Once a new system is developed (or purchased), the organization must determine the best method for implementing it. Convincing a group of people to learn and use a new system can be a very difficult process. Using new software, and the business processes it gives rise to, can have far-reaching effects within the organization.
There are several different methodologies an organization can adopt to implement a new system. Four of the most popular are listed below.
- Direct cutover. In the direct-cutover implementation methodology, the organization selects a particular date that the old system is not going to be used anymore. On that date, the users begin using the new system and the old system is unavailable. The advantages to using this methodology are that it is very fast and the least expensive. However, this method is the riskiest as well. If the new system has an operational problem or if the users are not properly prepared, it could prove disastrous for the organization.
- Pilot implementation. In this methodology, a subset of the organization (called a pilot group) starts using the new system before the rest of the organization. This has a smaller impact on the company and allows the support team to focus on a smaller group of individuals.
- Parallel operation. With parallel operation, the old and new systems are used simultaneously for a limited period of time. This method is the least risky because the old system is still being used while the new system is essentially being tested. However, this is by far the most expensive methodology since work is duplicated and support is needed for both systems in full.
- Phased implementation. In phased implementation, different functions of the new application are used as functions from the old system are turned off. This approach allows an organization to slowly move from one system to another.
Which of these implementation methodologies to use depends on the complexity and importance of the old and new systems.
As new systems are brought online and old systems are phased out, it becomes important to manage the way change is implemented in the organization. Change should never be introduced in a vacuum. The organization should be sure to communicate proposed changes before they happen and plan to minimize the impact of the change that will occur after implementation. Change management is a critical component of IT oversight.
Once a new system has been introduced, it enters the maintenance phase. In this phase, the system is in production and is being used by the organization. While the system is no longer actively being developed, changes need to be made when bugs are found or new features are requested. During the maintenance phase, IT management must ensure that the system continues to stay aligned with business priorities and continues to run well.