How to Manage a Project

Making a Project Plan

Additional Materials

Implementation Planning

Implementation is virtually always a disruptive, stressful and uncertain process. The normal operation of the organisation is disrupted and replaced by ambiguity and disorder. To avoid making this worse than it need be, a number of issues must be addressed. This note covers the following:

1. Implementation strategy

There are essentially four broad strategies commonly used to introduce system changes:- direct changeover, parallel changeover, pilots, and phased introduction.

a).     Direct changeover

On day one of implementation the old system ceases and the new one commences - the Big Bang approach.

This approach is in many ways simpler, has the advantage that it is more definite and clear cut, and if it works there will be less disruption. However it can be more risky, and if it doesn't immediately work well can lead to chaos. If this approach is used then it is wise to do as much prior testing as possible.

b).     Parallel Changeover

Running of the new and the old in parallel until the new system is operating without problems.

This has the advantage that one can be sure that the new system is working well before the old one is discontinued. However, running two systems usually takes more resources and can lead to confusion. It does ensure continuity of output but often with loss of productivity.

c).     Use of pilot projects in part of the organisation

Introduction of the change for a trial period followed by a review.

This has the advantage of testing out the changes in a contained area and has proven often very useful in identifying unexpected problems and side-effects, and testing not just the changes but the way they should be best introduced. Can be used together with all the other approaches. Needs careful choice of pilots.

d).     Phased Introduction

These approaches are highly suitable for large scale changes and for changes in geographically dispersed organisations. They both make large changes more manageable. There are two types:,

  1. Introducing the change into the whole organisation one bit of change after another.
    The changes can be introduced in small steps with training being done in stages. Not all changes can be broken down in this way and even if they can, it can be a lengthy process. 
  2. Introducing the whole change into parts of the organisation (e.g. the Poll Tax).
    Here one can test and trial the ideas in some areas, possibly those most ready for change, and then into other areas -  "learning-as-you-go" and building on successes. Thus a fairly safe approach but again it can be quite a lengthy process.

2. Timing

There is sometimes an optimum point in relation to work cycles, workload pressure, annual leave and other environmental factors. Of course having identified such an optimum point, tight project control is then required to ensure that the change is ready to be implemented when planned. 

3. Pace.

This will doubtless be constrained by external pressures but the degree of readiness for change, the scale of the change, and the degree is ready of uncertainty involved should all ideally be taken into account in thinking about how fast to go.

4. Where to start.

It is usually desirable to start in those parts of the organisation which are most ready for change, particularly where pilots or phased implementation are to be used.

5. User Support.

People going through change may need support in the face of difficulties and uncertainties they encounter, both at the point of implementation and in the teething period that follows. Some combination of the following types of support may be employed:

  • Workshops and seminars designed to get discussion
  • manuals plus updating circulars. Hard to avoid although they tend to be bulky and cumbersome.
"Help Lines"
  • facilities inviting the user to specify his problem and the degree of help they require.
Support team
  • a central support team who can provide direct help to managers introducing changes in their areas - e.g. standing in for staff whilst they are trained in the new procedures, transferring knowledge from those who have already introduced the changes to those who are just starting.
Local support
  • a user who has become particularly skilled in the use of an IT system ( a local expert).
Management support
  • counselling & encouragement of supervisors & staff who must adjust to a new role
Change/learning mechanisms
  • to allow users to enhance and improve the system once it is in operation, and to identify problems and propose changes.