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19 February 2014

Change Request Analysis or Filing the Change Request -- Which First?

As sample question for PMI's PMP exam asked, in part, whether an analysis should be performed before "raising the change request." I believe that the PMI-approved answer is that, when somebody such as the customer requests a change, the first step is always to analyze the impact.

Defining the Change Request

The answer to this question depends on how one defines submitting, filing, or "raising" a Change Request (CR). If it means submitting the request to the Change Control Board (CCB), expecting its approval, then one definitely should perform the analysis first.

However, I define filing a CR as placing it under control of the CCB. That does not mean that the entire board oversees the CR before it has been analyzed. It means that the CR is entered into a Change Request Log so it can be tracked and analyzed with adequate oversight.

Preventing Duplicated Analyses

Performing the analysis before filing the CR implies that, if the request is not practical, the Change Request may never be filed. That can cause problems.

Suppose the customer suggests a change to the Chief Engineer, and the CE does an analysis of the change. Then the customer suggests the change to the Project Manager, and he does a separate analysis. Later, one of the engineers thinks of the same change and does yet another analysis. Do you see the waste?

To avoid such waste, an organization should have a coordinator act as gatekeeper for the Change Control Board. Each Change Request (CR) should be filed with the facilitator before an analysis is performed. The coordinator can cross-reference the change against previous CRs to identify similar or duplicate analyses that have already been performed. This prevents duplicated effort. The coordinator can also suggest other resources, such as studies or subject matter experts. Or, the coordinator might create efficiency by combining the analysis with another activity.

Tracking Progress

Now, imagine that the customer asks the PM to make a change, and the PM performs an analysis, but it falls off the PM's desk into the trash can and is forgotten. Later, the customer sues the company because it did not make the requested change.

Instead, imagine that the PM filed the CR with the CCB coordinator FIRST, before analyzing the impact. The coordinator would create an entry in the Change Request Log and assign a due date for the analysis. When the due date comes, the coordinator asks the PM, "where's your analysis?"

Objective Evidence

Later, if the customer asks, "Why wasn't that change made?" the PM can ask the coordinator to look it up in the CR log. The PM finds the file number of the analysis and sends a copy of it to the customer.

Controlling the Cowboys

One last scenario: Suppose the hydraulics engineering manager falls in love with a certain change. He takes a week to perform the analysis and then files the CR with the CCB. However, the CCB has a wider perspective and wants the analysis performed by the Mechanical Engineering director in coordination with Purchasing and Manufacturing. The second analysis takes another week. If the hydraulics manager had submitted the CR to the CCB first, they could have saved a week and gotten the change approved earlier, when it was less expensive to make.


The PMI answer may assume that you should not bother the CCB until you have analyzed the change. However, allowing the CCB to coordinate CR analyses can reduce analysis costs, save time, create accountability for completion of CR analyses, increase the quality of the analyses, and ensure that the analyses become part of the project records.