Project managers and business process owners routinely deal with change, even when everything goes according to plan. Stakeholders like clients and team members always ask for changes, making change request management an important duty.
The standard approach to this challenge is the use of forms to document these requests, so they can easily tell when the change is implemented. As a result, less time is spent tracking change requests, allowing them to focus on other duties. However, this manual process can become inefficient and time-consuming when requests are being submitted in high volumes.
This guide explains what a change request is, what change management entails, what the various types of change requests are, and how to determine their effects on a project.
What is a change request?
A change request is a proposal to alter some part of a project, system, business process, or workflow.
It can originate from an external source — such as a customer asking for a change in service or deliverable — or from an internal team member or stakeholder who wants to change a project deadline or scope, product detail, or final output.
No matter where they come from, change requests can be lost or overlooked without a formal process to manage them. Making changes without a written request can also cause confusion, especially when the change affects a project’s scope or deliverables.
What is a change request form?
A change request form is a standardized form to request, approve, implement, and track change requests. It contains details of the request and can be customized to meet team needs. This means it can include information like the requestor’s name, a description of the requested change, why the change is necessary, and the date of the request.
A change request form may also contain a description of how the change could affect the project, such as its cost, duration, quality, risk, and scope.
What is change request management?
Change request management is the use of processes, systems, and tools to document, track and implement change requests. Standardization is a large element of change request management because it ensures that change requests are handled consistently, thus providing a consistent experience for both change requesters and implementers.
The goal of change request management is to improve systems so they meet customer and requester needs more effectively. However, they must use caution in doing so to avoid complicating change requests unnecessarily, creating confusion among stakeholders.
Change request management is particularly important in disciplines like IT, where organizations routinely spend more effort on maintaining a system than they do on developing it. This trend is particularly strong in large Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, where the cost of initial implementation is typically only a small fraction of the total cost of ownership (TCOA) for those solutions.
Types of change requests
Multiple types of change requests exist, differing primarily on the change’s objective and level of execution. The most common types include the following:
- Standard changes
- Normal changes
- Major changes
- Emergency changes
Standard change requests occur often and carry a low level of risk. A project, process, or workflow will typically experience many changes of this type over its lifetime, forming the basis of its development over time. Standard changes are generally minor modifications to existing features.
Normal changes significantly alter a system’s infrastructure or operations. They’re relatively common, although they represent more substantial changes than standard changes and have further-reaching effects. A normal change often results in many individual standard changes.
Major changes are large enough to require significant financing, which may require their own budget. They typically offer great benefits as well, but also carry a high risk in the event of failure. Major changes are rare occurrences, due in part to the potential for damage if they aren’t handled correctly. Major changes are often rejected for this reason if there isn’t sufficient back up for the task.
Emergency change requests have a higher priority than other change requests, since they need to be made immediately. These changes are often bug fixes that affect security or cause the system to behave in unexpected ways. In addition, emergency changes may fix problems that are causing widespread disruption within a company.
Benefits of a well-defined change request process
A well-defined change request process provides multiple benefits and can improve employee productivity through more effective communication, leading to better collaboration. It also makes stakeholders more accountable for their actions and increases overall satisfaction.
Change request management helps keep project stakeholders in the loop on changes to the project. They understand what the change is, why the author is requesting it, how it will affect them personally and how it will impact the project. Communication is crucial to the success of a project, so the change request management process must communicate requests to stakeholders and ensure they understand it.
Maintaining transparency with changes is a key aspect of providing a positive user experience. This process creates trust with project stakeholders and helps the development team build long-lasting relationships with them. Transparency includes setting clear expectations with stakeholders, including when the request will be complete or at least when they’ll hear back from developers. These practices ensure that stakeholders don’t have to wonder about their request’s status.
Avoiding negative customer or internal experiences requires effective change management that can quickly identify and mitigate risks.
Business process owners and project or product managers must continually consider customer or requester needs when changing the roadmaps, delivery, or deliverables. Retaining customers also requires a commitment to the customer or requester with a feedback loop that serves as the basis of a positive experience.
Adding and changing features, capabilities, or steps allows an organization to improve its products and services, and change request management helps determine when changes are no longer increasing customer satisfaction or what changes need to be proactively made in order to improve satisfaction.
