construction change order management

Most large projects are likely to go awry at some point, especially in the construction industry. While some problems may be a quick fix, there are others that could require fundamental changes to the original approved plan. In construction, these are called Change Orders, and let me tell you, they are a pain in the you-know-what.

We get this question a lot — what’s the best way to manage change for a large-scale project? With plenty of experience under our belts, we decided to put together a compilation of the basics and best practices.

What constitutes a change order?

As a project moves along, clients change their minds on what was originally agreed upon or what should’ve (or should not have) been included in the signed scope of work.

Consequences of not following the original scope of work usually include additional time and resources from the construction team to meet client expectations. Any work outside of the original scope, including anything that was not estimated properly, unanticipated obstacles, and project add-ons would require a change order.

What are the best practices for managing change orders?

The key to managing change orders is establishing clear communication with the client from the very beginning when outlining the original scope of work. Be clear in laying out the cost-to-service relationship and keep everything outlined in as much detail as possible. The last thing you want to do is surprise the customer with something they believed was included in the original scope.

Before the client signs the contract, make sure they understand that things can be altered and added after the fact, but this will require a change order document. Never start additional work until the change order is signed. Proper documentation of any changes will help you stay organized while saving you time and capital in the long run.

Another great tip for managing the process is constant communication. Make sure no questions are left unanswered and every detail on the change order is explained as fully as the original scope of work.

While it’s not mandatory, it may not be a bad idea to limit the amount of change orders that can be created in a single project. This sets the standard that changes cannot be made on the fly, and multiple changes won’t be tolerated. We recommend if the client/owner changes their mind frequently, to give them time to sort out the final vision before moving forward, and create a separate scope of work if necessary.

How can I handle changes from the owner’s side?

Change orders should be created and handled by the contractor and legal team. Changes in scope, on the other hand, can come from the owner’s side. For instance, if the owner wanted to change out tile flooring for carpet, since carpet is cheaper than tile, this would result in a cheaper original scope of work.

Again, communication is key. Offer your best professional opinion and communicate frequently to make sure everyone is aligned with the new project scope.

Learn more about how CDO Group can help with managing your projects accurately while handling change effectively.