Change order template: How to modify project scope (with examples)

Asana 團隊撰稿人圖片Team AsanaOctober 24th, 2022
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Summary

A change order is an official and documented change to a project plan. While the term change order is often used in the construction industry, change orders can be used in any industry to explain how a project will deviate from the original scope. In this piece, you’ll learn how to create a change order template so you can address and implement project changes without skipping a beat.

Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a-changin’,” and this is true. But most managers know that projects are a-changin’, too. It’s rare to have a project plan that begins the same way it ends, and the easiest way to manage change is with change order templates.

Change orders provide a structured way to communicate project changes so the project stays on track and the team understands how to move forward. In this piece, we’ll teach you how to create change order templates so you can feel prepared for any obstacles that come your way.

What is a change order in project management?

A change order—also known as a change request in project management—is any official and documented change to a project plan. While the term “change order” is usually a construction industry term, change orders can be used in any industry to explain how a project will deviate from the original project scope

Change orders specify the type of change you—or others—seek and how that change will affect the deliverables, price, and timeline of the project. Common reasons people initiate change orders in project management include:

  • New stakeholder requests

  • Planning errors or omissions

  • Inaccurate estimates

  • Changes in the scope of work

  • Resource costs

  • Unplanned events

Project change orders are a common occurrence because, even with thorough project planning, your project objectives may change for unexpected reasons while you work on the project. As long as you prepare for changes to occur, the change control process won’t feel burdensome. 

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Printable vs. digital change order forms

Printable change order forms may be the only way you’ve seen change control happen in the past, but digital change control records changes alongside the rest of your project information. 

By keeping your project changes in line with the rest of your project material, you maintain a single source of truth for the entire project. Other benefits of tracking change orders through a digital platform include:

  • Easy review of the original plan in real time

  • Ability to share change orders with many people at once

  • Integration of change orders in an automated change management process

  • Ability to change the budget, timeline, and team member work once the change occurs

If you want your change order templates to integrate into a larger change order process, digital forms can save time and provide clarity.

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5 components of a change order

Before learning how to prioritize and triage change order requests, it’s important to review the components of a change order template. These components make it easy to review the change order and quickly understand the requested change, why the change was requested, and the expected impact the change will have. 

[inline illustration] What to include in a change order template (infographic)
  1. Description of change: The first section of the change order template should briefly describe the original project deliverable and the proposed changes.

  2. Itemized costs of change: In this section, you’ll list all the costs associated with the change you’re proposing. These costs may be indirect or direct costs, such as time for team members to work on the project, software needed, or travel expenses. 

  3. Total costs of change: Include an area that lists the total amount of money the change will cost so that others reviewing the change order can quickly see the cost impact. If you can’t list some of your costs as totals, you can leave this section blank. 

  4. Impact on timeline: In this section, describe the impact this change will have on the original project timeline. Will the change make the project take longer than originally planned? Explain how you plan to accommodate others if the timeline must change.

  5. Signatures: Include a section for the reviewers of your change order to sign. Also, provide your signature in this section.

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How to triage and prioritize change order requests

Change order submission and management go hand in hand. Supplying stakeholders with a change order template lets them know that their change isn’t guaranteed and that it must go through an approval process. 

[inline illustration] How to manage change order requests (infographic)

As a project manager, you’ll likely manage change order requests as they come in and search for the information you need to prioritize them. Use the steps below to determine how to sort through and prioritize incoming change orders. 

1. Review change order submission

When you hear someone vocalize a requested change, acknowledge their idea and direct them to the change order form so they can document the change. A change request may come from various people involved in a project, including:

  • External stakeholders

  • Department managers

  • You, as the project manager

  • Contractors in construction projects

If your stakeholders have never used a change order form before, it might be helpful to explain why this form is important. Let them know that their change will potentially impact other areas of the project, and a change order form allows you and your project approvers to review how the requested change aligns with the overall project objectives.

Once you receive the change order form, look it over and discuss the change with whoever submitted the form. Open communication is the most important thing to remember when someone makes a change request.

