Change Control Vs. Change Management: What's The Difference?

September 16, 2022
6 minute read



When it comes to making changes to your business - whether it's implementing a new process, rolling out a new product, or fixing a mistake - you need a plan. Change control and change management processes help you make changes in a controlled and deliberate way, minimizing the risk of things going wrong. But what's the difference between these two processes? How do change control and change management relate to project management as a whole? And when should you use one over the other?

In this article, we'll break down the key differences between change control and change management processes. We'll also provide examples of when you would use each type of process to help you better understand when and how to implement them in your own business.


Change Control Vs. Change Management

Before diving into detail, let's first establish what we mean by change control and change management from a high level.

Change Control is a process for making specific, limited changes to your business. It's best for small, routine changes that don't have a lot of potential for causing problems. Change control is based on the idea that it's better to make small, safe changes than take a chance to make big, risky changes. For example, let's say you want to change the color of your company's logo. This is a small, routine change that shouldn't have any major impact on your business. To make this change, you would follow the steps in your change control process.

Change Management is a process for making changes to your business that are more complex or far-reaching. It is typically used for making big changes that could have a major impact on your business. Change management is a more long-term change strategy that is based on the idea that it's better to plan and manage changes (and those making the changes) carefully than to just wing it. For example, let's say you want to launch a new product. This is a big change that could have a major impact on your business, requiring a more robust change management strategy.


What Change Control and Change Management Have in Common

Both change control and change management are processes that help you make changes to your business in a controlled, deliberate way. While they have their nuanced differences, both change control and change management are:

  • Planned - Neither process should be used for making changes on the fly. Instead, both should be planned out in advance. This will help ensure that changes are made in a way that makes sense, minimizing the risk of things going wrong.
  • Iterative - Both processes should be viewed as iterative, meaning that they should be revisited and adjusted as needed over time. As your business changes and grows, your change control and change management processes should also evolve to meet your new needs.
  • Flexible - Both processes should be flexible enough to accommodate different types of changes. For example, a change control process for rolling out a new product will be different from a change control process for fixing a mistake. Similarly, a change management process for launching a new business will be different from a change management process for making major changes to an existing business.

Despite these similarities, there are some key differences between change control and change management that you should be sure to keep in mind.

What is Change Control Management (and when to Use It)?

Change control is a documented process that is used to manage and control changes to artifacts and information. The primary objective of change control is to ensure that changes are made in a controlled manner and that the impact of each change is understood and accounted for. Change control helps to minimize risks and ensure that changes are made in a consistent process. 

Change control has three main objectives, including ensuring that changes are made in a controlled and consistent manner, ensuring that the impact of each change is understood and accounted for, and minimizing risks associated with changes.

The basic process behind change control typically involves the following steps:

  1. Identify the need for a change
  2. Create a change request
  3. Evaluate the change request
  4. Approve or reject the change request
  5. Implement the approved change
  6. Close out the change request

You and your organization may have a more specific or detailed change control process - maybe even fewer steps. These are the general steps that are typically practiced.


Who Uses Change Control & What is a Change Control Board? 

The people who typically use change control are those who are responsible for making changes (e.g., developers, testers, system administrators) and those who need to be aware of changes (e.g., managers, stakeholders). Change control can be used in any organization where changes need to be managed, such as software development, IT operations, or manufacturing. In certain situations, such as Integrated Change Control methods, an organization might formally appoint a Change Control Board (or CCB) of project stakeholders to meet on a regular basis and review, approve, reject, and or alter potential changes within a project.


Where Is a Change Control Process Best Implemented? 

Change control can be implemented in any environment where changes need to be managed. However, it is typically used in environments where there is a high risk of making incorrect or unintended changes (e.g., software development, IT operations, manufacturing). 

Let's say you work for a company that is looking to change its logo. You would start by creating a change request specifying the details of the change (e.g., what you want to be changed, and why you want it changed). You would then submit the change request to your company's change control process. The change control process would review your request and determine whether it meets the criteria for approval (e.g., does the change meet the organization's standards, will it have a negative impact on the business?). Then, if the change request meets the criteria for approval, it will be approved and assigned to a team of individuals who will make the change. If the change request does not meet the criteria for approval, then it will be denied and you will need to come up with a different solution.


Integrated Change Control in Project Management

Integrated Change Control is a popular variation of the process that combines other project management and change plan tasks into a single workflow - with a heavy emphasis on mapping out the potential impacts of a change in order for the previously mentioned Change Control Board to make an educated decision for the organization. 

Integrated Change Control involves the following components:

  • Change Management: Define proposed changes, variables, and risks by way of a Change Management Strategy. 
  • Project Management: Project Management’s contributions to an Integrated Change Control include utilizing organizational skills and expertise to ensure project variables (such as quality, cost, and other factors) are met - with any variances or bottlenecks being reported to the Change Control Board. 
  • Configuration Management: CM ensures that all aspects of a service or product are considered and/or prepped ahead of any change to prevent negative impacts on production or delivery.
  • Change Control Board: Once all components have been vetted and presented, the appointed Change Control Board will review and render decisions on any proposed changes. Decisions may include approval, rejection, alterations, and or deferring.


What Is Change Management (& When To Use It)? 

While change control is focused on managing and controlling smaller changes to artifacts and information, change management is focused on managing the people who are actually making the changes. The primary objective of change management is to help people adapt to new changes in a way that minimizes disruption of the business (such as employee resignations) and maximizes effectiveness (improving on the process you wanted to change). Change management helps to ensure that changes are made in a standardized method and that everyone involved understands what needs to be done and how it should be done.


Who Uses Change Management? 

Change management is typically used by organizations that need to make significant changes to their business, such as launching a new product or service, opening a new location, or making major changes to their team structure or operations. Change management can be used by any organization that needs to make changes to its business, but it is typically used by large organizations. 


Where Is Change Management Best Implemented? 

A company's change management process should be tailored to its specific needs, but there are some general guidelines that can be followed. Change management is most effective when it is implemented throughout the entire organization, from the top down. This allows everyone to be on the same page and understand the goals of the change management process. It also ensures that everyone is aware of their role in implementing and supporting the changes.


How Project Management Supports the Change Control Process

Project management provides an effective framework to help organize and plan a quality change control process. By using tools such as Gantt charts, scheduling and time tracking, and resource allocation tools, project managers can help keep a project on track, and within scope, and ensure that all necessary tasks are completed in a timely manner.

This can be especially helpful when it comes to changes, which can often introduce uncertainty and create delays. Having a project manager in charge of the change control process can help minimize these risks and ensure that changes are made in a controlled and organized manner.

In addition, having a solid change management plan in place can provide a systematic and coordinated approach to managing changes to business processes, organizational structures, resourcing, and technology. The goal of a change management plan is to ensure that changes are made in a safe and logical manner, causing minimal disruption to business operations.

Finding the right tool to support a change management or change control plan is an important first step toward success. Our software, Workamajig, is built to help with every stage of the project management process, from planning and execution to tracking and reporting. With special features designed specifically to assist Change Management and Change Control processes, such as task tracking, resource capacity maps, in-tool Gannt charts, as well as fully-customizable project hubs, Workamajig is the perfect tool to make sure your next Change process goes according to your plan.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your team.


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