Phasing Roll-Outs

Another strategy which has proven useful in both the public and private sectors is creating overlaps between the status quo and the changed processes, approach, or technologies so their use and adoption can be phased in. Although not always possible, using this approach allows the changes to be introduced as a test or 'beta' concept which people can embrace if and when desired, followed by a change over at some point where changes become the default while access to the 'legacy' processes or systems is available. Eventually, the legacy environment or practices can be phased out. This allows people to migrate to a changed environment at different paces while lowering transition risk because the legacy capabilities are still available.

The phased approach provides a number of benefits. A phased effort reduces the risk of transition, enabling smaller segments of resources to try something and provide feedback and ideas not just on the changes but the process of migrating itself. The concept of introducing the changes as a ‘beta’ also reduces expectations. Labeling the effort as a beta or trial embeds the expectation that not all the kinks may have been worked out and individuals tend to be more forgiving of those kinks. In addition, organizational resistance is lowered and it too is phased as early adopters jump on board, followed by additional adopters which creates the momentum necessary to eventually force the late adopters to move forward.

A federal organization for example recently used this approach to phase in a new set of administrative forms and approval processes. A link was initially provided to the new automated web forms with a ‘beta’ label encouraging use while the old downloadable forms remained the default option on the web page. After several months the new forms and workflow became the default but a link was maintained providing access for a period of time to the ‘legacy’ forms if desired. After an additional period of time the legacy link was disabled and eventually the forms were taken offline.

The phased approach can also be used in a more passive way when the ability to dictate change is almost non-existent. Even in environments where no formal control exists to push changes, a new approach, service, or capability can be offered, allowing various organizational elements to leverage it as desired on a 'pull' basis. Over time, through marketing, outreach, and other indirect mechanisms, the changes could become more widely adopted simply because they are superior or proven over time.