Tip: Keep all change order requests and project changes in a centralized project management software. That way, your team has a central source of truth for all project information. Then, when stakeholders submit new change orders,  you can ensure everyone on the project team has visibility into the new request.

2. Fill in any missing information

Once you understand a stakeholder’s change request, you’ll fill in any missing information on the change order form. Stakeholders should describe their change on the request form, but they’ll likely need your help assessing what the change will cost and how it will affect the project timeline.

Sections you may need to help with include:

  • Costs of changes: Stakeholders may fund your project, but you know where you’re allocating money and other resources. Discuss the change with the requester and make an itemized list of possible costs.

  • Impact on timeline: Stakeholders rarely know how their requested change will affect the project timeline. If they want the project completed by a certain date, you’ll need to analyze schedules and explain how deadlines will shift.

Completing the change order form is easier when you and the requester work together. If you’re lucky, you may also give the stakeholder some perspective on how the projects work from the inside.

3. Decide if the change should be made

You can now look at the change request in its entirety and determine whether the change should be made. When considering a change request, perform an impact analysis based on the seven elements of the project plan.

Goals: 

  • How does this change align with our project objectives? 

  • Will this change prevent us from achieving our project goals? 

Success metrics

  • How will we measure success? 

  • Are there risks associated with making this change?

  • Are the risks of this change worth the reward?

Stakeholders: 

  • Who should be involved in approving this change request? 

  • Who needs to be involved if we move forward with this change order?

Scope:

  • Does this change fall outside of our original project scope?

  • How much will it cost to make the change?

  • If it costs more money or resources, where will we get those things?

  • Will we need more people to make this change?

Deliverables:

  • How will making this change improve the end product?

  • Is the benefit associated with this change worth any changes to cost or resources, or timeline?

Timeline:

  • Will making this change affect our deadline?

  • Do we have the flexibility to change the timeline?

Communication plan: 

  • If approved, how will we communicate this change to the project team? 

Tip: Use project management software to visualize the impact of the change request on your project. Analyze metrics like  team utilization rate to determine the impact of your changes on the project timeline and scope.

4. Request resources to make the change

If you decide to move forward with the change, the next step is to get the resources you need to make it happen. Keep in mind: 

  • You may need additional team members to complete the change.

  • If you need more time to work on these deliverables, that time may delay other projects.

  • Money can come from the requester, but to secure physical resources, vendors and manufacturers must be on board.

  • You’ll need to ensure you can get additional resources within the designated timeframe you’ve set.

By this stage in the change control process, everyone on your team should be on board with the change. Employ the help of others when requesting resources to ease this process.

5. Incorporate change into project plan

Once everyone is on board with change and you have the resources you need to implement it, you’re ready to incorporate the change into the project plan. Next steps may include:

Don’t forget to sign the bottom of the change order form and stow it with the rest of your project documents for reference. This digital file may be useful when working on future projects or revamping your change control process. 

Tip: Everyone involved in the change control process should sign off on the change order form. Use a digital change order form so you can send your change order to individuals wherever they are more and give them the flexibility to send it back at their convenience.

Read: What is a business impact analysis (BIA)? 4 steps to prepare for anything

Change order template and example

Below, you’ll see a sample change order template. This company’s marketing department is planning to launch a new product and announce the product launch through a social media campaign. The original plan involved paid advertising on Instagram and Facebook, but Sally Brown wanted to make some changes.

[inline illustration] Change order (example)

The above change order form explains these key points:

  • Desire to expand the social media campaign to LinkedIn 

  • Desire to add organic social media posts to the project

  • Change will require the creation of a social media calendar and the writing of organic social media posts

  • Project budget must expand to accommodate paid ads on LinkedIn and a potential subscription for social media scheduling software

  • Project timeline will (and must) remain the same

  • To keep the project timeline on track, the team must receive additional support

Download a free version of this change order template below to use for your team.

Free change order template

Streamline the change order process with Asana forms

Having a clear change control process can streamline your project workflow, no matter what curveballs get thrown your way. When you use digital forms with Asana to manage change order requests, your changes can flow directly into your project management system. This allows you to spend less time coordinating work and more time doing it. 

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