How to improve your change request process
You’ve won the work, the statement of work is signed, now it’s a simple case of execution… right?
In our experience delivering design projects? Nope.
If you work on projects, you’ve probably come up against change requests. It’s critical to have clear and efficient processes for managing them, otherwise they can derail your projects and wreak havoc on relationships.
We found out the hard way that expectations can’t be set and forget. Checking in frequently can help catch any divergence from meeting those expectations early, so you can pivot and make changes to the project where necessary. But those project changes come with their own complexities, and that's where a good process comes into play.
Here’s what we found most effective after a stressful project made us overhaul our change request process.
Clearly define the process
Change requests are going to happen, so prepare for them. Don’t rely on remembering which email chain included a reference to a new requirement, and whether it was actually approved. Whether you use a Trello board of requested and approved changes, or an Excel sheet, the important thing is to have everyone using the same method. Keeping a record of changes where every contributor has access will help ensure you’re on the same page.
Who’s responsible for what
Don’t assume your colleague is on top of it. If your team is big enough for a dedicated project manager, then they should be the conduit between requests and the most appropriate person to advise/quote/execute. But often many people are wearing different hats, so if you’re sharing the load, assign one person for each project who will review requests and manage communication with the client.
Manage change requests with a centralised tool
A centralised tool, such as Scopey, can be helpful for tracking and managing change requests. This can help to reduce confusion and ensure that requests are documented as they come up. A shared view will help identify what requests haven’t yet been addressed, and traceability features can show who approved what request – a really important feature if there is disagreement around deliverables.
Don’t wait to be chased – communicate
Nothing is more frustrating than requests falling on deaf ears. Acknowledge the receipt of the request and set expectations around how long it will take to get back to them if it’s going to be more than a day or two.
Sometimes requests can be complicated, so make sure you’ve understood correctly by rephrasing the request how you understand it and checking that you’ve hit the mark.
Change requests in of themselves can be time consuming to manage. Sometimes pushing back to request additional budget for a requirements workshop will help ensure you get your estimates right when you’re responding on the fly. Your client is relying on your expertise, so it’s important to walk them through the process if complex changes come up.
Review and revise
At the conclusion of each project, briefly check in with the team (or yourself if you’re freelance) to take note of how things went. How did the delivered scope compare to the initial quote? Did you end up doing more work than you should have? Draw up a post - project score-card so you can quickly capture what’s important to your business. Capturing client and team feedback can provide valuable insight from multiple angles.
This will help identify what needs to change for future projects, as well as how your process should evolve to support your business goals.
We’ve tried lots of different tools to manage projects, and at the end of the day found Excel and shared expectations to be most successful. We didn’t need the added complexity of a project management system, and managing change requests is possible to do without them. However, UX runs in our blood and we thought a problem that can have such a big impact on the bottom line should have a simple solution.
So we built it – Scopey.