Change Management in Software Engineering

Introduction: What is Change Management in Software Engineering

Change management is a continuous process in software engineering aimed at refining and continuously improving software products/solutions.

The primary goal of managing change requests is to accommodate the evolving needs of clients while ensuring that software solutions remain within budget and meet the desired standards. This process involves implementing change requests to adapt to growing demands and ensure market fit.

Clients may request changes due to various reasons, including:

  • Business, budget, and demand growth/decline
  • Change in product requirements, reforming final vision
  • Shifts in market demand
  • Increase in software complexity
  • Team size and structure change

The Role Change Management Plays

Change is inevitable in every aspect of life and is just as well a standard process in software development. Requirements change all the time, so it’s important to consider these changes not as a force majeure, but to incorporate them into the software development project management process.

Effective change management is crucial to maintaining focus, organization, and quality throughout the development process and plays a huge role in ensuring project success.

Getting Started with Change Management

Imagine you're a startup owner with limited funding, and are looking to turn your visionary idea into a product. As a startup, you understand that your product will undergo numerous changes before reaching its final form and market fit.

In most cases, most startups typically test ideas, gather customer feedback, and gradually refine their products. This eventually leads to requests for changes in the software development process to improve your product.

Due to budget constraints, you might request cost-effective solutions that prioritize successful product launches over initial high quality and complexity. However, it's essential to communicate your vision clearly to your software team or partner, so they can be ready to build scalable solutions as your product evolves.

Continuous changes will be introduced as your product eventually grows more in complexity and demands higher quality. In such cases, we advise software development teams (which we already implement) to make a plan well in advance, defining how changes can be handled and the process of switching to a more advanced software solution. The best practice is to make change plans as soon as possible to save costs and time.

The Change Management Process - 3 Key Steps

The change management process might differ based on your product/project complexity, resources, team structure, and deadlines.

  1. Identification of Change Needs: Clients, product/project managers, or developers propose improvements or changes. These proposals are evaluated based on their potential to enhance performance and align with project goals.
  2. Planning and Implementation: Once a change is approved, the development team discusses its integration into the development lifecycle. Goals, timelines, risks, potential limitations, side effects and costs are communicated transparently between the team and the client.
  3. Execution and Evaluation: Upon agreeing on the desired change, the development team creates the change plan, sets new goals, timelines, and starts implementation. Keep on reading as we uncover more about this step in our article.

Change Management Process in Software Development- SCD Company

How to successfully manage change requests.

To manage change requests effectively, it's essential to address the following points:

  • Origin of Change Requests: Identify who proposed the change and why.
  • Change Implementation Strategy: Determine how the change request will be implemented.
  • Set Clear Measurement Goals: Define measurable criteria for the completion of the change request, e.g., tests, metrics, or another method.
  • Documentation and Management: Establish a system for saving and managing change requests effectively.

First of all, clear communication and alignment on business objectives are critical to ensuring that change requests are implemented seamlessly. Each change request should be communicated to all relevant stakeholders, including product/project managers, developers, testers, and QA engineers.

Once the development process begins and the first change requests are made, software development teams should document the current state of the software system. Next, the development team should define what is lacking in the current system, understand how the proposed change can solve these issues, and help the client achieve the desired outcome.

Estimating the cost of change

The cost of change is one of the most important aspects and it determines whether the actual change implementation is plausible. The cost of change refers not only to the monetary cost of production (software development and testing) but also to the cost of challenges or issues that may arise as a result of the implemented changes.

Classifying and Prioritizing Changes

Who decides what change request should be implemented immediately and how is that decision made?

Usually, clients turn to experienced software providers with the request to prioritize change requests based on their urgency and impact on project goals. By classifying changes and conducting cost-benefit analyses, development teams can advise the client on estimations and together form informed decisions about which changes to implement immediately and which ones to defer or reconsider.

Let’s say, the requested change is too expensive and goes over the budget, then the entire business goals and newly identified limitations should be reviewed thoroughly. Ideally the client and the partner can agree on an alternative solution to this issue without affecting the quality and cost.

The revised change request is then reviewed once more. In the next stages, changes are implemented the same way as normally scheduled tasks. The only exception is that it is mandatory to ensure the documented business goals are achieved at the QA stage.

Balancing the Change Speed and Product’s Stability: The Role of a Project Manager

Maintaining a balance between implementing changes quickly and ensuring product stability is crucial. For example, if change requests are not handled well, and changes get made uncontrollably, the product will be constantly unstable. The task of the project manager is to distinguish which changes need to be prioritized and help to maintain a reasonable balance.

On the contrary, the requested change might be the key to breaking into the market, and delaying it for months might result in the product release being “outdated” and unable to beat the competition.

Author's note: Read more about “Obsolete Before Launch Products” on our blog here.

That’s when project management methodologies such as Agile come into play. Given that the usual sprint duration is about 2 weeks, the planned change might be implemented with some delay. However, this approach allows the stability of the product. Moreover, it helps to keep the software development team productive despite the constantly changing requirements of the project. There are, of course, exceptions when the requested changes need to be implemented immediately as the success of the entire project depends on it.

Changes and Software Architecture Refactoring: The Role of a Project Architect

By integrating and executing initially unplanned changes, the product gradually transitions into what's known as a "legacy" system- a controversial set of poorly linked components, challenging to maintain and develop.

This progression occurs organically, as the initial architectural choices were made at the start of the project, which at the time perfectly balanced the conflicting business requirements. For instance, the system's performance often clashes with its maintenance costs.

If the requirements change, the balance point is also shifted. And, as a consequence, the development team might make changes to certain architectural decisions and adapt the project’s components.

The decision on the need for architecture refactoring is made by the project architect together with the product owner based on a comparison of the refactoring cost with the cost of supporting and further developing a legacy system that has already become non-optimal.


Effective change management is the heart of a successful software engineering process. By implementing change management processes, Information Technology (IT) companies can navigate the complexities of software development while delivering high-quality products/solutions that meet client expectations and goals. From identifying change needs and testing the ability to perform this change to prioritizing and implementing them effectively, every step plays a crucial role in ensuring the success and sustainability of software projects.

Apr 25, 2024