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10 Steps to Successful A Technology Rollout

Anytime you have to roll out a new technology, whether it's through an office complex, or across a state wide operation, or even a national one, you're dealing with a task deep in the art of logistics. As Clausewitz said of warfare, "Amateurs study tactics, professional study logistics", and this applies to technology as well as to warfare.

Many of the same techniques that are used to plan military operations can be used to plan a technology rollout.

1. Summarize Your Project. Your project should contain the requirements of the project, what your organization stands to gain from implementing it, and it should mention possible obstacles or pitfalls. In particular, if you're waiting for feature implementations that aren't present yet, mark their delivery dates in this summary.

2. Select Your Vendor. The most important trait to select from your vendor is communications ability and reliability. Nothing will destroy your plans faster than a vendor telling you that the dog ate their homework, or finding that they've run down a rabbit hole. Look for vendors with a proven track record first, and always ask to talk to prior clients about what worked and didn't work.

3. Set Your Project Team: Your project team should be made up of people who know your corporate culture, and people from the vendor's side of the equation. Make sure there's a clear line of communication and hierarchy.

4. Beta Test In One Location: Always, always, always budget time and resources to do the rollout in one location. In technology, as in true love, nothing ever runs straight and true. Better to work out the kinks early in the small scale, then scale it up to multiple locations. Make sure to document what you learned; the people who set the pilot location up may not be around to set up subsequent locations, and getting the benefit of their experience means getting them to document everything that was done, and why.

5. Initiate The Contracts. Once the pilot location is running, develop your target deployment list. Clearly define what's expected, early in the rollout. Describe each facility, and get every jot and tittle of cost accounting done here, as well as target roll out dates. Expectations and roles should be clearly understood by everyone involved.

6. Define Your Procedures Document. Using the information gained from the pilot site run and what's defined in the contract, define a set of procedures that describes how to reach each objective for each site.

7. Set Up Your Help Hierarchy. Nothing ever goes perfectly smoothly. Problems will arise, and you need to make sure that the infrastructure and lines of communication are established so that you don't have problems causing slow downs for the entire rollout. This is your central resource for tasking engineers, doing problem definitions, resolution and issue escalation. This hierarchy should also include a list of who to contact for what types of problems. In particular, expect to have at least two people on staff who do nothing but direct traffic at this level, making sure the requests get to the right desks.

8. Write a Site Manual: This document expands on the procedures document with detailed information specific to a given site; it should mirror (and report back) the executable dates listed above, and should delineate any differences needed by this site, or any differentiation of duties between the contractor and your organization.

9. Develop And Maintain The Schedule. Using the experience of your vendors, roll out a schedule that covers every single phase of the implementation plan, site by site.

10. Assess What Worked And What Didn't. Every project completed, every roll out, is a learning experience. Your vendor should have mechanism in place for you to document what worked and what didn't in this rollout, and this is a key part of quality assurance testing.

With these steps, your technology rollout should not only run more smoothly, but give you a solid knowledge base to build on for the future.

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