Capturing the Full
Benefits of Construction
Change Order Patterns

Effectively managing change on a construction project is a key contributing factor to project success. Identifying and tracking potential and actual issues helps ensure that the impacts of change are monitored and measured accurately so they can be dealt with intelligently and swiftly.

While lessons learned are often associated with negative events that we work to avoid in the future, the most successful construction change order management programs can also create valuable information that could have strategic importance to active and future projects. How can you avoid risk and build data at the same time while best-managing your project’s change order patterns?

First, transparency in the construction change order process is crucial as it can reduce disputes and provide better relationships with clients and owners. Consistency in your methods is also essential as it allows your project staff to act quickly and effectively even as they transfer from project to project.

By properly identifying and addressing trends in change order patterns and management, you can experience the transparency and consistency you need to take full advantage of all the potential benefits of the tools and methods at your disposal, saving you time and money in the process.


The Importance of Volume with Construction Change Orders

One of the most straightforward trends to watch in change management is volume but understanding or acting on that volume always requires context. For example, how many changes are in flight? How many are normally completed on a project of similar size? How does that compare with past projects of a similar scope, type or market?

You also need to find out if you can correlate potential outcomes from those comparisons, and if you should make any adjustments in your approach. Consider your client as well when looking at trends. Why? Because different clients respond differently to higher volumes of construction change orders.

In addition, the trend data may support a different prime contract method with certain clients, thus providing an even better chance of success on future partnerships.


Considering the Source of Construction Change Orders

Another trend to consider is the source or type of issue that instigated the change. There are numerous possibilities and permutations of source/cause/reason when it comes to construction change orders.

However, you can be very targeted when reviewing these options and focus on the combinations that inform the decisions that are most pressing.

As an example, you could start with all out-of-scope changes not directed from the client. That data in itself could be useful, or it may be necessary to continue to slice it further. You may need to focus on design-driven changes and compare them with your design firms or engineering partners.


Searching with a Purpose

As your change patterns become clearer, you may want to refine and re-target your searches even more. To do this you might look at the location of construction change orders relative to the project. Are they close to a particular operation or structure, or even a particular elevation?

The date of the issue could also provide valuable information. Not just whether it was early or late in the project life cycle, but if there was an uptick in occurrences before a long weekend or after an extended holiday, for example.

A signed change order is often viewed as a successful cog in the project machine, and rightly so. Yet the  temptation to ignore the wealth of information associated with successful changes and focus only on the challenges limits the potential value of a quality construction change order management process.

By consuming the information available to you at a macro level, you can find beneficial opportunities that may not have been immediately visible. With the right tools to support those processes, you can learn from projects across your portfolio — and act on those lessons in real time — yielding more predictable project outcomes more often.

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