A project of any significant length will necessarily deviate from its original plan in response to circumstances. This is fine as long as the change is understood. If the change is not managed but is happens at a whim, it is no longer a project, it’s anarchy!
Change management is a way of assessing the implications of potential changes and managing the impact on your project. For example a change in client requirements might mean a minor fix or it might mean a complete re-write of the design. Change management gives you a process to evaluate this and introduce the change in a controlled fashion.
Since change is inevitable you need a fluid way to handle the inputs to your project. It is important that the inputs to your project, your requirements and your design, are able to handle change and evolve over time. If your inputs are static, unchangeable documents then you are going to be hamstrung by their inability to keep pace with changing circumstances in your project.
The most important aspect of change control is to actually be able to know what has changed. On one product I worked with 30 or more programmers and there was no real change control. Every day the programmers would check in changes to the software and every night we used to run mammoth automated tests, processing 1.5 million data files and producing about 500 lines of test reports.
One day we’d come in and find that our results had improved 10-20% overnight. The next day we’d come back to find the product had crashed after the first thirty minutes and was unusable. The problem was we didn’t know who or what was responsible, there was no change control. Eventually we implemented a system and were able to make solid progress towards our goals.
Nick Jenkins is an IT manager with 10 years experience in software development, project management and software testing. He’s worked in various fields of IT development in Australia, Britain and the USA and occasionally he learned something along the way. Now he lives on the banks of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia, and he publishes the odd guide to help aspiring IT professionals. Nick’s website can be found at www.nickjenkins.net.