The index of terms at the end of the PMBOK book contains as many as 22 entries for project change. These range from the cost and culture of change in organizations to change requests. What then makes change so essential in projects and how to deal with it? What is change management?

Change management – table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. What are change and change management?
  3. Areas of change in the project
  4. Changes during project planning
  5. Changes during project implementation
  6. Sources of changes in the project
  7. External
  8. Internal
  9. Summary


Change during a project is almost inevitable, yet many organizations still seem to overlook such obviousness. Despite its lifespan, whether it’s three months, a year or three, each project contains risk factors that may result in the Project Manager’s renegotiating its execution executed with stakeholders. If, on the other hand, the project team learns lessons on an ongoing basis from the tasks at hand, improvements and changes in the organization of work resulting from a better understanding of stakeholder requirements may also occur.

What are change and change management?

PMBOK defines change as:

“A modification to any formally controlled deliverable, project management plan component, project document.”

This may include modification regarding:

Change management, on the other hand, is defined as:

“A comprehensive, cyclical, and structured approach for transitioning individuals, groups, and organizations from a current state to a future state with intended business benefits.”

But what areas of the project should a Project Manager pay attention to most to prepare for change management?

Areas of change in the project

Changes to a project can occur at any stage of its life cycle, but you should pay most attention to those occurring during the planning phase and project implementation.

Changes during project planning

According to the PMBOK, at the planning stage, the project team together with the Project Manager should prepare an outline of the process for adapting current activities to emerging shifts and developments. In other words, they have to devise how to implement it. This may include:

  • workflow alterations,
  • remodeling the priorities of tasks included in the backlog, and even a projection for such radical resolutions as
  • reshaping the main project goal

Changes during project implementation

Changes occurring during the project implementation phase should follow the adopted methodology, respectively:

  • Waterfall – adjustments require a formal approval process and amendments to the project documentation,
  • Agile – they are a natural part of the process and are introduced on an ongoing basis by updating the backlog and adjusting the team’s activities,
  • Scrum – as one of the Agile methodologies, Scrum also assumes that transformations are inevitable. But before taking measures, the team has to meet the goals of the Sprint it started,
  • Prince2 – here the project plan should carefully define at the outset and changes minimized by design. However, if you have to make transitions, make sure to properly document and have stakeholders consulted.

The Project Manager must recognize that all adjustments will affect other elements of the project, sometimes unpredictably. For example, the introduction of a technical solution that makes one task easier can significantly complicate the execution of another, thereby increasing costs, changing the scope of work and ultimately affecting the quality of execution.

change management

Sources of changes in the project

When the dynamics of the business environment and the innovativeness of the projected rise, modifications can alter almost every sphere of task execution. Their sources fall into two main categories:

  • External – coming from outside the project team, and
  • Internal – resulting from processes happening during the implementation of specific tasks.


The most common external sources of design changes are:

  1. Changes in customer requirements. Customer requirements are a key component of any project. They can shift due to developments in the business environment, the emergence of new needs or competition. When customer requirements change, the Project Manager must carefully analyze how it may influence the project and whether it is possible to make adjustments without compromising quality, time or cost. For example, if the client decides to remodel the user interface requirements, it may reshape the code structure, which could in turn reorganize the schedule and increase costs.
  2. Budget cuts. Budget reductions can result from the organization’s difficult financial situation, a shift in priorities or the emergence of new projects. In the case of budget cuts, the Project Manager must try to achieve goals with less cost. This may mean:
    • reduction in the scope of work,
    • shortening the schedule,
    • downsizing,
    • use of outsourcing, or
    • other uses of the organization’s existing resources.
  3. Changes in the business environment. Modifications introduced in legislation, the emergence of new trends or the conversion of competitors can all affect the project objective or client requirements. In the event of such difficult-to-predict changes, the Project Manager has to establish countermeasures to minimize the impact of the change on the project and enhance achieving the objectives.


Internal changes are due to task-related factors. The most significant include:

  1. Learning of team members. Internal changes in a project can stem from the process of team members acquiring new knowledge. The more experienced the team, the more likely they are to develop skills that will allow them to perform better.
  2. An example is when a programmer notices that his code is not very readable and decides to explore writing a clean one. Eventually, he can propose modifications that will positively affect the quality of the project.

  3. A better understanding of customer requirements and product specifics. During the project, the team’s grasp of user expectations may expand. This may result in a desire to alter the scope of work or adapt the technology to meet the identified needs of the client. For example, after conducting user surveys, the project team may decide to introduce new functionalities that have been requested by the people surveyed.
  4. Change the organization of work after learning from the current workflow. As a result of acquiring new knowledge, ideas may emerge for improving processes, introducing innovative solutions or modifying the schedule. By analyzing the current workflow, the project team can identify errors as well as possible improvements, then consequently make amendments to speed up work. For example, they may find different project management tool more suitable for streamlining processes and increasing productivity.


Change management is critical to project success. Project alterations are inevitable and they stem from both external and internal sources. Depending on the stage of the project life cycle, you should devise an appropriate plan to adapt current activities to emerging changes. Change management requires an effective process of communication and coordination across the project team and with stakeholders. Therefore, the Project Manager has a tough nut to crack: to remain flexible and open to change, yet at the same time remain in control to avoid negative effects on the project.

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Sources and areas of change in the project | #47 Getting started with project management caroline becker avatar 1background

Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.

The most important questions

  1. What is a change request?

    A change request is a formal document that describes the proposed changes to a project. This document can be prepared by various stakeholders. These may include project team members, the client, or the organization's management. The change request should include a description of the proposed changes, a justification for their need, the potential impact on the project, and the proposed solutions.

  2. What are the most important steps in project change management?

    In change management, it is essential, first and foremost, to plan the process of adapting current activities to emerging changes. The Project Manager determines how to implement changes as well as tries to predict their impact on the rest of the project. After doing that, he or she should also monitor and control the change process as well as update the project documentation.

Getting started with project management:

  1. What is a project?
  2. What is project management?
  3. How to manage projects?
  4. Project management methods
  5. Types of projects
  6. 4 examples of projects
  7. Prioritization of projects
  8. Areas of project activity
  9. Definition of success in project management
  10. Why use project management software?
  11. How to choose the best project management software?
  12. Overview of project management software
  13. Project life cycle
  14. What is the project vision for?
  15. Project goal. What is it and how to define it well?
  16. Project initiation phase - what to pay attention to?
  17. The domain of planning in project management
  18. What is a project schedule and what is it for?
  19. How to use milestones in a project?
  20. Project execution
  21. How to prepare a successful project contingency plan?
  22. Importance of project closure
  23. Project failure. 5 reasons why projects fail
  24. 4Ps of management: project, product, program and portfolio
  25. Most important tasks and responsibilities of the Project Manager
  26. Most useful project manager skills
  27. How to become a project manager?
  28. 5 books every project manager should read
  29. How to set up a project team?
  30. Work breakdown structure - how to delegate work in a project?
  31. How to lead a team during hybrid work?
  32. Challenges project managers face when working with a team
  33. Types of project meetings
  34. Project monitoring. What parameters to watch?
  35. How to write a compelling
  36. How to define the scope of a project and avoid scope creep?
  37. Feasibility study – can we implement this project?
  38. Risk analysis in projects and tools to facilitate it
  39. How to create a project charter?
  40. What is a stakeholder register?
  41. Gantt chart in project management planning
  42. How to create a project budget?
  43. Time management in project
  44. How to create a project risk register?
  45. Project risk management strategies
  46. Project marketing
  47. Sources and areas of change in the project
  48. Project management change models
  49. What's after Agile? Methods in project management