In many project management methods, decision-making and oversight are among the chief concerns. A change control board (CCB), is used to manage and oversee changes to the project scope, schedule, and budget. The CCB is typically composed of senior stakeholders from different parts of the organization.
The CCB meets regularly to review proposed changes, assess their impact on the project objectives, and make decisions about whether or not to approve them. This takes the decision-making responsibility out of a single set of hands and places it in a well-rounded (but relatively small) group that can ensure the best direction for a project.
In 2020, a study found that more than 75 percent of transformation efforts didn’t deliver the expected results. A CCB is a critical part of effective change management. By establishing a process for reviewing and approving changes, the CCB can help ensure they are made in a controlled manner that does not disrupt the project’s objectives.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What is a change control board?
- What are the change control board responsibilities?
- Who are the typical change control board members?
- What is the difference between a CCB and a CAB?
- What are some tips for setting up and running a successful CCB?
- Common mistakes to avoid
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
What is a change control board?
A change control board is a committee of stakeholders — usually some combination of managers, project coordinators, and subject matter experts — that is at the very head of a change management system.
The group is normally convened when a potential change is identified and is responsible for authorizing, planning, tracking, and approving or rejecting changes.
The board typically has a charter that defines its role, authority, and membership. It meets regularly to review proposed changes and assess their impact on the business. Changes that are approved are then tracked through to implementation.
While the waterfall method is often directly connected to CCBs, agile methodologies also have a place for change control boards, although they are often more fluid and informal.
The goal of both is to ensure that changes are made in a controlled and safe manner, without impeding the progress of the project or disrupting business operations.
What are the responsibilities of a change control board?
The basic functions can be defined as:
- To evaluate the risks and benefits of proposed changes: The board is responsible for evaluating the risks associated with proposed changes and determining whether the benefits of making the change outweigh them.
- To approve or reject changes based on that evaluation: The board must approve all changes–even the most basic–before they can be implemented.
- To ensure only authorized changes are made: Sometimes, changes can be implemented without proper authorization. Forcing every decision through a CCB can avoid these situations.
- To track changes: They are responsible for tracking the progress of each change, including its impact on the overall project success.
A change control board can also be a valuable resource for communication and education about change management within an organization. Employees that are unclear about the process or what is expected of them can go to the board for clarification.
For example, the CCB might create standard operating procedures or job aids to help guide employees through the change management process.
The responsibilities of a CCB can vary depending on the organization, but the basics are always to evaluate, approve, and track changes.
Who are the typical change control board members?
The makeup of a CCB may vary somewhat from organization to organization, but some key roles are almost always present. These include representatives from finance, marketing, engineering, and quality assurance (QA).
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, other stakeholders may also be included such as senior management, end users, or even customers.
Let’s take a bit of a closer look at the responsibilities of each:
The representative from finance is responsible for ensuring that any changes to the project will not impact the overall budget or schedule. Alternatively, they can offer solutions to make those changes possible under the current financial guidelines. They also work with QA to ensure that any changes are tested and meet all of the requirements before being approved.
While designers may be more motivated by functionality or aesthetics, the financial implications also need to be considered when making any changes.
Is the decision going to affect sales? Will it make various marketing channels more difficult to pursue? This is what the marketing representative is responsible for. They need to ensure that any changes made will not have a negative impact once the company is trying to attract customers.
For instance, the alteration of a product breakdown structure can ultimately impact how it is displayed or promoted, which could lead to fewer sale opportunities.
Changing the way a product is engineered is a huge decision that could have drastic effects on overall success. Having someone from engineering on the CCB ensures that changes to the product design are thoroughly evaluated before being implemented.
They can also provide input on feasibility, adjustments to the project timeline, and resources required for a change, making it easier for some of the other departments to weigh in.
For example, the QA representative may need to know how the change will impact testing, or a resource planner will need specifications on new parts or materials that will be required to ensure proper capacity management.
Every change that is made usually comes with a new round of testing, meaning that QA needs to be involved to ensure that it will not introduce any new defects. While this may not seem necessary in the early stages of a project, it can quickly become a bottleneck if not properly managed.
In some cases, other members of the organization who may have a vested interest in the success or failure of the project, such as senior management, end users, or in the rare example even customers may be included in the CCB.
For example, some senior management may want to have a voice for every single change, though this can add to the overhead and complexity of the board, slowing down the desired effect.