What are the steps in the change request process?
Although the specifics are unique to each organization, implementing change requests management requires a step-by-step approach to making changes. Below is a customizable framework for an effective change request process.
Step 1: Collect important documentation and information
Change requesters need to be as specific as possible when describing the desired change, why they want it and what benefits it will provide for the organization. In addition to providing this information in writing, they also need to provide any supporting documentation that will help developers decide if the change request is worth the effort.
Change requests should contain the same basic components, regardless of their scope. This practice ensures that change requests remain consistent, which is why many organizations use templates. In addition, templates simplify the task of collecting information because the format is already familiar to developers. Templates that standardize change requests also minimize the possibility of missing details in the change request.
Step 2: Evaluate the impact of the change
The development team or person responsible for the change must consider the possible effects of a change before implementing it. In the case of large changes, they can impact the project’s timeline and budget. A change can also affect specific departments and team members. These questions and others will help the team decide whether it will approve or deny the change request.
Step 3: Prioritize the change request(s)
The potential risks and benefits of a change can affect its priority. In particular, team members need to decide if the change is necessary or would simply be nice to have. Possible factors to consider in assigning a priority to the change request include the person requesting the change.
However, users don’t always know what’s in their best interest, even when they’re an expert on the topic. The development team should therefore prioritize change requests according to clearly defined guidelines that address issues such as team members having different opinions.
Step 4: Approve or reject the change request(s)
Organizations often require multiple levels of approval before implementing a change, especially large enterprises. In addition, factors such as the amount of work required and scope of the change can affect the number of approval levels required. In general, changes that need more work or have a larger scope will require more approval levels. The change request management process should therefore specify the criteria needed for each approval level.
Step 5: Plan implementation
Planning the change’s implementation may require the development team to update the project’s delivery schedule, requiring changes to business processes and user requirements.
After updating these documents, the project manager can then relay the new courses of action to stakeholders. In addition, the manager will also need to delegate the individual tasks needed to implement each change.
Step 6: Implement the approved changes
Once the approved change has been communicated to the stakeholders, the team members can implement the change. They’ll typically follow up with the author of the change request after making the change.
Step 7: Evaluate the effectiveness of the change
The change request process should also include a procedure for evaluating the effectiveness of changes before approving them.
This practice helps minimize the time needed for team members to reach a consensus on this issue. Common questions to ask when evaluating change effectiveness include:
- What is the short-term and long-term bottom-line impact of the change?
- Is the change needed for the project’s overall success, or is there a temporary work-around that’s good enough? If so, what is the gain or potential loss of pursuing this short-term fix, and how sustainable is it?
- Will the change alter any business requirements? If so, what is the plan for communicating the changes?
- Does the change require an increase in funding? If so, who needs to approve costs?
- Will implementing the change affect the project’s delivery date? If so, how will this be communicated and coordinated?
What should a change request include?
All change requests should include the same basic information, including the following:
- ID number
- Type of request
- Source (whether internal or external)
- Short description of change request
Larger changes may require more detail. However, these additional sections should still be concise to ensure the format is consistent between change requests.
How to measure change request process success
One of the most important ways of assessing a change request’s success is to determine if the system’s users are adopting the change. However, you also need to consider whether the change affects the entire organization or just one department. Assume for this example that the change is to a building’s security protocol.
This change might not affect typical employees, since all they need to do is swipe a card. On the other hand, this change could have a great impact on employees who continually bring equipment in and out of the building.
In the end, the greatest measure of success depends on the impact the change (whether good or bad) has on overall user experiences.
Fast-track your change request process
A good change request process allows teams to capture and resolve requests as they come in — accurately, efficiently, and within an appropriate amount of time, every time.
This capability requires the right tools, features, and capabilities to easily process requests, typically through the use of business process management software with customizable pre-built templates and request forms.
Pipefy’s no-code visual user interface makes it easy to design and deploy tailor-made workflows and automations to seamlessly submit, track, evaluate, and implement changes.
From a single screen, manage and centralize requests and proactively identify bottlenecks and opportunities for additional improvements to the change request process. With Pipefy, easily standardize request intake with online public forms and eliminate manual follow-ups with automated status notifications and emails to keep requesters and stakeholders up-to-date on their status change requests.