Change requests are similar to many project management artifacts in that significant effort is spent over the lifetime of a project in creating them and getting them approved, but they are rarely looked at once a project is over.
This is a shame, since while the primary purpose of a change request is to formalize changes to one or more of a project’s approved constraints or baselines, they can also be a valuable source of knowledge beyond the lifetime of the project.
Some examples of these benefits include:
- During the final harvest of lessons to be learned at project closeout, change requests could be reviewed to identify change triggers that could have been avoided due to better planning, requirements gathering or stakeholder participation.
- They provide a source of knowledge for the impact analysis or effort estimation on risks, issues and changes for future projects. While their usage cannot be a substitute for knowledgeable subject matter experts, they can act as a reasonable substitute if these SMEs are not available in a timely fashion.
- When change requests are reviewed across a portfolio of projects at regular intervals, they can help to identify chronic or systemic issues. For example, if the majority of change requests are not scope related, but are instead being used to formally approve delays to project end dates, analysis could be done to determine whether there is a common cause for these delays such as poor resource capacity planning, ineffective work intake or prioritization, or overly optimistic effort estimation.
- They can be used by project managers who are new to the organization to understand how projects are “really” managed as well as to help gain insights into the attitudes or personalities of specific sponsors.
Change requests are the rats of the project management world – we usually go out of our way to avoid them, but just as rats are a critical input into development of future lifesaving drugs, change requests can be used to improve the delivery of future projects!