The lack of change control or the lack of a careful application of change control is one of the reasons that projects fail. Many different people involved with the project or that have an interest in the project have ideas about the project. Many would like to add their vision to the project, or put another way, to make changes. This results in scope creep. Scope creep control is the key.
Many times, different individuals will ask for little changes, reasoning that the small nature of the requested changes will be equally small in the level of difficulty to implement. In reality, it doesn’t work this way. Small changes end up being difficult to implement, and many times, they can even throw a project off track. The problem of changes interfering with the success of a project by either altering its direction or expanding its purpose is called scope creep.
Projects are susceptible to scope creep. People can change their ideas as the project evolves. Sometimes people forget their original ideas and then proceed to come up with new ideas. Sometimes they will bring up a new idea that was never part of the original discussions. Though a new idea may be submitted along as a change request, it may simply be scope creep. At project meetings, stakeholders may want to make changes to the project or to make additions. They may say things like “I think we should add feature X because it would work really well with feature Y.” By aligning an addition with a feature that has already been accepted as part of the project, the stakeholder may be trying to expand the scope of the project without making it appear as if that is what is happening. The project manager must be on guard, and must always watch for the difference between a legitimate change that is needed and general scope creep.
It is tempting for a project manager to accommodate change requests because it makes them look flexible and able within the organization. However, accepting a change request simply because it improves ones standing and image within the organization instead of accepting it for a legitimate reason poses risks to the project. When a change is requested, time and resources are taken away from the original plan to accommodate the change. The likelihood of success is reduced with every change request. In addition, the changes usually must be implemented within the same time frame and with the same resources as available before, which increases the challenge of the project.
To really understand scope creep, one must talk to the programmers. Every time a programmer receives a change request, they must rewrite the code to accommodate it. Rewriting the same code over and over is not efficient. Instead, if a programmer were to be provided with a good specification to begin with, rewriting would be minimized and the code would be written in an elegant and efficient manner. Only through the provision of a good and close to final design will a programmer be able to guarantee a good quality code. The project manager must try to identify what changes are likely to be needed, and do this ahead of time, so that they can be written down during requirements elicitation. This will prevent the programmers from later having to write code to patch previously written code. However, some changes will be necessary. But to identify which changes to implement, a disciplined approach will need to be taken that involves putting the requests through a formal evaluation by a professional team. The team will need to evaluate the effort involved in making the change, to determine if it is worthwhile to do so. Then the project leaders will have a good idea of whether or not it will be worth to request that change versus the risk it would introduce into the project. This control process will reduce the overall number of requested changes to only the critical ones necessary for project success.
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