Julian Canlas
Julian Canlas

Founder of the SEO content marketing agency, Embarque.
julian@embarque.io @jic94

Roll Out Plan 101: Create the Perfect Plan for Your Business

Introducing a new product, software, or feature to users should involve careful planning. There are a lot of variables and risks associated, and you want to get it right. Rollout plans are meant to aid in this manner. With Instatus, learn how to tailor your rollout plan to perfectly fit the objectives and expectations of your business.

Whether you are deploying changes within your organization or externally for another business, you will find value in the strategies in this article.

What is a Rollout Plan?

When the development and testing of new software or features are complete, these must be rolled out to the user base. Software companies might roll out many smaller features during the course of a year, but a few significant features may require a full rollout plan and marketing campaign. Software rollout will involve the most in-depth rollout plans.

Alternatively, a rollout plan sometimes refers to an internal enterprise rollout to address changes to policy, processes, or systems. This article will consider both definitions of a rollout plan.

Businesses should incorporate a number of strategies to assure a smooth rollout process free of any hiccups. An internal rollout plan is concerned with organizational needs and employee interactions throughout different levels. An external rollout plan focuses on meeting the needs and expectations of users.

Importance of a Rollout Plan

There are major risks associated with any software or feature rollout. Risks include crashes, outages, software breaking bugs, customer disappointment, and even customer backlash. If software or features are improperly rolled out, it can be a PR nightmare. Users may take to social media, Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms to complain about the changes of services.

According to the founder of Linchpin SEO, Bill Ross, "All product feature strategies should start with a well-defined and well-structured content and communication strategy. This includes internal sales enablement content and training, client-facing notifications within the tool, and content designed to attract new users from marketing channels such as Google search, social media, or paid channels."

A rollout plan is important to manage and mitigate these potential risks. Be sure to include backups in case the worst situation occurs, system failure. Instatus offers a worry-free source of simple yet powerful status pages, keeping the user base apprised of any status changes during software or feature rollouts.

Software and feature rollout plans provide a clear path and direction for the launch. During the process of creating a rollout plan, understand the

4 Internal Software Rollout Strategies

These 5 internal software rollout strategies are aimed at rollouts happening within an organization. Despite this, many of these strategies can be accommodated to suit an external rollout.

  1. Train Employees

Rollout day doesn’t need to be a disaster. Plan appropriately and make sure employees are trained on the new software or changes. Make sure they get hands-on practice and understand how the changes will affect their individuals roles.

Not all employees will have the same level of technical expertise. There may be a larger learning curve for some individuals, but this should be expected and planned for. Offer continual training and a mentor where possible.

  1. Documentation

With employees navigating new software, policies, or systems, there will be many questions. During the design process for the software, be sure to develop robust documentation.

If the software is a third-party implementation, select the software of choice based on adequate documentation. Documentation can also be used to customize software as needed to meet your businesses unique needs. The lack of clear software documentation is a first red flag that the software will be lacking in other areas as well. Have a workflow and templated messages for everything, even when your platform unexpectedly goes offline.

  1. Understand Customer Impact

Depending on the system or systems that are being affected, you may need to strategize differently. Software that directly impacts user accounts, financials, accounts payable, payroll, or other sensitive systems, need to be managed carefully. Phased rollouts with backups are recommended.

Lumber Liquidators experienced problems when implementing SAP. The problems contributed to reduced productivity, affecting distribution centers, that was felt at the customer level. It took months for Lumber Liquidators to return to pre-rollout operational efficiency.

  1. Communication

Consult your employees on the consideration of new software or policies. Understand their pain points and how the changes will impact the business. Employees may have recommendations that you haven’t considered because they use the existing software daily. Avon was planning to spend $125 million to upgrade their order-management system. Beauty company Avon was forced to change course when sales reps started quitting instead of dealing with the horrible system.

Once a decision is made, notify all departments immediately. Remind employees of training opportunities. As the launch date moves closer, continue to communicate with email, messaging, and meetings.

5 External Software Rollout Strategies

  1. Set Expectations

Ultimately, the feature or software is intended to offer value to users. In the final phases of design, make sure the software is meeting the expectations of your users. Take time to consult users and understand how a feature may impact their workflow or use of the software.

