Manage Change Before It Manages You

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Last updated on
03rd Mar, 2019
24th Aug, 2017
Manage Change Before It Manages You

The age of change is upon us. Digital computing and Information technology are upending bastions of society considered impregnable. Uber Technologies Inc., started in 2009, has its mission to make private car ownership obsolete, while the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are using the mysterious block chain to challenge the basic building blocks of financial markets. The 2016 ‘Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project’[1], conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital reveals - 90% of respondents agree that digital technologies are disrupting the industry to a great or moderate extent.

As business models undergo transformation, Program and Project Change Management, as a discipline, is under renewed focus. The discipline remains age old, but its practice is proving treacherous due to the pace of innovation. The potential triggers that could generate project change requests are umpteenth and project managers need a strong ecosystem to gauge the repercussions of these and ultimately manage and embed them into their plans. This article aims to explore the scenarios where a project would need to analyse the impact of change on its delivery and how a structured mechanism can help it be flexible to it.

Root cause of project change

Project change has three fundamental sources. Firstly, there are ‘unknown unknowns’ that had naturally not been planned for and thus would warrant an alteration to the plan. A classic example is a Tsunami which most projects, barring the most sophisticated, never plan for. Secondly, the ‘known unknowns’ that  had been planned for, but with not enough contingency, and thus cannot be dealt through the risk management plan. Lastly, the plan itself is based on incorrect estimates, unidentified risks, wrong assumptions and/or does not have buy-in from all key stakeholders. This is the most common source of change requests and is a result of ineffective management. Change control aims to ‘absorb’ these events through a systematic procedure.

Lifecycle of Integrated Change Control and role of the Control Impact Assessment

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) - through its best practice guide on project management, the PMBOK® 5th Edition – places ‘Perform Integrated Change Control’ in the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group. The guide[2] defines it as – ‘The process of reviewing all change requests; approving changes and managing changes to deliverables, organizational process assets, project documents, and the project management plan; and communicating their disposition’. This process is encapsulated in the schematic ‘Integrated Change Control process’.
Integrated Change Control Process


The integration in Change Control occurs during a process termed as ‘Change Impact Assessment’ (CIA). The CIA focusses on two key aspects. The first is the assessment of the effect of the event over the key project constraints – Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resources and Risk. The second is the evaluation of solutions (options), to obtain an optimal bargain amongst the six constraints. Through both the steps, the most crucial component remains the involvement of key stakeholders and senior management. This ensures that all probable solutions and their resultant outcomes are considered during decision making and it leads to consensus and a strong buy-in. These concepts are best explained through a real world case that deployed the CIA process.

A program that required the Change Impact Assessment to manage change

Identify change and create request: Complex initiatives that disrupt business models often use rolling wave planning (phase wise decomposition of scope), as there is limited visibility during the initiation phase. A major drawback of this method is that scope remains unexplored and its influence unaccounted across project constraints. This was evident in a program to transform a compliance function at a major financial services firm. In this initiative, a key component of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), was a ‘known unknown’ and not understood in its entirety. The completion of this work required substantial investment of resources (both cost and time) as it had legal complexities and regulatory implications. Integrated Change Control was commenced through a change request, for incorporation of this piece of work, specifically for a business unit in Europe.

Assess the change: The business unit in Europe was facing resource shortfalls due to a large portfolio of critical programs. The CIA made it clear that the baseline would need revision. To deliver the additional work, external legal and compliance resources would need to be utilized, which would more than double the budgeted cost and delay the schedule by 12 months. Apart from the severe cost and schedule implications, the demand of manpower had huge risk implications. The acceptance of this shift, would increase risk right through the portfolio of the business. Stretching the common resource pool would denigrate quality of output of the strategic projects in execution.

Look for options and seek approval:  In order to accommodate distortion in established plans, there is often a need to weigh  multiple options. In this instance, four options were developed, and each scenario was a trade-off between the various constraints. On one hand, a few options proposed internal resources to produce the deliverables, which would save cost but delay the schedule, compromise quality and increase risk. On the other hand, a couple of options proposed external resources to complete the work, which would increase cost but help the schedule, enhance quality and reduce risk. Each of these were presented to the decision makers, through the Change Control Board (CCB), to elicit a clear response to the change request. The project manager was then responsible for communicating and implementing the verdict.


The Change Impact Assessment (CIA) is a strategic tool and allows projects to be accommodative towards the evolving environment, both internal and external to the organization. As all key stakeholders and senior decision makers are engaged in the process, it enables evaluation of fallouts of the trigger throughout the project constraints. 
Change is inevitable and the CIA ensures that the new course the project is due to embark on, due to this advancement, is well understood, agreed and planned through a methodical process.


Mustafa Hakimuddin

Blog Author

Mustafa Hakimuddin is a PMP certified Project Manager and has worked in strategic change functions with global brands such as Prudential Plc, JP Morgan and General Electric to deliver complex Programs