Big Bang or phased roll out? Which approach to P2P transformation is best?

Yatin Anand
Yatin Anand
Director, KPMG, a Coupa partner

Yatin is an experienced leader with a proven track record of driving supply chain and procurement strategy and transformation initiatives across several industries. He specializes in leading global teams on multi-country, multi-cultural programs to deliver strong, measurable results.

Read time: 10 mins
Big Bang

big-bangWhen implementing an eProcurement technology solution, companies often ask if they should go-live in a ‘big bang’ or phased way. While comparing the birth of the universe to the implementation of a new business solution may be a stretch comparison, it does help to highlight important considerations which need to be taken into account.

A big bang refers to a deployment where all sites, users, regions, etc. go live with the system at the same time. This helps to drive speed to value because everyone can start using the application on day one. A key benefit of this approach is that design, configuration, integration, testing, and training need to be executed one time only. 

It can be very efficient, but it may very well be more complex and present more risk. In fact many organizations shy away from a big bang because of the risk of being overwhelmed with end user challenges, which may affect buy-in and reputation for the deployment.

Additionally, there is a serious risk of business disruption if the required application functionality is unavailable even for a day. Should you be in the fortunate position of having a backup purchasing process that can remain in place while you go-live, a big bang is worth strong consideration.  There’s more planning and change management needed in order to minimize some of these risks but this additional time commitment may be significantly less than deploying the software in multiple phases.

The benefit of a phased approach is that it gives you the flexibility to test the waters with an initial go-live and build the lessons learned from this experience into subsequent go-lives. This type of deployment typically takes longer and thus may require additional effort from the implementation team. It may also require some overlap of old and new technologies, and development of interim processes to manage purchasing execution across multiple systems.  Overall though, it can be less risky and less disruptive because your organization can gradually get used to new ways of doing things as you perfect the rollout process, and any identified issues can be isolated and resolved prior to the next phase.

Unless you have a regulatory mandate or other compelling deadline that is forcing you to do a big bang, the approach you choose depends on the resources you have at your disposal, risk appetite, your company culture, and the experience your company has with enterprise-wide technology projects. Here’s how to assess some of the more common considerations when selecting a rollout option:

Resource availability and risk appetite

The big bang approach tends to work best at companies with the resources, experience and infrastructure to take on a broader scope. You should be willing to recruit appropriate levels of program and project management, change management, IT, and business stakeholder involvement to help drive the project to the defined schedule.  Even with all of the above in place, there may be instances where the risk far outweighs the return and a phased approach should be considered.  For example, for a global company with 50,000 employees operating in 50 countries, rolling out a new system everywhere at the same time would be resource prohibitive and quite challenging. But you might be able to do a global big bang rollout if you have just a few thousand employees in five locations.

Consider your company’s ability to do the following:

  • Define a scope of work you can comfortably handle in one go live and the resources available to support the effort
  • Determine the backup options which exist in the event of a go-live issue
  • Confirm that you can handle the projected volume of inquiries from end users post go-live to get the application into steady state operations
  • Account for all internal and external stakeholder groups impacted by the deployment
  • Consider the company’s ability to recover quickly should any balls drop, as well as your ability to absorb a potential dip in productivity associated with such an issue

Corporate culture

You should also consider your company culture. How well does your company do with change? In highly regulated industries such as public sector or utilities, companies tend to have a risk-averse culture that might make a big bang approach challenging. In more dynamic industries such as technology, consumer goods and retail, the culture might be more accepting.

Consider how well the company has done with past projects where new technologies are being adopted. If the company has had experience with enterprise transformation projects, a big bang could work. If not, it might be better to gain that experience through a phased-in project rather than attempting a big bang for the first time in company history.

In addition to evaluating the organization’s ability to change, consideration should be made around visible leadership support, IT involvement, and robust change management support.  A big bang will require an even greater and focused effort by these groups.  A phased approach will also require this effort but it can be spread over a longer timeframe, and the successes of previous go-lives will provide additional momentum for the change to happen in subsequent go-lives. 

Planning and preparation

Regardless of deployment approach, appropriate effort needs to be placed on planning and preparation.  Organizations leaning towards a big bang need to place extra focus on preparation because the impacts can be far greater when dealing with larger user volumes, multiple locations and regions, and greater integration complexity.  Common areas which require a focus during planning include: language translation for training materials, technical blackout dates which prohibit go-lives during that time, financial close timing, data migration, conflicting priorities, and resource availability.

A phased rollout may not satisfy the need for speed, but it’s a perfectly good approach. You still need adequate planning and change management, but the expectations are lower and you can refine your approach as you go.

There are numerous considerations for determining the ideal rollout strategy for your organization and we have identified some of the most critical ones above. If you have the resources, risk appetite, strong executive sponsorship, a culture that adopts change quickly, and the willingness to plan and prepare, a big bang can be successful and may offer a rapid return on investment. If not, a phased approach may make more sense. You may not get there as quickly, but the important thing is that you’ll get there safely. 

Raymond Hernandez is a manager and Yatin Anand is a director at KPMG, a Coupa partner.