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Whatever field the project is in, but especially in IT and development, it’s an unwritten rule that the chance of receiving a last-minute change request is directly proportional to how perfectly everything is going. It’s easy to assume that a customer has seen the fruits of your hard work and, impressed by your effectiveness, now feels that adding a whole new feature to their new app is something your team can knock out of the park on the Friday before launch and still make happy hour.

The reality, of course, is that a change request has an effect similar to that of an iceberg ahead of an early-20th century passenger line. There’s a justified panic as everyone rushes to action, trying to change course and bolt on lines of code without causing everything to collapse, all while a sinking feeling slowly takes over.

Obviously, that’s not a great situation for anyone. This is part of the reason so many IT teams are adopting Agile tools and practices specifically designed to “absorb” changes, allowing more nimble responses to the unexpected. So, in that spirit, here are a few secrets to taking last-minute change requests in stride.

Keep the client in the mix.

Clients can have varying levels of understanding of your field and the difficulty or issues caused by asking for a late-game change. In most cases, and especially for change requests, the client may be unaware of the breadth of the challenges they are setting and, thus, you’ll need to explain it to them at reasonable length. This isn’t about treating your client like a kindergartener, but rather making sure that they understand the issues and are signing off on the request in full knowledge. Otherwise, a client request to fix a new avalanche of bugs can turn into the client’s disappointment when the project is delayed or goes over-budget.

Much of this should be addressed in your team’s approval process. At that point, it’s important to determine whether the change falls inside or outside the scope of the project, how urgent it is and what consequences will follow if the change is approved.

Let’s say the change is approved. Before moving forward, clearly communicate what the client is signing up for – e.g., how much it will cost and whether the project will be delayed. This open communication can ameliorate some of the panic of a late change request while strengthening your client relationship in the long run.

Stay organized.

So, the client wants to make a major change and it’s been signed off by all the relevant stakeholders – what next? Well, before any moves are made to add a feature, create a new API or prep an alternative database, a new task schedule needs to be created and disseminated. But in order for team members to be able to stay focused on important tasks and meet new deadlines, they must all have access to this new information.

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Cloud-based collaboration tools can provide just the platform teams need to organize tasks clearly and efficiently. And since more and more of today’s collaboration tools support Agile frameworks like Kanban and Scrum, teams can manage tasks more easily than ever with the visual power of Kanban boards, swimlanes and more. With the right tools, responding to change requests in an organized way becomes as easy as creating a task card that everyone can see.

Speed up your response time.

While we’re taking pages from the Agile playbook, it’s worth it to remember that a certain amount of uncertainty is to be expected in any project. But if you’re equipped to communicate requests, assign tasks and collaborate on solutions as quickly as possible, you can accelerate your responses to late change requests while minimizing the delays (and headaches) that often come with them.

But how exactly can teams start addressing change requests more quickly and effectively? As with task management, an important part of the equation is using the right tools. Email doesn’t always cut it when it comes to getting work done fast. Instead, teams should utilize collaboration tools that get them all on the same cloud-based platform, allowing them to communicate and respond to needs in real time.

Clarizen has designed a visual task management tool for just that purpose. With Clarizen Go, teams can work how they want, whether that be through sprints in Scrum, Kanban boards, or something in between. You can create and assign tasks with the click of a button, and tracking progress is as easy as logging into your visual Workspace. Learn more today about how Clarizen Go helps teams manage issues and requests in real time.

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