Title: Computerized Change Control System
Phase(s): Preliminary Engineering
In any multi-million dollar construction project, changes are inevitable. The management of changes consumes a large amount of the Project Management Team's time. The Construction Manager (CM) is required to review contractors' requests for Information, coordinate responses with the design consultant, issue change notices and review change requests. Changes are also initiated by the design consultant. Contract administration staff are required to ensure that all change documentation conforms to the terms of the contract and timeliness requirements must be met by all parties. The design team must review contractor change submittals for conformance with engineering criteria. Change management is therefore a sophisticated and complex process which requires the involvement of several entities, each of which is charged with different responsibilities and all of which must be carefully coordinated.
In 1990, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recognized the need for a new approach to controlling changes in a multi-project environment and subsequently developed and implemented a sophisticated and automated Change Control System (CCS) that allows for efficient change form generation in the field as well as multi-level management reports to monitor field and design change activity. Up to that time, changes were being tracked at the level of the Change Control Board, a status report being available to identify after-the-fact decisions in the system. Several problems were identified. The consistency of support documentation varied from project to project and sometimes from contract to contract. Reports were often untimely as a result of their production being limited to a stand-alone computer environment. Production of change related documents using a traditional approach relied heavily on multiple entry of the same information such as contract number, cost, change notice number, change order number and the contractor's name and address. Each time an entry was made, the system was exposed to human error, with potentially disastrous results.
The agency was also aware of other problems waiting to be resolved, including the need to interchange data with the newly developing management tools, such as the computerized Cost Control System (CCS), and the consistent application of a process for reviewing change orders for eligibility for federal funding.
The system is connected by a Wide Area Network (WAN) that is accessed by all major consultants and the MTA in real time. Use of the CCS contributes to timely processing and quality of change documentation as well as providing management with control data and activity trend information
2. The Lesson
The agency's research established that software to address the specific requirements of transit construction was commercially unavailable. Consequently, in view of the magnitude of the rail construction program, it was decided that the most effective action would be to develop software which would be capable of tracking not only contractor change notices and change orders but also contractor requests for information and potential claim notices. Furthermore, it would be able to link with other systems that had been identified to form a comprehensive Management Information System (MIS).
The agency engaged a consultant to develop the CCS, building in solutions to all of the known problems by involving user groups to assist in each stage of the system's development. The consultant was responsible for development of not only the CCS but also the other units of the MIS, making structure of the databases consistent for ease of further development if necessary.
Use of the CCS now offers the following advantages:
- Excessive duplication of data entry with its associated discrepancies is being avoided.
- Data is readily accessible for customizing reports to illustrate Lessons Learned analysis.
- Funding eligibility requirements have been identified and are being applied to each change order.
- Data consistency and process approach have been established with multiple consultants.
- Information is available on a "real-time" basis.
- Productivity gains of up to 400 percent have been registered by users of the system.
The MTA is making its CCS available to other agencies, with optional training and technical support as necessary, for a relatively small fee. It therefore appears to offer a unique opportunity to any agency identifying the need for a CCS to acquire such a system at a fraction of the cost it would take to develop its own system.
Since change control is a fundamental function in the management of any project, the CCS has the potential for a wide application. In practice however, use of the system would be limited to projects that are in the first phase of planning, since it would not appear to be practical to adopt the CCS in the middle of a project when a significant amount of data has already been input into another system.
Although the system is being used in Los Angeles on a WAN, it could also be implemented in an environment that depends on field originated data updates using disk transfer.