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Implementation Rollout: The Virtues of a Phased Approach

The success of any implementation is never guaranteed: challenges seem to lurk around every corner.  As indicated in a prior blog (Structuring a Global Implementation) there are ways to anticipate and address these challenges before they materialize.  With a properly structured team, best practice solutions and standardized business processes, the implementation has a strong chance for success.

But what about rollout?  What about that phase after much of the hard work has been done, changes have been fought over and agreed to, and surprises have been uncovered and addressed in testing?  After all the headache and heartache (and heartburn), isn’t it better to just ‘get it over with’ and not prolong the pain to the enterprise and go ‘Big Bang’ as opposed to a Phased Approach? 

The implementation rollout can be done in an either big bang approach or in a phased manner. The big bang approach, which implies putting together the entire system in one stroke across the organization, is possible for mature companies having previous experience in similar projects and capable of managing huge organizational changes. 

In a phased implementation, a pilot run is conducted at a pre-selected site and after stabilization and lessons learned, it is rolled out for other locations. Learning from the initial deployment can be applied to subsequent deployments.  Using a train the trainer approach, trainers for subsequent deployments can get hands on experience in current deployments.

 The global template will be continuously modified to incorporate local statutory requirements.  The phased approach is manageable and less risky for many organizations. It is also important to sequence the ERP module implementations and align it to the company’s business objectives.

Some of the factors influencing the above approach decision are:

·         Availability of resources and capital

·         Time horizon on Return of Investment

·         Impact of customers/vendors

·         Limitations of current legacy systems

Availability of resources and capital will dictate how far you can ‘stretch’ your implementation team.  Your time horizon for ROI is the guideline for determining ‘how long this should take’ (and if done correctly has factored in your rollout approach).  The impact to your customers and vendors should be mitigated by your implementation strategy (ensuring customers are billed, cash is collected and vendors get paid).  The limitations of your current legacy systems imply that the systems are either slated to be retired or can no longer be supported, either from an IT or a usability standpoint. 

Project rollout can come at a time when most of your resources have ‘implementation fatigue’ and its significance is often overlooked:  all the hard work is done—now it’s time for a handoff, right?  Obviously, there is more to it, which tends to favor phasing your rollout in a way that best meets the demands of the enterprise.

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