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In most instances, developing or rolling out a product, service, or update all at once makes it difficult to react to issues that may arise.
Phased implementation provides a better way to manage the launch of complex projects and products which have multiple components or stakeholders.
What is Phased Implementation?
Phased implementation describes the process of introducing a new project or product in stages.
In a phased implementation plan, businesses break down projects into smaller, manageable chunks, each with its own timeline and goals. This strategy gives organizations time to test all aspects of their product or service before launching it on a larger scale.
Commonly used in software and product development, phased implementation involves breaking a project into logical stages. Each stage can be treated as an individual project with its own objectives, requirements, and timeline.
By breaking projects down, companies can control the scale and pace of their launch.
Especially in the case of complex products (such as ERP systems), this implementation approach makes it easier to address any issues that arise during development, since teams can focus on a single component at a time.
- Phased Software Implementation: A method of software implementation that uses a series of steps to ensure successful deployment.
- Staged Development: A process in which a product is developed and released gradually, allowing for more accurate cost forecasting, risk management, and feedback review.
- Phased System Changeover: A strategy for system changeover (i.e., migrating from one system to another) that breaks the process into several steps or stages to ensure a measurable and successful transition.
Big Bang Implementation vs. Phased Implementation
The “big bang” approach is another strategy for software implementation, and some organizations prefer it for smaller projects. With the big bang approach, all components of the product are launched at once—often with a single launch event.
Rather than breaking implementation projects down into steps, a big bang implementation involves releasing the product or service all at once, just like a “big bang.” The goal is to deploy the system quickly and with minimal effort.
Big bang implementation works best when:
- The forecasted product demand is high and immediate.
- The system can be implemented in a single event.
- There are limited development time and resources available.
The problem with this approach is that it can be difficult to address any issues that may arise in such a rushed launch.
By contrast, phasing the process allows for more rigorous testing and fewer potential problems. Additionally, because each project phase has its own timeline, it can be easier to budget for and manage individual components separately.
Phased implementation also allows more time for product discovery, user feedback, and customer research. This can help organizations better understand their target market and the needs of their customers before releasing the product on a large scale.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Phased Implementation
Like all implementation strategies, phased implementation has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, mostly revolving around the timeline and business processes required.
Advantages of Phased Implementation
Phased implementation offers numerous advantages for businesses, including:
- Reduced risk. Breaking down a project into smaller initial phases reduces the risk associated with introducing new products and services. Companies can identify and address any issues by testing components individually before rolling out the entire solution, saving lots of time and development resources in the event of project failure.
- Potential long-term savings. Even minor issues like bugs can have a negative impact on customer satisfaction, employee adoption, or operational performance. A big bang approach fails to address these issues, which could result in major issues post-implementation.
- Extra time to train employees and personnel. End-user productivity is considerably higher when employees can familiarize themselves with the product before its full deployment. This approach provides organizations with the time needed to properly train their personnel and ensure a smooth transition.
- Improved customer feedback. By rolling out components on a project schedule, businesses can collect valuable customer data, which can be used to improve the overall system before its full release.
- Earlier decommissioning of legacy systems. When using a phased approach, organizations can decommission their legacy systems in stages. This helps avoid any problems caused by a big bang migration, such as downtime and data loss.
- Lower risk of scope creep. By breaking the project into manageable parts, businesses can more easily track and control the tendency of a project to grow in complexity and cost over time.
Disadvantages of Phased Implementation
Phased implementation is not without its disadvantages, of course. The following are some of the drawbacks to consider:
- Increased cost. Deploying each component requires separate development, testing, deployment, and further process steps. Without strong project leadership, costs from this can add up quickly.
- Potential delays in system availability. Moving through each step is typically slower than a big bang approach, so phased implementation may require more time before the solution can be released.
- Increased complexity. Implementing components individually requires careful coordination and organization between departments, making it tough to keep track of all tasks, resources, and timelines.
- Delayed ROI. Phased implementation can delay the return on investment for any given project, as organizations need to wait for each stage to complete before realizing company profitability.
- Frequent use of temporary interfaces. Since components are deployed in stages, businesses are forced to use temporary interfaces until the entire system is complete. These add extra cost and complexity to an already difficult project.
- Risk of turnover. With continuous use of temporary and changing interfaces, data inconsistencies arise when employees or product testers resign or change roles.
Which Projects are Best-Suited for Phased Implementation?
Phased implementation is a useful project management implementation process for complex and high-risk projects, particularly those that involve multiple departments and stakeholders.
Businesses should consider a phased implementation strategy if:
- They are a mid-sized or enterprise organization that can afford the additional cost and time to completion.
- The project is inherently risky, complex, or involves multiple stakeholders and departments.
- They have time to test and debug components individually before releasing them into production.
- Significant regulation or compliance requirements must be met (e.g., in the healthcare or financial industries).
- They need additional training for the personnel who will use the system.
- Deployment will occur over multiple sites, offices, or geographies, such as in the case of enterprise CRM software.
- The product has numerous user groups with varied functionality requirements.
Still, phased implementation isn’t suitable for every project.
Projects with tight budget and time constraints, for example, are not a good fit for phased implementation. Organizations should consider their goals and project management infrastructure before deciding which approach to take.
Startups and software providers looking to develop an MVP may also find the big bang application of project management more appropriate, as the goal is often to get something out quickly and at a low cost.
People Also Ask
What are the trade-offs with a phased approach?
The trade-offs with a phased approach to implementation are increased cost, potential delays in system availability, increased complexity and delayed return on investment (ROI). There may also be the frequent use of temporary interfaces while the components are being rolled out, which could result in extra cost and complexity.
What is phased vs. parallel implementation?
Parallel implementation is when multiple parts of a project are worked on simultaneously (i.e., in parallel), while phased implementation is when components or steps are deployed in stages. Parallel implementation is a form of phased implementation, but true phased implementation breaks the project into smaller pieces and deploys them in a specific order over the project duration.
What is the difference between pilot implementation and phased implementation?
Pilot implementation refers to the testing phase of the project management process, where users test out the system before it is fully released. Phased implementation is a larger-scale approach that breaks up the deployment of components and features into smaller, more manageable “chunks” and rolling them out in stages. Pilot implementation is often used as part of phased implementation.