What is the purpose of a Change request or Variation?


You may have a love or hate relationship with Change Requests (CR), depending on which side you sit on. For example, on the vendor side, Project Managers take pride in getting the customer to approve CRs. Similarly, Professional Services Managers (with P&L responsibilities) love to receive signed CRs, which means more revenue.

On the other hand, customers hate to hear this dirty word! The general perception is that CR means more cost to the project. This should not always be the case, however!

So, what is the purpose of a Change request or Variation?

When we start the implementation, we have a baseline scope document. Generally, it is called a Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW includes project scope, deliverables, project timelines, cost and other elements to set the baseline. So, SOW is where we start. But, as we learn and experience more, our assumptions and learnings naturally change. So, the project scope has to change too. So, the question is, how do we capture the changes in the project scope throughout the implementation?

Well, we use CR for this exact purpose!

The CR captures the change in scope from the baseline. It also includes information on implementing the new scope, e.g. (budget, resources, timeline, scope)

I noted the ‘change in scope’ and not ‘additional scope’.

There are three types of CRs

  • Positive CR – This is the most famous CR. Positive CR reflects a net addition to the project scope. Hence, an additional budget and timeline may be required.
  • Negative CR – You will hardly hear about this one. The negative CR reflects a reduction in scope from the baseline. Therefore, we should take the budget out of the baseline budget. Similarly, the project timeline may shrink if the task(s) on the critical path is descoped.
  • Neutral CR – This CR reflects changes in project scope (addition/reduction). However, there is no change in the project budget or timeline.

CRs are a tool to track changes in the project scope throughout the project. As a Project Sponsor, understand CR’s purpose and educate your team. CRs should not scare us. On the contrary, they have an essential purpose, and they are there to serve us.

At the same time, be cautious that vendors are diligently writing Negative and Neutral CRs too. Vendors should not pick and choose what serves them the best. So, educate your team and be on top of the game!

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