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An Implementation Strategy for a project, The critical steps

05 Mar 2013
An Implementation Strategy for a project, The critical steps

Challenges at the implementation stages of the project – A methodology to overcome same writes Seamus Woods, Head of Change Management, Children and Family Services, who was recently awarded the European IPMA ‘A’ Level qualification of Projects Director.

An Implementation Strategy for a project: The critical steps

History will show that one of the main reasons for projects fail within the public service is not fully thinking through an implementation strategy. Remember, until implementation occurs – this is a critical point - a project remains an investment of resources. It realises its full value only when deployed successfully and consistently across the full service in question.

All projects will have different ambitions and challenges to overcome in deciding an appropriate implementation approach. Therefore, before I describe a 3 step process that each Project Manager should go through to decide an implementation strategy think of the following key implementation principles:

  • Be clear on the agreed outcomes for the project, what was agreed as constituting success;
  • Build on experience taken by other projects but don’t necessarily replicate the approach;
  • Recognise the different approaches required if the change is mandatory or optional;
  • Complement rather than replicate local resources;
  • Promote early wins, so people see evidence of improvement quickly;
  • Learn from sceptics and enthusiasts to provide a balanced approach;
  • Collect and visibly respond to feedback, including time for making changes in the plan;
  • Adopt an implementation strategy that is sustainable in the face of project risks;
  • Anticipate user expectations, pitfalls and real-life challenges.
Implementation Strategy for a project

3 Step Process to assist you in the implementation

Step 1 Profile your project

It helps you describe the type of change your project will deliver across several factors. Now you will be in a position in the next step to decide and justify your implementation approach. You will need to consider in some detail:

  • What change is being implemented, and what will it look like;
  • What will the impact of that change be, and how different it will be from the current situation;
  • How many people are directly impacted by the change?
  • When does it need to happen by and is there a deadline?
  • What is the level of risk and the potential to go wrong?
  • What are additional supports required to deliver?
  • How well defined is the solution?
  • Is further change to the solution likely?
  • How important is the quality of the solution?
  • How complicated is the change for the user?

Step 2 Decide and justify the approach

Using your profile from Step 2, you will consider how these fit with the roll-out types available to you. Generally, you will have 3 Implementation options:

  • Learning Site before Implementation;
  • Phase approach;
  • Big bang

3. Step 3 Describe what will be required

Once you have selected your roll-out type, you will need to consider several practical elements to ensure you have a complete understanding of the implementation approach your project will take. Critically this step will also help you to ensure you can request the appropriate resource.

The first checklist is for common to all approaches and the second list is specific to running a learning site.

Implementation approach checklist:

  1. Resources required for the implementation and when the change is ‘business as usual;
  2. Roles and responsibilities;
  3. Level of flexibility in approach at a regional level;
    • What can change
    • What can’t change
  4. Stakeholders who need to be involved;
  5. Relationship with other projects in an overall change programme;
  6. Measures of progress and reporting requirements;
  7. Communication requirements;
  8. Training requirements;
  9. Key milestones;
  10. Key things that need to be in place before implementation can take place.

Learning site/ Testing approach

  1. Size of the learning site group;
  2. Timescales;
  3. What needs to be tested and demonstrated;
  4. How will you handle the need for parallel running and ensure the risk to current services is managed;
  5. Who will coordinate it, gather feedback and provide lesson learned into final detailed design;
  6. How will feedback be incorporated before full rollout;
  7. Will it be publicised;
  8. Who will make the decision if the learning site is a success?


Armed now with an implementation strategy you can develop a realistic project plan that will address the needs of the key stakeholders who will be affected by the proposed change and that will cause minimal disruption throughout the services in question. If you wish to learn more on how to do this, take e a look at our Strategic Project Programme Management Diploma.