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Managing project scope and change

Understand why scope management and change control is important, as well as the processes, to help minimise variations and ensure a project is successfully delivered within the required quality standards, time and budget.

The importance of scope management and change control

A major contributor to successful project delivery is the definition and management of project scope. In most cases, during construction, changes to requirements or design leads to variations of contracted scope, which typically lead to increased project costs. In turn, this may necessitate value-engineered reductions in scope, sourcing additional funds and changes to the project program.

Moreover, the preparation, review and control of change requests relating to the works may involve significant time and effort for the specialised consultants, the contractor, and the in-house project team. It may also lead to variations from the specialised consultants due to additional work or rework.

It is important that any request to change the scope of the works is managed through an appropriate change control procedure. Appropriate mechanisms must be in place to ensure that the change is effectively managed in a controlled manner and does not result in scope creep (i.e. additional scope added to existing scope).

  • Scope management is the process whereby project outputs and benefits are identified, defined and controlled.

    The project scope is articulated in the user requirements and project brief. This scope is further specified and refined in design documentation, functional requirements, and/or technical specifications. The level of scope articulated in the works contract will depend on the selected procurement model. The contract will capture the scope of works for which the contractor has been engaged to deliver.

    Clearly defining the scope of works prevents the risk of:

    • delivery of a project not meeting requirements or the intended quality, and
    • change requests, which place time, quality and cost pressures on the project.
  • A change is an activity that can alter the scope of the project by either adding to, removing or adjusting the requirements in the contract. A change may also:

    Change can result in a fundamental redefinition of the project, which could create a discrepancy between user requirements and project brief. The longer the duration of the project and the lower the quality (the less developed or specific) of the request for tender (RFT) and associated response from the contractor, the greater the possibility of change.

  • There are several sources of change that could potentially impact the project, including:

    • statutory and legal changes (which are reasonably unforeseen)
    • changes to the TAFE’s business or policy decisions (which are reasonably unforeseen)
    • budget decisions
    • changes to stakeholder/user requirements
    • project refinement and new requirements, and
    • unforeseen events or latent site conditions.

    Change may be initiated internally from the project team or externally, from the contractor.

    The quality of the RFT can significantly reduce the risk of change being required during the delivery phase. A well-articulated functional brief and technical specification informed by thoughtful user engagement, along with the most appropriate procurement model will help to minimise avoidable change. Despite this, there will likely be unforeseen circumstances on the project that will require effective change management.

  • Change control is the process through which all requests to change the scope, timeframes and cost of the project outlined in the contractual documentation, are captured, evaluated and then approved, rejected or deferred.

    The primary objective of change control is to establish a standard method to document, analyse, approve, and communicate changes.

    You should develop and implement a change control process to help ensure changes to the scope, budget, and program are formally documented, tracked, and approved before the project deviates from the contract.

    Uncontrolled changes may lead to an increase in project costs, user dissatisfaction, alteration of the overall quality, and/or significant delays in the program. In addition, without a thorough analysis of change requests and their related impacts, the project’s scope or program may be unintentionally altered. It is therefore important that any changes to the project are processed through a structured change control process.

    The change control process, templates and forms should be set up during the project definition, funding and approvals process with all relevant stakeholders. The engagement contracts with the specialised consultants will outline the scope for the design development process. The process will also be documented in the works contract, which will articulate when the contractor is entitled to make a change request and the time constraints associated with a response.

    This process should be applicable to all change requests, including to scope, budget, and program.

    During the works contract, you should consider seeking advice from the specialised consultants where appropriate, to assist with an assessment of the impacts of the change request on quality, scope, program and the contractor’s costs.

    An example best practice change control process is outlined below.

    Step 1: Complete the change request form

    Once a request for change has been identified, a change request should be submitted in an appropriate format within the timeframes and requirements under contract. A template change request form has been provided.

    Change Request Form template

    For example, if the contractor wants to request a change to their scope, the contractor’s representative should fill out a change request form and submit it via an agreed method, such as an email to the project director. The change request form should be completed by either the contractor’s representative or a TAFE representative (named in the contract particulars), such as the project director. This will depend on whether the scope change is initiated by the contractor or the TAFE.

