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Adapting to Changing Requirements

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 6/17/2014

Have you ever begun a project just to hear your boss say "Wait, can we actually make the program do this?" If you've ever dealt with this situation, this article is a must-read. Learn how to adapt to changing project requirements.

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    Adapting to Changing Requirements At some point, just about every project manager has had to deal with project requirements that have shifted. In fact, adapting to changing requirements was identified as one of the key project management challenges project managers commonly face.

    Sometimes the changing requirements come from a change in software. Other times, changing requirements come from stakeholders. If the change cannot be prevented, nor can it be declined or averted, then one must adapt to the change. Read on to find out how navigate this challenge.

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    Prevention

    Someone said that prevention is the best medicine. This is great in theory. The easiest way to prevent project requirement changes is to make the scope statement as specific and narrow as possible. Make sure that stakeholders' intentions are well-represented. Ensure that any potential changes that will affect the project have been identified. Be sure to perform a thorough risk assessment before undertaking the project. Granted, prevention won't take care of all requests for changing requirements, but it will avert some of the easily-avoided changes that may come along.

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    "Just Say No" Easier Said Than Done

    We are told, "When in doubt, just say no." If your boss, client, or team member approaches you with a request to change requirements in your project, decline politely. This works well, in principal, but it will not take care of those who are insistent, requirements that must change because of faulty logistics and other unavoidable problems. If a project is close to completion, this approach may be the best solution - but again, dig into why the requirement change request is being submitted before giving the change an automatic red light.

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    Adaptation Techniques

    When changing the project requirements is unavoidable, keep in mind the following: Changing requirements should be treated as an opportunity to use change management techniques. With change management, three things must be kept in mind: Your employees may resist, ignore or express negativity toward the change. By dealing with change systematically, you can downplay the potential for these three project threats.

    Communication is vital in change management. By requiring daily meetings to keep all staff members updated on the project, you can help keep team members abreast of vital changes. In addition to daily meetings, if your company uses collaborative software such as Central Desktop, you can post discussions about the changing requirements.

    When requirements change, everyone must be involved. Management must demonstrate to employees that the change is taking place, and that it is being enforced. This isn't enough, however. Remember those three threats to the change? By giving thorough explanations for the necessity of the requirement change, you can help those who are more reluctant to come to understand the need for the change.

    The best means of implementing major requirement changes for your project is to implement a change management plan. By doing this, you can standardize how the changed requirements will be handled in your organization. While minor changes in requirements can be handled easily, it is these major changes that can derail your project. If the change requires your team members to go back over what they've already done and do things differently, then the change management plan should be worked out and put into place. Remember, the key to a successful project is to carefully control and monitor each step.

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