Change advisory board vs change control board
A change advisory board (CAB) can also be a part of several change management methods, though it differs in some respects. It is a team of people outside of the project that is responsible for reviewing proposed changes and their impacts before they are implemented.
The goal of the CAB is to provide an objective, unbiased review that can help ensure changes are made in a controlled and coordinated manner.
The change advisory board should include individuals from different areas of the company, but each should also have knowledge of the business process and system being changed. This allows them to provide a well-rounded review of proposed changes.
Importantly, a CAB is also often used to review previous changes and audit the process of the CCB. This is to ensure that changes are being made in a controlled and coordinated manner, while also creating contingencies that can help avoid making the same mistakes.
Tips for setting up a successful CCB
Still confused about how you would go about creating a CCB in your own company? Let’s walk through a few tips that will set you up for success:
1. Define the mandate and purpose of the CCB
Before you begin assembling your CCB, it’s important to take a step back and define what you hope to achieve with it. What are the overall goals of the board? What specific problems or challenges do you hope the board will help address? How will its existence improve your ability to manage change?
2. Establish clear membership criteria
Who should be included on the CCB? This question can be tricky to answer, as there is no one-size-fits-all answer because of how varied each company will be. However, establishing clear membership criteria will help ensure that only those who are truly necessary are appointed to the board.
Some factors to consider include:
- Authority and decision-making power: Make sure that all members of the CCB have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the board.
- Expertise: Board members should have the knowledge and experience necessary to contribute to discussions and make informed decisions.
- Representation: The CCB should be representative of all stakeholders impacted by the change.
3. Create a clear and concise charter
A charter is essentially a set of rules and regulations that governs the operations of the CCB. This document should spell out the board’s mandate, purpose, membership criteria, as well as its decision-making processes and procedures.
By having a clear charter, you can help ensure that everyone involved in the CCB understands their roles and responsibilities, while also setting up a strong dispute management system for when conflict ultimately arises. Consulting the charter or a set of clear policies can easily resolve disputes–or even avoid them before they pop up.
4. Conduct regular meetings
The CCB should meet regularly in order to carry out its work effectively. How often the board meets will depend on its specific mandate and purpose, but a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least monthly meetings.
Many will even hold meetings more often than that, to make sure that every potential change is quickly dealt with and implemented. This is a great way to make sure you have an agile change control board that can help your business pivot if needed.
5. Be proactive in communicating changes
One of the key functions of the CCB is to help manage change effectively. This means being proactive in communicating any changes that occur within the company–both big and small.
The CCB should develop procedures for ensuring that all stakeholders are kept up-to-date on any changes and that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate any potential risks.
6. Evaluate and report on the CCB’s effectiveness
Don’t be complacent! The CCB should periodically evaluate its own performance and make recommendations for improvement. This can be done through both formal and informal means, such as individual board members submitting reports or the board collectively discussing its progress at meetings.
By following these tips, you can create a successful CCB that will help your company manage change effectively.
Final thoughts: Mistakes to watch out for
Even with those tips in hand, there are a few things that you should be sure to watch out for. It can be easy to fall into traps and find yourself swimming against the current. Mistakes like:
- Assuming that change management is only for big projects: This is a common mistake and one that can be particularly costly. Change management is an important process for all projects, regardless of size or complexity. By neglecting to put in place a change management plan, you are increasing the risk of project failure.
- Not involving everyone who needs to be: Another common mistake is not involving all of the stakeholders who need to be involved in the change management process. This can lead to confusion and conflict, as well as delays in getting changes approved and implemented.
- Focusing on procedures rather than outcomes: Change management is not just about following procedures, it is also about achieving desired outcomes. Procedures are important, but they should not be the only focus of the change management process.
- Inadequate training: One of the most common reasons for project failures is a lack of adequate training. This is also true for change management. If everyone who needs to be involved in the change management process does not receive adequate training, there is a high risk of failure by making a wrong decision.
- Waiting until problems occur: Waiting until problems occur is never a good idea. By then, it may be too late to prevent them from causing serious damage to the project. The best time to start managing changes is at the beginning of the project when there is still plenty of time to correct any potential problems.
With some simple tips and a few common traps to watch out for, you’re well on your way to making a successful, agile change control board.
Make sure to involve all of the necessary stakeholders, focus on outcomes rather than procedures, and provide adequate training to everyone involved. Most importantly, remember to start managing changes as early in the project as possible!