    The change request form should identify relevant options for proceeding with the change. Options should include both costs and potential benefits, with any impact on the planned program or resource assignments clearly identified.

    At this stage, it is important for the initiator of the change to identify any critical dates which need to be considered in the change request (the framework for these should be stipulated in the contract).

    Step 2: Log the request

    All change requests should be logged as the change request forms are formally submitted.

    This creates a central ‘tracker’ for all changes identified over the life of the contract. A simple spreadsheet is suitable. A template change control log has been provided.

    Change Control Log template

    Responsible individuals associated with the project should be encouraged to log change requests, as required, to ensure the log is a complete and accurate record at all times.

    Step 3: Assign for analysis

    Requests for change will require investigation and analysis to determine if the change is required, the impacts of the change and identification of any viable alternative approaches. Generally, the project director will perform this role.

    This analysis is important to understand the full impact of any potential change, including any impact on the funding agreement. If the change is required, you may wish to undertake a cost-benefit analysis.

    Analysis work often involves an investigation to confirm that any additional scope was not part of the original contracted works. The following examples will typically not warrant a change request:

    • instruction provided by a user during the design development phase that does not constitute change but simply a refinement of design, or
    • increased time and cost incurred during construction due to unforeseen circumstances where the specific risk was allocated to the contractor under the contract.

    At the conclusion of this step, a decision may be reached to reject the change request. As information is gathered, it may be determined that the change is not required if the change is deemed to be within the original scope of works or contractual obligations.

    Step 4: Decide and/or recommend an action

    Decisions or recommendations on the change will be made in accordance with the project governance structure based on the project's size and complexity, which may be the project director (or equivalent).

    At this point in the process, some changes may be cancelled or deferred based on the impact of the various options identified.

    Step 5: Obtain the proper approvals

    In most cases, you will require formal approvals before the change is instructed, especially for larger and more complex change requests (and by extension, larger and more complex projects). These approving bodies will fall in line with the typical governance structure for the project’s size and complexity.

    Step 6: Log action and communicate decision

    Once the final decision is approved, the change log should be updated with the decision. Similarly, the final decision should be communicated to the requester and other interested parties.

    The change control log should be maintained on an ongoing basis and reviewed on an established basis (e.g. weekly), to help ensure analysis and decisions are being made in a timely manner. Logs generally include a field for recording follow-up dates to help ensure changes are not overlooked or ignored.

    Step 7: Update plans and budgets

    Once changes are approved, the program, project budget and other relevant documentation should be revised to show the impact of the change.

  • An effective change management process can help manage project costs, increase stakeholder satisfaction, manage the quality of outputs and manage the program.

    Effective management of a formally established change control process will help ensure:

    • change control processes are communicated to, and well understood by, all team members and stakeholders, with reference to their respective roles and responsibilities
    • work is not undertaken on unplanned tasks and modifications are not made to approved outputs without a change request having been approved
    • there is a sound justification of the reasons for the change and the anticipated benefits
    • analysis is undertaken to determine which outputs are impacted by the change, and the impact on times, cost, and the realisation of benefits
    • approvals are obtained by the appropriate party, and
    • the process is administered and facilitated in a timely manner by a specific function or person.
  • Tools used in the change control process are described below.

    Tool Notes
    Change control log
    • records all information regarding change requests submitted
    • is updated as required, including recording new change requests and when decisions are made. The change control log is regularly reviewed to ensure it is up to date, and
    • marks cancelled change requests are as cancelled as a record of management actions. This is used as a reference if, and when, similar change requests arise.
    Change request form
    • raises new change requests by the change initiator, and
    • once the change request form is completed, it is sent to the responsible body or person within the project team to undertake the required analysis and decision/recommendation in accordance with the project governance structure.
    Change request report
    • a regular change request report may be produced, and
    • provides a summary of all change requests and their status.

Reviewed 22 March 2023

TAFE Toolkit

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