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Managing Constant Change

Attend any industry conference or talk with any project manager and a recurring theme is the volume and velocity of changes because work requirements must respond to ever-evolving threats or business environment.  What is the impact of this constant change on the project manager and other project personnel?  It is easy to lose track of things or become overwhelmed.  Everyone needs a way to maintain their focus on completing their current work scope and the end product. 

How do you manage constant change so you can maintain sufficient control of project objectives without descending into chaos? 

Tips for Maintaining Control

Tip #1 – Design your project control practices and processes to manage constant change.

Help project personnel do the right things and follow your preferred practices to ensure project data is properly maintained for the life of the project.  Simple is always better.  Keep directions clear and concise.  Decision trees are often useful to help people determine what levels of approval are required or how to handle different types of changes. 

Follow the Goldilocks Rule where you maintain that “just right” level of control.  When a process is complicated, confusing, or time consuming it reduces the probability personnel will actually follow the process or put the necessary effort into maintaining the current schedule and cost data.  If they don’t understand why they are doing something or why it matters, they don’t care about the result.  As a consequence, the quality of the schedule and cost data degrades over time.  The usefulness of the data is compromised.  You no longer have credible schedule and cost data to make informed management decisions or make proactive course corrections. 

Tip #2 – Plan for constant change from the start. 

Build a project’s initial schedule and budget baseline under the assumption it will change.  What do you need to do this?

  • Start with a data driven basis of estimate as the foundation.  Everyone on the project must able to verify the rationale, assumptions, and known risks that was used to build the initial schedule and budget plan.  A realistic schedule and budget plan that reflects known risks sets the stage to maintain useful data for the life of the project as changes are incorporated.  Why is this important?  You need to be able to identify what parameters changed so you have fact-based information to update the plan for the remaining work.  This initial source data and history of changes is also invaluable the next time you create a cost estimate for similar work effort in a future proposal.  ProjStream’s BOEMax was designed to help you create data driven basis of estimates and maintain historical data to substantiate proposal cost estimates.
  • Verify all parties have a shared understanding of the project’s statement of work, expectations, assumptions, required resources, risks and opportunities, requirements that need to be determined, and other factors that may impact technical, schedule, or cost objectives.  This may be a kick-off meeting with the customer and subcontractors following contract award, an internal schedule and budget plan review meeting, or a contractually required Integrated Baseline Review (IBR).  Regardless of the level of formality, this helps to verify a useful schedule and budget plan have been established for the new project.  You need this solid foundation to be able to maintain historical traceability as the schedule and budget plan for the remaining work changes over time.

  • Use rolling wave planning for longer duration projects.  A previous blog, Tips for Implementing Rolling Wave Planning, discussed how rolling wave planning can reduce the volume of baseline change requests.  Ensure your project control process provides the guidance for project personnel to use rolling wave planning effectively.  You want to maintain a balance of sufficient detailed planning for near term work while keeping the overall project schedule and cost objectives in mind.  It helps to keep everyone focused on current tasks and deliverables to meet interim milestones.

Tip #3 – Use the right tools to help you work smarter.

You also need the right tools to support your process.  With a high volume of changes and the need to incorporate changes quickly, the only way to survive is with an automated means to track the constant changes – as well as document why the change was required. 

ProjStream’s end-to-end software tools, BOEMax, EVMax, and MaxTeam were designed to help you manage changes from the start They share a common database with built-in workflow to automatically track constant changes for you.  You have a complete audit log of who made changes when along with the rationale for the change.  After contract award, BOEMax serves as the budget baseline of record with the current set of time phased data (budget, earned value, actual cost, and estimate to complete) maintained in EVMax or MaxTeam. 

Project personnel can first model their proposed changes in BOEMax and generate a baseline change request with data auto populated from BOEMax and EVMax or MaxTeam to show the delta between the two.  With the built-in workflow, the change request is automatically routed to the appropriate person for approval.  Once a change request has been approved, the change is merged into EVMax or MaxTeam exactly as approved with complete traceability.  At the same time, an updated work authorization is automatically generated to reflect the approved change – again with complete traceability.  Data disconnects are eliminated because the entire process is using the same source data in a single database.

No need to manually create a form, pull data from different functional tools to enter into a form, or guess where things are in the change control process.  ProjStream’s central database maintains a complete transaction log of the workflow approvals and detail level budget changes with summary lines for each accounting calendar month end date.  You can easily keep track of the contract total budget, management reserve allocations, and other budget transactions.  As needed, you can view the detail level transactions to verify who made a change when or the rationale for the change.  You have complete historical traceability.

Combined with funding profiles in you enter in MaxTeam, you can also do additional financial performance analysis using the time phased cost data.  For example, you can quickly determine whether you need to make adjustments to the budget plan to reflect fiscal year funding.  Or, you may want to track the percent spent and the current estimated cost at completion to determine whether you are on target to meet profit margins or your company is at risk for any cost overruns.

What are you waiting for?  Call or schedule a demo today.  See how ProjStream’s tools can help you manage project changes easier and faster with complete data traceability.

 

Topics: change control, data traceability, project control process, BOEMax, EVMax, MaxTeam

Author: Tom Shanahan