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Use these techniques to control small scope change requests

You can manage small scope change requests by batching them, using project management discretion, and/or allocating a scope change contingency budget.

You have all heard the mantra of scope change management—make sure that all scope change requests get approved by the sponsor (or sponsor designee). This should be obvious for large scope change requests. However, it's not always practical to gain individual approval for every five, ten, or twenty-hour scope change request.

You definitely need to have a way to capture and manage these requests. If you don't, you'll quickly find that you are dealing with the infamous "scope creep." The three techniques to employ for managing small scope changes are described below.

Batching small requests

It's hard to get the sponsor's attention for these small requests. It's better to batch the small changes up into a bundle. This means that you keep track of the small scope changes, their business value, and their impact on the project. Then, when they hit a certain threshold, you take all of them to the sponsor for approval. At that meeting, you and the client discuss all the proposed changes (or perhaps just the larger ones in the batch) and get sponsor feedback on whether they should be done.

Project manager discretion

From a practical standpoint, it usually makes sense for the project manager and client manager to be given discretion to approve small scope change requests under some threshold of effort-hours and cost. However, this assumes that the project is on or ahead of schedule and that the changes do not make the project exceed the agreed upon cost. If the project is in any risk of not meeting its cost or duration commitments, this discretion should not be used—even for a one-hour change request.

Scope change contingency budget

In some organizations, it's common to allocate a scope change contingency budget to handle small changes. Your organization may recognize that some scope changes are always requested and you may be allowed to allocate a percentage of the total project budget to account for these. For example, you may have a five-percent contingency added to your budget to handle normal scope change requests. The client must manage the scope change contingency budget. If the client uses the budget up early on small scope changes, there's nothing left for later change requests. This puts the client in a position of rationing the changes to ensure that only the most important changes are approved. 

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