Managing Change Requests in Project Management [Template]
Change happens on projects. If you’ve managed a project, you’ve seen it time and time again.
Sometimes the change is big and requires an adjustment to your scope and plan. Other times, it’s minimal and doesn’t impact too much.
Either way, as a project leader, you have to stay on top of change to ensure it doesn’t impact your budget, timeline, or team negatively. You may not be able to keep project change from happening—but you can manage it.
What is change management?
In project management, change management refers to the process used to identify, document, and remediate change in a project. That change could alter the scope, budget, resourcing, and timeline of a project. Or it could just alter an existing project requirement and nothing else.
Like projects, change comes in many shapes and sizes. So it’s up to you as the project manager to keep an eye out for it and apply the proper steps to avoid project combustion.
Every organization handles change management differently, but a change request form is a simple tool you can use to document and track ongoing change.
How to manage project change requests
Whether you have a change management process in place or not, it’s important to think through the logical steps you might take to accept and agree to a project change.
1. Assess the impact of the change request
When a stakeholder or team member makes a change request, you’ll want to inspect it to ensure the change is necessary, then assess the impacts.
Here are a few simple questions to help you and your team determine how to handle the change:
- What is the change?
- Why is the change being introduced?
- Does the change contribute to our project goals?
- What challenges does the change present?
Once you’ve discussed these questions with your team and stakeholders, you can focus in on how the change will impact your timeline and budget. It’s a good idea to get your team together to talk about the level of effort required by the impending change.
For instance, let’s say you’re scoped to install an in-ground pool and the customer decides to add a hot tub after the pool has already been dug. You’ll need to figure out how that affects the existing plan, labor, and, eventually, costs before moving forward. After all, stopping work to redesign the pool, get the customer’s approval on the new design, and order the proper materials sure sounds expensive and time-consuming.
In some cases, a stakeholder may be fine with the change and its associated costs. But often, it can be just as much of a surprise to them as the original change request was to you!
Be thoughtful, and spell out all the steps the change will require—making sure to get specific about potential project schedule and budget impacts. That way, everyone can agree on next steps and any added costs before you proceed with the work.
2. Adjust your project plan
Once everyone agrees on next steps, it’s time to update your plan. Having a documented plan makes it easier to manage change through to completion because it provides a single source of truth for your project. See other ways a plan benefits your projects.
If the change affects your timeline, be sure to capture a baseline of your plan before you reschedule tasks so you can track changes to your plan over time. You can use those learnings to inform project decisions and improve future planning.
Then adjust all impacted tasks in your plan to ensure it’s up-to-date. Need to reschedule or reassign several tasks at once? Here’s how to select multiple tasks in TeamGantt for quick and easy updates:
3. Communicate the change
Of course, anytime you make changes to your plan, you’ll need to let your team and stakeholders know. That way everyone’s on the same page about the path moving forward and can work together to bring the project home successfully.
Here are a few simple ways you can communicate project changes:
- Include the updates in your next project status report.
- Note any timing, scope, or staffing changes in task comments in TeamGantt.
- Email a view-only link to your plan to leaders and stakeholders with a brief explanation of what’s changed.
How (and why) to write a change request
The best way to document and get approval for a change (and everything that comes with it) is to write a change request.
Not sure where to start? Download a copy of our free Google Docs change request form template.
Using the change request form template
Documenting your project change and approvals is a whole lot easier when you use our template.
To edit the template, you'll need to save a copy to your own drive first. Simply click File > Make a Copy (or File > Download as), and you’re ready to go!
Here’s a quick overview of the form and its fields so you know how to make the most of it for your change requests:
- Project name: Every project has a name, so specify which project the change is associated with here.
- Requested by: Who requested the change? Include the stakeholder’s name here so they can accept responsibility for the change and its impacts.
- Request name: This one might be tough, but give the request a simple name that indicates what the change entails. For instance, we might name our earlier pool example “Hot tub add-on.”
- Request number: Remember, projects can change a lot, and you might have to complete more than one change request. Assign a number to uniquely identify each change request.
- Change description: This is a brief description of the change that’s been requested.
- Change reason: Provide an explanation for why the change has been requested. Discuss the reason for the change with your stakeholders, and document their words. Many times, change needs to be justified in specific terms for others to agree on it.
- Impact of change: This is the meat of the change request! Be sure to clearly represent how the change will impact all aspects of your project: scope, budget, timeline, resourcing, communications, etc. Sometimes it’ll be short and simple. Other times, you’ll need to define the impact to each category. This section can get long, and that’s okay! Exact detail is what matters most here.
- Proposed action: Here’s another section where detail counts. Outline the steps required to address the change. Feel free to include approximate hours or days needed to get the work done, as well as any scope adjustments. It’s really just any action you’ll take to accomplish the change.
- Associated cost: This field may be optional for you, and that’s okay. But if you’re dealing with budgets and contracts, be sure to account for any increased costs.
- Approved by and date: A signature can often be a sticking point when it comes to managing change. That’s because the person who requested the change doesn’t always end up being the person to actually approve (or fund) that change. Again, if you’re dealing with budgets and contracts, this is important. If you’re not, you still want to be sure your project lead agrees to the change approach and acknowledges the impacts before proceeding.
Customizing the change request form template
We’ve kept this change request form template short and sweet because these are the basics you’ll need to manage change on multiple projects. After all, templates should make your job easier!
But feel free to adapt this template to make it yours. You may want to add your own logo to the header or even format your change request as a written contract rather than a form.
Whatever you do, just be sure to include a form of written agreement in your change management process.
Manage project change more easily with TeamGantt
You may not be able to avoid change, but you can keep it from bogging your project down with TeamGantt. Here are just a few of the features you’ll enjoy:
- Drag and drop simplicity: Switch tasks around, and adjust project timelines in a matter of minutes.
- Baselines: Compare planned vs. actual timelines, and see how changes impact project progress over time.
- Easy collaboration: Share updates and important files with your team and stakeholders so everyone’s in the loop on project changes.
- Resource management: Check team availability to ensure project changes won’t overload your team before reassigning work.