In a world and society where everything is interconnected, information is easily available and accessible and the world is getting smaller through globalization; there are bound to be demands caused by disruptions and change control process is what is needed to adapt to these demands.
Change control is a crucial part of Information Technology (IT), Project management as well as other major industries. These industries include pharmaceutical industries, manufacturing and engineering industries, and so on. Considering the project that a company is working on as an example, there will always be modifications as the project progresses as the project must improve. Therefore, change control plays a vital role because change control systems are needed to cater to these changes. The same can be applied in software development and engineering.
In this tutorial, we will be looking at change control as a process in software engineering and everything that is to be known about the process. So, let’s get started.
What is change control?
Control changes is a process used to ensure that the changes to a system or product are introduced in a well-coordinated and controlled manner.
In an Information Technology based company, control changes systems are used to identify, document, and implement changes. The process involved in change control is mainly formal and it includes aspects like policies, resources needed to meet the required specifications, time, and project schedule.
To ultimately achieve a long-term goal, it may become necessary to make use of a new set of strategies because of the external considerations used regularly. Examples of these considerations include potential high costs of input, a rise of different technologies, changes in customer demand as a result of changes in market structure, and so on.
The change control process gives the customer the ability to effect changes in the work scope. The process involved in change control is usually carried out as a sequence of steps starting from the submission of a change request.
In software engineering industries, change control is a major aspect of change management (a broader section of change control). It is mostly used in modifying characteristics of systems or applications to suit various requirements, bringing new features to the application software, patch network, or installation changes.
The purpose of using change control systems is to ensure that all changes are implemented, there are no unnecessary changes, the resources are properly utilized and there is no unnecessary disruption in the service rendered.
Why is change control important in software engineering?
When a stakeholder requests a different or new change for a particular system. It cannot be ignored neither is it optional. It must be implemented in such a way that other components of the system are not affected. Change control is used in these scenarios because it helps the project teams to modify the project scope. This is done by using specific policies and controls.
Change control comes in handy when a project is going as planned. A formal document used for the change request must be properly completed and reviewed to keep control of change requests.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Change control process
There are questions that one can encounter when making use of the change control process. These questions are:
- Who is the person approving the change?
- How much time is needed for implementing and researching the change?
- Is there any threshold required for the project management to approve the change?
- Does the change control require a change control board to take place?
- What are the likely impacts of the changes to other components of the system, that is, cost, schedules, resources, and so on?
Key actions taken in the change control process
Various factors should be considered and actions carried out in the change control process. These actions depend on the steps involved in the process of change control. They include:
- Change request initiation and control: Request for changes in a project must be done in a standard manner. It should also be subject to review from the management. There should be effective communication between the change requestor and the management.
- Impact Assessment: the change requests should be properly assessed in a structured manner so that possible impacts can be known.
- Documentation and Control of changes: Proper maintenance of the change request log containing the personal details, the date the change request was made and the changes implemented. Only personnel that are authorized should be given the power to affect the required changes. There should also be a process in which the previous version can be identified.
- Documentation procedures: There should be proper updating of the documents containing the procedures whenever changes are implemented in a system.
- Authorized maintenance: The rights needed for access to the system should be controlled to stop any unauthorized access.
- User signoff and testing: The software should be properly tested after the changes have been made.
- Version control: The change control should be placed on the assembly production code to make sure that only the most recent version is updated.
- Emergency changes: There should be verbal authorization in case there is a need for an emergency change, and the change should be documented as early as possible.
Important documents used in the change control process
There are two main documents used in the change control process. They are discussed:
- Change Request Form: This form is used in documenting the details used in supporting the process of decision-making. Examples of these details include the name of the individual requesting for the change, the priority of change, the estimated cost and time of the change, the benefits of the change, type of change, the authorized detail of the individual, the status of the change request and so on.
- Change Log: This is a type of change control document enlisting the details of the change request. Examples of these details are target date, the date when the change request was indicated, the project number, the owner details, project change request PCR identification, status date, status, and so on.
Key steps involved in the change control process
There are various steps involved in the process of change control. They are explained below:
- Planning the change: This is the first step in change control. The necessary changes are mapped out step by step. Other planning activities include requesting vendor support when needed, delegating responsibilities and processes needed to execute the change, and informing the parties that might be potentially impacted that their services might be temporarily unavailable.
- Accessing the affected areas and possible risks: The second step in change control is risk assessment. The proposed changes are considered and the possible benefits and disadvantages are weighed side by side if the changes are to be implemented. Also, possible impacts on other areas of the business as well as potential mistakes that can be made are assessed. A power outage can be another risk to be considered because there will be severe implications if a power outage occurs during the process of the change. Some may consider this risk excessive, but it may be an important risk assessed in the long run.
- Defining the goals: A clear goal must be defined to ensure successful modification of the system. The final consumer, as well as the administrator, must also clearly define what the success of these goals entails. This includes an outcome that is free from error, outlining the available services following the changes that have been implemented.
- Having a backup plan: It’s necessary to consider the worst-case potential outcomes of implementing a change so that you will be ready should things go wrong. The backup plan should contain details of ways in which the system can fail and so ways by which we can fix the failures. The system should also be backed up so that should the modified system fail, the affected parties will have something to work with by restoring the previous version. The process of restoring the previous version is easier if you figure out how to reverse the steps. Some backup plan processes are more complex so it is important to inform the team manager to decide if implementing the change is worth it.
- Testing: This is a necessary step in the change control process. Testing is not done immediately for all changes. For example, introducing new equipment would require a long-term assessment. Some testing processes also take place in stages. For example, changes take place in test systems, then in stage machines, then in production systems.
- Setting a change time gap: It is often difficult to find the time window to the reason why the request is made.
- The request explaining the need for change
- The value to be expected for all the affected stakeholders
- The expected completion date to work towards to
- The assessed risk and conditional success for the customers and teams
- Analysis and Review: Individual assessment of a task for a long period may not be effective. A team is needed for effective analysis because working in teams can result in various colleagues and managers stepping in to access the change process. Also, the review of the change process by a team helps in ensuring a multi-disciplinary and magnified look at the process. It is called CYA protection.
It provides individuals with the ability to add considerations that were not originally thought of, spot weaknesses, and provide additional suggestions to the plan. This analysis is also necessary for getting the stakeholder, project manager, or lead developer (IT) to sign off on everything so that the message can be passed on to other departments that will get impacted. Review submission occurs in two phases, presenting the proposed change, and meeting the project team members to discuss the impacts.
- Implementation: This is the next step once the change control has been signed off. Then the stakeholders can give their feedback on the level of their satisfaction with the adjustments made. Reassessment and review will take police for parties that are not satisfied. The change request is finalized and completed for the satisfied parties.
Let’s Compare Change Control Against Change management
Change control may be associated with Change management in a way. Change control includes activities like recording, submission, analyzing, and approval of a change to boost the general performance of the product or merchandise. On the opposite hand, change management is answerable for controlling and managing the change requests so that changes can be effected on the IT services or IT infrastructure. Change management promotes the advantages of the business and also reduces the risk of disruption of services.
Change control helps keep all the aspects of the project on target and in order. Examples of such aspects include providing an incentive for hard work to facilitate the change process, logging the work, and scheduling breaks by making use of monitored systems.