Dealing with change requests

In a big software development project there are often a number of occasions where changes to the project will be proposed. The process for managing these change requests needs to be handled properly, otherwise it can result in lost time, lost money, and disagreements between supplier and customer.


Who proposes the change?

While it would seem intuitive that change requests come from the customer, they are actually mostly initiated by the the supplier. In the process of developing the software the supplier identifies a better way of doing something, which may involve a change in cost of development or time to deliver the project.

So having identified the potential change, the supplier needs to put it to the customer. Even if the change is one which will save the customer money, the customer still needs to approve the change, because it may have effects on other parts of the project.


Who pays for the assessment?

Having proposed the change, the supplier will need to assess the work required to make the change, the cost, and the time it will take. The customer needs to understand this assessment takes time, and the supplier may charge money for this.

In the initial agreement the process for paying for change assessments needs to be laid out. There are several ways to do this – some suppliers may ask for a preapproval of an amount of time to make change assessments. Others may not charge to make an estimation of how long the change assessment will take, and leave it up to the customer to decide if the benefits they could get from the change are worth the time taken to make the change assessment.

Some customers may believe that all changes and change assessments should be built into the purchase costs, and if this isn’t agreed upon in the initial contract then suppliers could find themselves losing money, or customers missing out on changes which could be beneficial.


What happens to the existing work?

While the change assessment is taking place, what is going on with the rest of the software development project? Does it stop, or continue? This will have effects on the delivery time of the project. Most of the time the development can continue, but the work around the part of the project which is affected by the potential change is suspended.


How is the change request agreed to?

Often, when the change request has been agreed by the customer and the supplier, it is done so informally, meaning there is room for disagreement over what has been promised or requested in the future. Any change agreements should be in writing, and the main agreement between the parties should be amended. From there the supplier can go ahead and implement the change.


Dealing with change requests has a number of parts which aren’t always understood, and companies may not have the proper processes in place for dealing with them. This can cause friction between the two parties and may result in uncertainty over what has been promised and when it will be delivered. 

IT Contract Templates have documentation to allow companies to lay out proper process for change requests at the outset. This takes all the stress out of making changes and allows both customer and supplier to be on the same page.

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