Efficient Change Management Across the Product Development Lifecycle
Blog | August 31st, 2023

Efficient Change Management Across the Product Development Lifecycle

In a world where change is the only constant - product design, development, and delivery are no exception. The product development lifecycle involves several processes, with each stage introducing some changes due to various factors and reasons. For instance:

  • At the design stage, the changes happen as different stakeholders contribute different inputs that cause the design to evolve. This will happen till the design is frozen based on the requirements and specifications of the product.
  • During the production stage, process or product changes may be introduced due to practical constraints such as the availability of raw materials or production limitations and even the cost of production.
  • At the testing stage, the discovery of any issue may trigger a change requirement.
  • At the post-market stage, factors related to logistics, customer feedback, or warning from regulatory authorities may create a need for change.

At each stage, the implications of change are different in terms of cost and efficiency, the lowest being during the design phase. As the product moves to the next stage, the cost and risks of change increase and the time-to-market may be delayed.

Three Ds of Product Development Lifecycle

Best Practices for Implementing Changes Across the Product Lifecycle

The introduction of changes to a product or service - be it in terms of the design, the raw materials, the process, or any other aspect - does not end with a request for the change being initiated. However valid it may seem; it must be evaluated from multiple angles before the change is accepted and implemented.

Best practices for introducing changes in the product development lifecycle include:

  • Change Review and Approval: The introduction of a change requires all stakeholders to be informed and associated processes to be modified accordingly. The downstream and upstream processes must be updated accordingly to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of it, and can verify, validate, review, and approve before the change can be implemented.
  • Validating the Need for Change: The review process must assess the need for the change and the nature of the change being proposed. Is it essential? Will it improve the process, performance, or quality of the product? Is it because the current raw material/design has limitations? Will it have the desired effect? These are some of the questions that reviewers must ask before approving the change.
  • Risk Assessment: A change brings with it some known and unknown risks. Therefore, a risk assessment becomes critical to ensure that the change indeed will reduce a known risk identified in the original product design and development process. Sometimes, the change may introduce a new set of risks that may nullify the benefit. Therefore, this must be identified and the decision based on the risk analysis of the proposed change.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Will the proposed change increase the cost without adding value? How will it affect the production schedule and what will be the implications of any delays in such a scenario? Will not introducing the change cause performance issues later, leading to scrapping, wastage, or rework? The criticality of the proposed change in containing direct and indirect costs must be factored into the cost-benefit analysis.
  • Supply Chain Implications: How will the change affect the inventory and production? Will it require identifying new suppliers or going back to existing suppliers with new requirements? Will that affect the production schedule? How critical is that for the success of the product? These are some questions that will help assess the need for the proposed change.

Read our blog Key Best Practices for Requirements Traceability and Product Risk Management to know more about change management in risk management: https://www.compliancequest.com/blog/rtm-best-practices/

Making the Change Review and Approval Processes Efficient

Given the number of stages, the number of teams, and the number of technologies involved in product development, introducing any change, reviewing interchangeability, and product disposition in case of nonconformance can be as difficult as moving a mountain and needs to be implemented with much care and forethought. Therefore, it needs to be process-oriented and requires:

  • Collaboration and Communication: Since product development requires the coming together of different teams at different stages of the life cycle, any change requires inputs from all of them. Even if it does not affect them directly, the change and its impact must be communicated to them to ensure that they are aware and prepared.
  • Documentation: Each change and the results of the associated analyses must be documented and shared with the relevant stakeholders. An audit trail of the document with version control is critical for compliance as well as traceability in case of any issues.
  • Training: The change may introduce the need for new skills and knowledge amongst different team members. Appropriate training will need to be provided to meet these new requirements.
  • Supplier: An existing supplier may need to enhance their capabilities or a new identified, evaluated, and onboarded. Appropriate processes must be initiated to revise the ASL and the documents shared for the new requirements.
  • Risk Assessment: A change introduces new risks. These risks must be identified, evaluated for impact, and ranked to make informed decisions about whether the change can be implemented.
  • Complaints and Feedback: Customer feedback is valuable for triggering changes. A process to loop it in so that the suggestions can be incorporated at an earlier stage will reduce the cost of development while improving the quality of the product.

Find out what are the critical success factors for change management from our blog: https://www.compliancequest.com/blog/critical-success-factors-for-implementing-change/

A cloud-based solution such as ComplianceQuest’s Product Lifecycle Management integrated with Change Management Software helps teams collaborate and communicate on a single platform to introduce, review, and approve changes. It helps with risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis, and identifying supply chain issues from within the system. Documentation, version control, and audit trail are enabled as there is a centralized document management system with permission-based controls. It is also integrated with training and complaint management, enabling developers to loop back feedback to the design and development process and identify and meet training needs.

To know more about the CQ PLM, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/product-lifecycle-management-plm/

Find out how the Change Management Software from CQ can help you with managing changes in product design and development: https://www.compliancequest.com/lp/change-management/

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