Phasedrelease Rollout Plan

Finally, one of the critical success factors with LCS development involves a move away from a single-release rollout strategy and toward a phased- release plan. Only one of the projects reviewed had attempted to use a big- bang strategy and, even in this case, it became apparent that the approach would prove problematic as the conversion approached. The effort encountered significant delays as it reworked the release plan and moved instead to the view that a phased release was most desirable.

The remaining projects followed a phased delivery. The phased-release approach serves a number of functions:

■ Reduced risk. Using a number of releases with partial functionality can reduce the risk of implementation. At the global stock exchange, for example, initial discussions with the company's management were key in moving from the riskier single-release approach and toward a phased rollout, although the phased approach appeared to delay the benefits of the system. The balance was the reduced risk of achieving the benefits.

■ Early verification. A phased approach permits early verification by business users of essential components as they work with the system in their business. From the review work conducted, it appears that a first release tends to take from 18 to 24 months. Subsequent releases tend to occur in the range of 6 to 12 months after earlier phases. This is in contrast to a more typical three- to five-year development that a single-release approach may require. The result of the iterations is that the user has worked with the system and provided verification of the value of the system.

■ Ability to make mid-course corrections. Inherent in the release approach is the ability to review the overall situation as the releases are rolled out and thereby to make mid-course changes. As noted, an LCS effort can go on for many years, during which time a company and its business environment can go through a great deal of change. The release strategy can provide the means to deal with the changes in a controlled manner. It can also address issues in a long systems development where for periods of time the design must be "frozen."

■ Closer user involvement. Business impact can be seen faster when rollouts are provided to the user earlier through iterations. This allows the user to build up experience with and support for the system, rather than facing a sudden conversion at the end of a large development.

The downside of a phased rollout strategy is the significant increase in development cost. To this author's knowledge, there are no widely accepted estimates of the increase in cost caused by the phased-release approach. However, there have been some evaluations that showed more than a 50 percent increase in costs when a multiple-release strategy was compared to a single release. This would seem to suggest not going with a multiple-release strategy. The trade-off is the very high risk of failure in a single release, combined with the benefits noted above of a multiple release.

The points discussed above are key to understanding the value of a release strategy Phased releases allow a company to reduce risk, increase buy-in, and build a system that is closer to the company's business needs. The lower apparent costs may make a "big bang" approach appear desirable, but the hidden costs and greater risks may prove unacceptable in the longer term. It is vital that management involved in this decision carefully weighs the costs and risks of either approach.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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