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Global Rollout Strategies

Why pilot projects matter

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Global software implementation is a highly demanding project that requires a lot of resources both on group level and on the level of individual business units. One of the main challenges enterprises face along the way is achieving a maximum level of standardization while allowing for some process variation (as no two units operate in exactly the same way). This is especially true in the manufacturing industry. Why is standardization so important? Simply because standardized solutions are easier and cheaper to implement, maintain and support on a group level.


There is no need to emphasize the importance of planning in project management – let alone when it comes to such complex projects as global rollouts. You surely know your way around project teams, timelines, budgets and action plans, so we aren’t going to go into details here. Let’s dive right into discussing pilot projects, which should always be part of your global implementation strategy.

A pilot project is the initial implementation of a solution that helps prove its readiness and value. During this phase, you want to get a deep understanding of the processes to be digitized (so that the global standard can be defined), as well as identify all key stakeholders.

But how exactly are you planning to proceed with the pilot implementation? Are you going to select one site for the pilot, or several sites? And what criteria are you going to consider?


Selecting the right implementation strategy is as important as selecting the right solution.


You should always take these two factors into consideration when deciding on your rollout strategy:

  • the level of variation in the relevant business processes across all sites and the desired (achievable) level of standardization
  • the number of sites where the solution is to be implemented.


  1. Pilot implementation at one site
  2. Definition of the standard
  3. Global rollout

In the most straightforward scenario, a single site is selected for the pilot project. After the pilot, the standard is defined and then rolled globally.

Suitable for: smaller-scale rollouts (up to 5-10 sites), rollouts with little variation in processes among sites

Pros: the least demanding scenario in terms of resources (especially time)
Cons: one pilot project may not be sufficient for a successful definition of the group standard – especially in companies with a lot of variation (deviations) among business processes within the group


  1. Pilot implementation including several sites
  2. Definition of standard & deviations
  3. Global rollout

In this strategy, several sites participate in a pilot implementation in order to gather more data, prove the readiness of the solution and ensure a slightly higher flexibility of the solution.

Suitable for: rollouts with a higher level of variation in processes among sites

Pros: involving more sites in the pilot allows you to collect more relevant data and allow for a clear understanding of the group standard and common deviations
Cons: with multiple pilot sites working together, you may not be able to gain enough knowledge about a standard, single-site implementation that will be performed in the rollout phase


  1. Pilot implementation at one site
  2. Quasi-pilot implementation at another site (or several other sites)
  3. Definition of the standard & deviations
  4. Global rollout

In this strategy, a pilot implementation is followed by one or more “quasi-pilots” that prove that the solution is suitable for other sites. The quasi-pilots focus specifically on the differences between the processes at the individual sites.

Suitable for: rollouts with a higher level of variation in processes among sites, large-scale rollouts

Pros: steps 1 and 2 provide enough data for the definition of the standard and deviations and ensure a smooth rollout; the pilot and quasi-pilot projects are executed one after the other, so the project team has the chance to learn about and practise the standard implementation process at a single site (as compared to Scenario B)
Cons: a more complex approach requiring more resources – especially time


As was stated earlier in this article, you should never attempt to carry out a global implementation without doing a pilot project first (or even more of them). Why is it so important for the success of the future rollout?

A rollout is the implementation of a standardized solution to other sites. During the rollout phase, you should only expect minor process deviations requiring custom development. You shouldn’t have to deal with major adjustments – otherwise it would be very hard to end up with a standardized solution, ready for centralized maintenance and support.

The pilot phase helps avoid any big moments of surprise. In the pilot phase, you gain a deep understanding of the process(es) by including as many sites as needed. You are able to define the global standard as well as the level of flexibility that is determined by the deviations, which are also analyzed during the initial implementation(s).

You should close the pilot phase with a detailed documentation of the standard as well as major deviations, and also with a clear description of how these deviations will be managed and maintained by the individual sites. Moreover, the documentation should include best practices as well as common issues, and recommendations for the project teams who will be dealing with the implementation at their sites. This will ensure that the rollout phase runs as smoothly as possible.


  • Be aware that even a global standardized solution (with clearly defined deviations) may not cover 100% of the needs of all the business units during the rollout phase. Bear that in mind and leave some space for flexibility and minor adjustments. This comes with an important benefit – it enables the key users at the individual sites to adopt the solution more smoothly. If they feel they can leave their own “footprint,” adjust the solution – just a little bit!, they will be less resistant to change.
  • Selecting the right rollout strategy is important. Each strategy requires a different time frame. When planning a rollout, we recommend aligning it with the digitization roadmap of the entire group as well as the individual sites.
  • The moment you have successfully rolled a solution to all the sites is not where it ends. It’s where continuous improvement begins!
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