Change control is a formal management discipline used to keep a project on schedule, budget and to control its quality and scope. Change control, which is a subset of a change management strategy, typically applies to information technology, product releases or infrastructure initiatives.
Any business project can place stress on budget and resources if not held to an approved plan. Uncontrolled changes to project requirements during a plan's execution are a primary cause of project failures. A change control policy mitigates damage by anticipating that requests for changes are inevitable and defining the process to use when requests occur.
A typical change control plan incorporates several stages, including submissions, reviews, pre-defined response recommendations, and final approval or rejection. The nature of those steps depends partly on whether a paper trail, an e-mail system, or a database or application is used to track changes. The request submission stage requires a method to document and prioritize incoming requests. The review step looks at the potential impact of the change on the overall success of the project compared to the request's criticality, culminating in a recommendation or an action plan. The final stage provides a decision based on recommendations, usually by a change control board with an executive perspective. Applying change control to ongoing software development using product backlogs and original item stacks helps manage change while allowing maximum flexibility for shifting business priorities.