Change management and impact analysis: Reviewing requirements changes

Expert Sue Burk explains the importance of gaining proper approval for requirements changes and offers suggestions for the most efficient ways to communicate between analysts, architects, developers and project managers.

When requirements change, should there be some kind of review to make sure everyone is in agreement? If so, who needs to approve the changes?

Change impact analysis is a critical aspect of the review and approval process. Sometimes, apparently simple requirements changes have a large impact on business processes or software, especially in organizations with older systems or a great many integrated systems. If you’re using the traceability capabilities of a requirements tool, some of the change impact analysis associated with requirements reviews can be automated. 

Requirements changes must be reviewed by the organization, analysts, architects and the project manager for the development effort. Together, these stakeholders assess the value of changing a requirement, which entails balancing costs, risks and benefits.

On many projects, organization approval is provided by business stakeholders or a designated person empowered to make decisions about requirements changes. On Agile projects, a product owner or product champion has ultimate decision-making authority about which requirements will be delivered and when they will be delivered.[1]

If your organization requires a number of stakeholders to approve requirements changes, and if the stakeholders are willing to use automated tools, consider using a change management or requirements tool for stakeholder notification and to track sign-offs. At the same time, try to streamline your decision-making rules and processes. Prolonged decision making around changing requirements increases the time--and cost--of implementing valuable requirements.

[1] For more information on how Agile requirements changes are expected, invited, and incorporated, please refer to Yvette Francino’s recent interview with Ellen Gottesdiener.

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