Product Innovation Trends

Do I REALLY Need a Change Control Process? Yes

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Don’t fear change. Embrace it! People tend to have reactions and fear to change control process. This is especially true if you are talking to someone who is really big into Agile. Don’t get me wrong… Agile teams embrace change and accept the idea that requirements will evolve throughout a project. The challenge is that the actual change control process, as in the documentation part, is often viewed as cumbersome.

At Jama Software, we receive numerous questions around change management and change control process. Do I need a change control process? Should I tie it back to business priorities? When do I need a change control process? I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some insight as well as resources available.

“You don’t have to change, survival is not compulsory.” – Edward Demming

Communicate and track changes. Whether you are using a formal Change Control Board or using a lightweight Agile approach, it is critical to the success of projects to clearly communicate and track changes for everyone to see. Agile methods don’t allow us to manage uncertainty as we might manage risk, but they do help us manage through uncertainty and live to tell the tale. Since we can never know enough to plot a foolproof course, we recognize we must learn as we go and make course corrections along the way.

Let’s say you have a change request created and have a change control group responsible for analyzing the change. This group can facilitate and manage the process around analyzing the impact of that change. With Agile it is a little bit different.  Here you progress in baby steps. You take a step, take stock of what you have learned; reshape your plan accordingly, and then take another step.

Don’t forget business priorities. For many change initiatives there can be significant impacts to that change. Therefore, it is important that the business case is part of your change control process. This should be at the forefront of everybody’s mind to make sure the cost of implementing the change is worth the anticipated return.

Know when you need a change control process. It really varies depending on your process or project type. Often times what we see as most effective is that at certain stages of development, such as the beginning of an iteration or sprint, change is more fluid. As you get for down or into the process, change becomes more controlled in that you are so far along that you really have to take a hard look at change.

While people say they don’t like change, perhaps what they fear most is the uncertainty that is endemic to change. Agile change management provides a way to manage through the uncertainty. I think we might be surprised to learn that when offered the opportunity to change in an agile way, people won’t resist but will embrace it.

Jama offers several capabilities to help you capture, discuss and track the version history of requirements throughout the development process so your team and stakeholders stay connected. Check out some of the resources and tips on responding to scope changes while keeping your team in sync.