Change happens: When a change is mismanaged, the consequences can be dramatic

Managing change effectively can be the difference between project success and project failure. For a variety of reasons, major capital projects often involve the need to make decisions based on incomplete information, assumptions, and the personal experience of project professionals. As a project evolves or progresses, changes will occur.

Changes can interrupt the flow of work, create delays, cause schedule slippage and inflate costs. Change within major capital projects can happen for any number of reasons, but one thing is guaranteed – change is inevitable and project teams must be prepared to deal with it effectively at any point within the project life cycle. For identifying and validating a change, there must be a clearly defined and documented baseline in terms of scope, budget, schedule, as well as a set of engineering/technical documents and standards.

To adequately deal with change as it happens, project teams need to formulate a change management process early in front end planning. A great quote from the PwC paper entitled, “Successful capital projects: The integrated risk framework” sums this idea up succinctly:

“Without rigorous change management and change control processes that are strictly adhered to by all parties, project teams will grapple with problems that could have been prevented. A proactive versus reactive management approach, and a consistent, timely identication and management of potential issues enables the team to understand the interrelationship among all project elements.”

Information control, communication and process:

As with all successful project management, effective change management can be established by adhering to a healthy balance between identifying the right people, creating a well-defined process that determines who does what, where, when, how and why, and finally, selecting the right tools to enable those people and processes.

Change management is essentially a communication management problem. The process involves creating, issuing and receiving various types of documents, so proper documentation is essential. In order to be successful, the tools and techniques to support change management must provide:

Proper information management

Transparent communication channels

A well-defined and consistently followed process

The ability to gather and share all information needed to evaluate a change will enable project managers and approvers to make informed decisions. By communicating change requests efficiently, and following standard practice for their resolution , project teams will prevent rework and lost time. Timeliness is key. As part of this communication process, it is a good idea to integrate change management directly with information/document management as this will allow a similar level of control as is applied to engineering documents and will maintain clear relationships to related project records. Greater control, visibility, and process around change are also important for maintaining safety and information compliance requirements throughout the project. The dynamics created by change can be complex, requiring diligence throughout every phase of a project. Poor change management has the potential for substantial negative downstream effects, so the final piece of the People-Process-System puzzle involves selecting a tool that will streamline, enable, and automate change management.

By establishing standard procedures for documentation and taking advantage of information management technology, owners will be able to efficiently manage the change order process. Establishing proper communication and collaboration processes for all the project parties is necessary for successful management of change.

The best approach is to adopt a commercial information management and collaboration tool built to promote information control, enable process, and ultimately improve communication around changes in a project.

A system with automated workflows will ensure the right people are informed of changes quickly and a preliminary assessment of potential impact readies the change request for approval or rejection. All affected parties can be kept informed of the change status and real-time monitoring of key metrics will give stakeholders complete visibility to every change. A detailed audit trail of events and performers will also ensure traceability is available for every change. Improving change management will avoid surprises and result in significant savings in total installed costs, increased project efficiency, more reliable schedules and end-user satisfaction.

Change is inevitable. Change will happen. When change management is mishandled, the consequences can be dramatic – costing time, costing money and adding undue stress to all involved. Successful change management hinges on having the right people, the right processes, and finally the right tools to manage and enable the process and the people. 

About the author

Mark Anderson is responsible for Business Development at Coreworx. Being involved with project stakeholders around the world, Mark has a keen awareness of the trials and opportunities, as well as the economic and social impact of capital projects. His experience includes running several companies in the Oil and Gas industry, as well as more than 10 years’ sales experience in Software and the Oil and Gas industries. He is always interested in listening to and learning from project experts and passing his learned observations and experience on to help others.

About Coreworx

Coreworx provides integrated project information and cost control software solutions for projects in the Oil & Gas, Power, Mining and Infrastructure sectors. The Coreworx solution is a proven enterprise application suite that enables EPCs and Owner/Operators to automate best practices, mitigate business risks and improve performance to budget throughout the entire project lifecycle.

Founded in 1997, Coreworx Inc. services a portfolio of projects valued at over $500 billion across more than 50 countries, on more than 600 capital projects with nearly 70,000 users and offices in Kitchener, Calgary, Halifax, Houston (USA), and Perth (Australia).

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