the project that the change request be approved.
Change requests can be a difficult and challenging experience between a project team and the customer but the one underlying sentiment that needs to be constantly remembered is that both the project team and the customer have the best interests of the project at heart while at the same time, protecting each entity by adhering to the contractual terms. A change request is a way to ensure that any deviation from the agreed contract is properly accounted for and understood by both the customer and the project team.