Project environments are dynamic and changes are constant in areas like process, planning, or scope. You can group these changes into two categories:
- Change Management
- Configuration Management
“Change Management” is the first category. Here you manage changes related to project management plans, processes, and baselines.
In the second category, you manage changes related to product scope, which is known as configuration management.
Change requests are required when baselines are established and you have to make changes to them. If the baselines are not set, no formal change request is required. Change requests and configuration requests are part of the integration management system.
Change management is a well-known term in project management but configuration management is not. In the IT field, the term ‘configuration management’ is used frequently, so if you are not in this industry, you may face issues with understanding the concept.
As a non-IT professional, I had this struggle. However, now that I have passed the PMP and PMI-RMP exams I can help you understand the concepts in this blog post.
Please note that change management and configuration management are the most important concepts for the PMP exam, and you are going to see many questions on them.
Change Management System
According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Change Control is focused on identifying, documenting and controlling changes to the project and the project baselines”.
In the change management system, you manage the changes related to the project scope, planning, and baselines.
For example, you run out of money and you need additional funding to complete the project, therefore, you will raise a change request for additional funds. Or, you may not be able to complete your project within the specified time and require a time extension.
In the change management system, the change request is analyzed for any possible impact on any other project objectives. Afterwards, the request is either approved or rejected.
To minimize disruption, a change management system must ensure that all parameters are identified and analyzed for any possible impact.
If the change request is approved, you will update the concerned baseline, update the project documents, and inform the concerned stakeholders.
Change Management Activities
You do the following during change management:
- Identify the changes.
- Prepare a proper documentation for the changes.
- Review, analyze, and make a decision for the change request.
- Make sure that request is implemented, registered and communicated.
Configuration Management System
According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Configuration Control focuses on the specifications of both the deliverables and the processes.”
In the configuration management system, you manage the changes related to the product specification and the process.
For example, suppose you are developing a product and the client requests the addition of some extra features.
Since this change is related to the configuration of the product, you will deal with this change using the configuration management system.
Configuration management documents how you will monitor and control changes. It is a process of defining configurable items (product, service, result, and component) and controlling changes to such items.
The configuration management plan keeps version control of the product. Here you can keep a log of all the changes made to any version of the product for review.
Configuration Management Activities
You do the following during configuration management:
- Identify the configurable items.
- Record and prepare a report for all configurable items.
- Verify and conduct an audit of all configurations are as per the requirements.
A Real World Example of Change and Configuration Management
Suppose you are working on a project to construct a school building with ten classrooms.
During the middle of the project, your contractor for steel work walks off the job and you have to find a replacement. You find an alternative, but the new contractor will not start working on your project for a week.
This will delay the project. Therefore, you will raise a change request for a one-week extension of the schedule through the change management system.
Once this request is approved, you will update your schedule baseline.
This is an example of the change management system.
Now let us look at an example of the configuration management system.
You are constructing a school building and the client requests that you increase the number of rooms from ten to fifteen.
This is a request to change the product scope as the client has altered the product configuration.
You will handle this change under the configuration management system because here the specifications of your product have changed. Earlier the school building had ten rooms, and now it will have fifteen rooms.
Please note that in the first case, you raised the change request to increase the deadline of the project by one week. There was no change to the product, the change was only needed in the schedule baseline; the school building was the same, but you will hand over this building to the client one week later.
The Difference Between Change Management and Configuration Management Systems
The main difference between the change management and configuration management systems is that change management deals with process, plans, and baselines, while configuration management deals with product specifications.
An example of a change management system can be additional funding requirements or a schedule extension, while an example of configuration management can be an extra feature added to the product.
Conditions for Change Management
The following are a few conditions for change management:
- Delay in schedule: You will have to develop a new schedule reflecting the current situation.
- Cost overrun: You will need to re-estimate your cost to complete the project.
Conditions for Configuration Management
The following are a few conditions for configuration management:
- Market competition forces new features on the product.
- The project took so long that the product is obsolete, so an update is required.
- The client requested you add some extra functions.
- Due to cost overrun, some features are removed from the product.
- To complete the project early, some features are removed.
Change Management Vs Configuration Management
Change management and configuration management do not compete for the same space. They are used for different purposes.
According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, “Configuration control is focused on the specification of both the deliverables and the processes, while change control is focused on identifying, documenting, and approving or rejecting changes to the project documents, deliverables, or baselines”.
Any change in product configuration will also affect the project scope, and you will update your project plans, cost, and schedule baselines.
Configuration management has a larger scope than change management.
Who Can Raise a Change and Configuration Request and Who Can Authorize It?
Anyone can raise a change request but it must be approved by the project manager or a higher authority, as mentioned in the configuration or change management plan. If the client is not involved in the process, their consent is required to implement the change request.
A higher authority can be a Change Control Board (CCB), Project Management Office (PMO), or any other stakeholder as mentioned in the project management plan.
Regarding a configuration request, usually it comes from the client as it involves a change in the product.
This request is reviewed by the project manager and then forwarded to the concerned higher authority for their review and approval. An agreement from the client may be required because they have to pay for any additional features.
Change management and configuration management are part of integration management and both deal with all the changes that can happen within the project or the product. Change management relates to changes related to the plan, process, and baselines, while configuration management deals with changes related to the product scope. The job of the project manager is to raise these requests and ensure that they are properly reviewed. Once the decision is made, it should be implemented immediately.
Now I hope you will not have any problem solving questions on the PMP exam regarding change management and configuration management systems.
How do you manage changes in your project? Please share your experiences through the comments section.