Also set expectations for the path of the rollout itself. What is the primary outcome that will be expected? Are there any metrics that can be used to gauge success?

For example, when rolling out UI changes, the expectation is that the user’s will be receptive to the changes and find the new UI to be greatly improved over the old. You might measure customer satisfaction and the number of support tickets, immediately following rollout. Collect both qualitative and qualitative information to set the full picture.

  1. Optional If Possible

When possible, feature rollouts should be optional. You and your team may believe that the changes are incredible and will receive widespread praise, but this is often not the case. Users don’t like change, and inevitably some users will want to keep things the same.

On rollout, it’s best to automatically set the feature to optional. Forcefully turning on a feature can cause issues on the user’s end. Instead, use a pop-up notification to remind users on the updates and changes.

This sometimes means amazing features will have low usage statistics. 0.1% of feature usage is not uncommon at first, but this will progress over time. Consider the adoption rates of Apple iOS 14 and 15, where 72% of users have updated to iOS 15, but 28% percent have kept iOS 14. Users do not always desire new features.

  1. Marketing Campaign

A few weeks or months before any launch, ensure a targeted marketing campaign is reaching as many users as possible. This will give users a head ups about any changes and can increase adoption rates for optional features. If users don’t understand the value of a feature, they are unlikely to bother to learn how to use it or incorporate it into their workflows.

Because not all features or software rollouts can be optional, these campaigns are vital to educate and excite your user base. Consider adding a Beta features system that users can opt into. This helps developers collect important stability information, while allowing users to provide feedback and iron out any bugs.

  1. Prepare for the Worst

No amount of planning can remove all risk. Make sure your risk management team is ready to handle all situations. Ensure all users stay informed on the status of services, in the situation they go offline, with Instatus. These beautiful status pages allow your team to focus on more concerning issues instead of communicating with the user base or stakeholders.

Failure of software implementation is a costly mistake. If your deployment breaks catastrophically, have a rollback ready and preserve data at all costs. Sincerely apologize to any affected users and ensure the team learns from the experience.

  1. Use Feature Flags

Feature flags is a powerful software engineering technique that allows developers to make changes without deploying new code. Features can be turned on and off as needed while monitoring stability and other metrics. Your team will have more control over deployments and rollout in phases if needed.

What is a Rollout Plan Template?

A rollout plan template acts as a blueprint for rolling out any new features or software, without issue. Follow a template to make sure that nothing is falling through the cracks before a major rollout. Rollout plan templates will include these important components if they are to provide clear direction:

  • Goals – Clearly outlined objectives so that your organization can understand how best to reach them. A product rollout will have different goals from a feature rollout.
  • Positions of Importance – Identify any teams or roles that are specifically vital for a successful rollout. Tasks can be spread across roles to ensure adequate coverage and that subject-matter experts are responsible for their area of expertise.
  • Key steps – A release strategy should have concretely outlined action steps. Include highly specific timeframes for each action. In the case of extensive changes, phased rollouts may be preferred, which will require more steps over a longer timeline.

Here’s a sample rollout plan template

Rollout Plan Template

Provide a high-level summary of the rollout plan and the goals.

Rollout Plan Summary

Pre-Change Steps - Steps To Be Completed Before Execution Of The Rollout Plan

Rollout plan Steps

Estimated Time to Complete (mins) - Estimated Time to Complete in Minutes

Post-Rollout Plan Steps - steps to take to verify the change

Estimated Time to Complete (mins) - Estimated Time to Complete in Minutes

Full Checklist

  • Pre-rollout item
  • Rollout plan item
  • Post-rollout plan
  • Objectives
  • Goals

Plan to Ensure Success

Companies sometimes delay transitioning to new software or updating their current software, because of uncertainty. Waiting too long can be equally bad. Transferring information and data from legacy systems to modern systems is difficult. Make the move as soon as the software or systems are preventing innovation and growth.

For external software or feature rollouts, focus on understanding your user base. Plan for acute failure by incorporating backup systems like Instatus. Use feature flags during development and engage the marketing department to launch a major campaign before release. Better yet, features should be made optional when possible.

A well-designed rollout plan is sure to prevent surprises and contribute to a successful software or feature rollout.

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