Change order registers are something that are often overlooked when building out project artifacts. The truth is that change order registers are essential for keeping a living diary of the changes made (or attempted) to your project. Not only does this provide a nice, clean audit trail but allows stakeholders to quickly review and understand the changes that have been made to a project and the reasoning and impacts behind them. Here are some tips on how to build a great change order register.
Synopsis of Each Change Order
The register does not need to be incredibly verbose, in fact it needs to be very concise and allow the reader to quickly view and understand the content. That being said, it’s vital that the register contain a summary of each change order (approved or otherwise) to ensure that the line item reflects accurately what the change order was about. I typically like to put 3-4 critical bullet points in a description for the change order register, enough to allow the reader to understand which change order the line item is about and its overall driver or purpose to the project. If the reader wants more details they can go to the change order directly (which your register should always have a link to make it easier).
Source and Impact of Changes
You don’t want to do a copy and paste from your change order to here (unless your change description is three lines or less), but you should indicate in the change order register what the source and impact of the change is. Who requested it, why it was requested and a brief narrative on the project impacts (budget and schedule are two key aspects to reflect on in your register). Give the reader enough information so they can understand the vital changes to your project that the change order is presenting. If the budget is being increased, indicate by how much; if the schedule is extending, indicate the new end date.
Comparison to Other Projects
A great benefit to managing your change order registers consistently across projects is that it allows for your PMO to review them regularly and see if there are any potential patterns across projects that may necessitate some alterations to your delivery methodology. It will also allow for project managers to understand where changes are typically added and either plan around them or simply prepare for them to happen and ensure that the project is ready for it (from all aspects).
Change order registers are not the flashiest of documents (nor need they be) however they do serve a significant purpose in helping maintain a living history of your project without needing to dig through the detailed status reports. When done properly and consistently they bring a big value in ensuring that all changes to your project are properly inventoried and accounted for.