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Change Control Boards

The PMI refers to the group of project stakeholders responsible for deciding on proposed project changes, the Change Control Board (or CCB) in the latest version of the PMBOK. Regardless of what you call these folks, it is critical to the success of your project that you identify the right people to make these decisions and that they acknowledge this responsibility and make the decisions on the appropriate changes.

 

The first step is to identify the right decision makers. This may be trickier than you think, depending on your project, so we’ll go through the list for you. The key decision maker is the person who made the decision to launch the project in the first place. This is the person who has the signing authority for the project budget and who will own the products of the project. This person is frequently called the project’s business sponsor, or executive sponsor. This person will be responsible for any additional budget, schedule delays, or alterations in the project’s products and must approve changes in any of these areas.

 

The 2nd member of the board should be the IT sponsor. This is the IT person who is committing IT resources to the project and who will have to identify any additional resources should a change in the project plans call for them. The executive sponsor and IT sponsor should work together and agree on any decisions on project budget, schedule, or scope. You should be another member of the board. Your input regarding the impact on the project of the proposed changes is important. Your role is to provide the other members of the board with the information they need to make informed decisions and present the business case accompanying the change request. Your role actually includes much more responsibility in the area of managing change, including deciding on minor changes, defining the process, managing the process, etc., but I'm limiting this discussion to managing the CCB. Studying to pass your PMP certification exam, if you haven't already done so, will provide you with the basics of change management which this article is meant to build on. There are any number of excellent PMP courses and PMP exam preparation training products available to prepare you for the exam, including one on this site.

 

A 3rd category of decision maker is project stakeholders who are affected by the project’s products. These may be the owners of business units who will use the new system the project will produce, or are responsible for a software system the new system must interface with. These people must make changes in their business processes or software systems to accommodate changes to the scope or schedule of your project, although they are typically unconcerned about any changes to the budget. Be selective when engaging these people for your CCB. If all the other stakeholders on the project are represented by the business sponsor or the IT sponsor there is no need for anyone else in their groups to sit on the CCB. If not, only choose one representative from each group. You may choose to include Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from the project team based on their knowledge of the technology the project uses. Their inclusion on the board should be at your discretion. Try to keep the Board as small as possible, the larger the CCB the more difficulty it is likely to have reaching decisions.

 

Steering committees have become a popular means of providing executive oversight to software projects. These steering committees are typically assembled before the project manager is assigned to the project; they may even have recruited you to manage it. The steering committee should form the CCB, when a steering committee is overseeing your work. Only one person need be added to the steering committee and that’s you.

 

Engaging the CCB and ensuring they stay engaged for the duration of the project is as important as choosing the right members. Choosing the right change management process and then communicating that process to the board is the best way to promote their engagement. The right process in this case should be one that is agile and does not waste the CCB’s time making decisions on trivial changes. The CCB should only be engaged when a change that impacts the budget, schedule, or project scope. Altering the schedule means any alteration in the project end date, or the delivery date for any key project products. Changing the scope means any significant change to the feature set or functionality of the system. Distinguishing between changes to the system feature set that should be decided on by the CCB and those that should be decided on by you and your team may take some practice on your part. Fortunately, you don’t have to become proficient at making this distinction in order to engage your CCB. Show them a process that supports making that distinction so they can be assured that their time won’t be wasted.

 

The business sponsor is the key person on the CCB. Focus attention on them and ensure they are supportive of your change management process. Once you’ve gotten that person on board with your process, you shouldn’t have any difficulty selling your process to the others on the CCB. Your IT sponsor should be familiar with your process and support it. You should be able to call on the IT sponsor to help sell the process to the executive sponsor.

 

Don’t expect the CCB to be at your beck and call to decide on project change requests. Schedule periodic meetings for this purpose and communicate the change requests to be decided on at least a day in advance of the meeting. There may be a need to organize an impromptu meeting to decide on a key change request that is time sensitive. Give the board as much advance notice as possible and don’t make this a frequent practice. You can facilitate emergency decision making by identifying proxies for each of the board. Proxies should be empowered to render their decision and not simply occupy their boss’s seat.

 

Your CCB is composed of influential people and they are liable to be "road warriors” so try to make it easy for them to attend CCB meetings. Reserving the time in their calendars at the outset of the project is one way to make this chore easier on them. Having the half hour or so of decision making time booked in their calendar months in advance will make it easy for them to reserve time for this activity when they are in the office and to notify their proxy when they can’t make the meeting. Make it possible for board members to attend remotely by providing technology such as audio or video conference bridges. Provide as much information on the requested changes as possible in advance of these meetings. Be prepared to answer questions about the changes at the meeting itself. Bring in an SME when you don’t have a full grasp of the technical details yourself.

 

Inform the business sponsor of the negative impact of not having a CCB quorum. Changes are frequently time sensitive in that they will only yield the anticipated benefit it they are implemented on time. Failure to implement on time may mean that the benefits expected from the change cannot be realized. Alert your sponsor to problems you are having getting board members to attend and ask for their help with attendance, if you find yourself in the situation where you can’t proceed because of absentees.

 

The final step to keep your CCB engaged is to communicate the results of their decisions to them after they have been rendered. This is critical when a requested change was approved. Communicate when the change was implemented, or is to be implemented and the impact of the change (if known). Your CCB may also be interested in how many changes have been decided on, how many have been approved and how much money or time has been consumed by the changes which were approved.