What are system changeover strategies?

After acquiring a computer program (system) you are required to change from the old system to the newly acquired system in a process called system changeover. It involves replacing the old system and business processes with a new one.

The main system changeover methods are parallel, direct, pilot, and phased changeovers. They are implemented differently depending on the organization’s situation. Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages.

What activities are carried out during system changeover?

1. Replace old hardware systems with new ones.

The new system may not be supported by the old hardware system; hence you will be required to replace them with a new, i.e. the new system may require a high speed to process data this means that you will require a server that has a bigger RAM and processing speed. Again you may require more storage space.

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2. Replacing business procedures

The new system may mean that you change the procedures that you use to carry out a certain process. If for example in the old system, you use to scan customer images before using the system and then now the new system requires you to use a webcam to capture images it means the procedure has to change.

3. Training users

System and other relevant administrators should be trained on how the system should be managed because they will be tasked with maintaining the system. Another group to be trained is the end-user who will be using the system for data capturing and entry. Training should be done to give the user confidence required when serving customers and using the system.

4. Conversion of data to suit the new system

If the old and new systems are using different data types then you will be required to convert the data from the old to the new format. If the old system was manual then you digitalized data to be used in the computerized system that you want to implement.

4 types of system changeover strategies

1. Parallel changeover

It involves running both the new and old systems concurrently until you are confident that the new system is working effectively with low risk. The strategy assures a rollback to the old system in case something goes wrong with the new system. The strategy also allows the users time to familiarize themselves with the new system and gain confidence to use it.

parallel system changeover

Advantages of parallel changeover

  1. When the new system doesn’t function as required you can roll back to the old system.
  2. Users have enough time to learn the new system slowly.

Disadvantages of parallel changeover

  1. It is expensive to run 2 systems at the same time.
  2. It is time-consuming for users since they need to use 2 systems concurrently.
  3. The method consumes more resources to implement since it duplicates the system.
  4. The 2 systems may have different ways of generating reports which can be hard to interpret.

2. Direct changeover

In the direct changeover, the old system is replaced one time with a new system. It is mostly used when the risk of losing data from the old system is significantly low or if the system has most of the new functions. It uses fewer resources because only one system is running.

direct changeover

Advantages of direct changeover

  1. Compared to parallel, the direct method is cheaper to implement since there is no duplication.
  2. It is the cheapest changeover method
  3. Fewer resources are required to implement the changeover.
  4. It fastest way to implement a new system

Disadvantages of direct changeover

  1. The system should be tested thoroughly before implementation. This consumes time but will help avoid problems since no roll back allowed.
  2. It is the riskiest method to implement in case it doesn’t work no rolling back.
  3. The user operates slowly since they are not fully confident with the new system.

3. Pilot changeover

It means choosing a specific location or branch of the organization and implementing the system in that branch first. The branch (location) where the system is first tested before it is implemented in the whole organization is called the pilot site. It allows testing the system on a small scale, on all its functionality, and making any changes necessary to avoid any problems when later it is rolled on all organization branches.

pilot  system changeover

Advantages of pilot changeover

  1. It only affects a section of the organization that ensures business continuity if the implementation fails.
  2. All functionalities of the system are tested before they are implemented in the whole organization.
  3. It requires fewer resources to implement
  4. The errors can be identified before the system is fully implemented

Disadvantages of pilot changeover

  1. It is time-consuming since it takes time to carry out a pilot before full implementation.

4. Phase changeover

Phased involves implementing a module of the system at a time until the whole system is implemented. It combines parallel and direct change-over strategies. The module can be a functional part of the system or a specific subsystem. Each sub-system is implemented until it succeeds that is when the next one is implemented. It means in case the new system fails then it is only that part that is affected and not the whole system.

phased system changeover

Advantages of phased changeover

  1. Since it is only part of the system that is being implemented at a time if it fails then other old sections are not affected.

Disadvantages of phased changeover

  1. The main challenge is that before the whole system is implemented it may take a long time.
  2. It requires more resources since you need to run the 2 systems even if the new one is a subsystem.

Factor to consider when choosing a system changeover method

When it comes to selecting the best method for changing from an old to a new system the organization should be guided by other factors. Please remember that each organization is unique and that uniqueness should be considered.

  1. The status of the old system: if the old system is not working as the organization expects you can use direct changeover. Simply put, why waste time with something that is not serving you, just get a new system.
  2. Data conversion required: the different systems may use a different type of data as input and how it is processed. If the old and the new have major differences then you may consider using a more conservative one such as a pilot.
  3. Risk on business continuity: Method such as a direct changeover carries the biggest risk. Consider all the risks that are involved in the type of changeover that you consider implementing.
  4. Cost of changeover: Cost comes in form of the cost of a new system, data conversion, training users, hardware required, and running more than one system among many other factors. Ensure you consider all main cost to ensure the project don’t stall midway.

How to overcome resistance to system changeover by users

When it comes to system changeover, one of the main reasons why it is hard to implement is the system user. Humans by nature want to remain in their comfort zone, not the unknown place in this case a new system. To effectively implement our new system we need to tackle this hurdle. We can achieve this by implementing the following strategies to overcome resistance to system changeover.

  1. System user involvement: System users should be involved from the time the system changeover idea is conceived up to the end. Remember they determine the success of the system. Ask the users what they feel the old system is not offering and what can be included in the new system. This ensures that even when you come to implementation they will feel that they were involved.
  2. Training in the new system: The organization should have a budget for user training as part of the system changeover cost. The training gives users confidence even when it comes to using the new system. All levels of system users should be trained including system administrator, technician, data entry-level, etc.
  3. User support: When the system is implemented users should have a good support system for any inquiries. This will help answer any questions and challenges that the users have.
  4. Explain the benefit of the change to users: Before implementation enlightens the users on how the system will help them solve the challenges that they are currently having. When the user sees that the new changes are for their benefit they will welcome the new changes.
  5. Phased implementation: introduce changes slowly to give users time to adapt to the new system environment. This will reduce the shock of immediate change which can be frightening.

Which is the best changeover technique?

For a system where data is not critical direct changeover will be the best type of strategy to use. However, the safest method is the phased method since in case something goes wrong you still have some areas using the old system.

Which system changeover has the highest risk?

Direct changeover method. This is because in case something happens on the new system there is no coming back. The old system is gone and the new one is fully operational. Before implementing this strategy make sure you can cope working without the system just in case something goes wrong.