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Keeping change approvals simple with a 3-tier structure

July 30, 2011 - Project Management

thumbs upNow that you have a project change that has been documented and analyzed for overall project impact, it’s time to get the change approved.

Remember the Change Control Board and Basis of Decision we discussed earlier?  These concepts are extra important now, as you’ll see.

It’s easy to design a project change approval structure that is overly complicated.  I’ve seen upwards of 8+ different approval layers, depending on certain budget, schedule, and scope impact thresholds.  But when that happens, neither leadership nor most project team members understand or remember who is accountable for what decisions, and the last thing anyone wants is confusion around accountability.

I recommend a three-tier project change approval structure:

Level 3: Project Manager / Project Team

If the change is within the Basis of Decision constraints established at the beginning of the project, the project manager, with the project team, can make the final decision on the change.

Level 2: Change Control Board (CCB)

If the change impacts the schedule, budget, architecture, or baselined scope, the project’s CCB (also established at the beginning of the project) is the change approver.  Many organizations also have an architectural review process established by the Enterprise Architecture group, so an architectural change may also require approval from the Architecture Review Board after the project’s CCB decides to move forward with the change.

Level 1: Executive Steering Committee

The project team and CCB will need to determine at the beginning of the project what change thresholds will require escalation to the Executive Steering Committee for approval.  Examples are budget changes over $250k, any go-live date changes, or a scope change that results in adjustments to the overall strategic direction of the project.  It should be very clearly documented what changes require Executive Steering Committee approval.


How many layers of change approvals have you seen?

Project Change Control blog series

  1. Introduction
  2. Document the change
  3. Analyze the impact
  4. Approve the change
  5. Re-baseline the project

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