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Deploying SharePoint - "Big Bang" or "Phased Roll-out"?

by David Turnbull

Like any IT project, it is important to properly plan your SharePoint Electronic Document & Records Management (EDRM) system deployment. SharePoint is a platform for developing solutions to solve business problems and therefore requires considerable expertise when designing and deploying EDRM systems. Deltascheme can help an organisation optimise the project delivery by adhering to a proven methodology that injects best practices derived from years of project experience. Working with key stakeholders we can help identify your critical business objectives, determine how success will be measured, and help you plan an effective deployment strategy.

The roll-out of SharePoint to users can be achieved as a "Big Bang" or "Phased Roll-out". Selecting the right way will be influenced by the project type, size and shape of your organisation. "Big Bang" aims to roll-out the system across all departments on a pre-determined date. This can only be achieved through detailed planning and consultation. Prior to deployment, key stakeholders must prepare management for changes in working practice, employees must be trained how to use SharePoint, documents may need to be migrated from other systems, and the technical team must be confident the EDRM system will function correctly. Alternatively, "Phased Roll-out" implements the SharePoint EDRM system in a series of steps, typically deploying the system to one or more pilot departments first.

From experience, we would by cautious about adopting a "Big Bang" roll-out of a SharePoint EDRM system. Although the approach may deliver a faster return on investment (ROI), this is a high risk strategy even for small deployments that involve low numbers of end-users. There is a danger that the project team will become obsessed with hitting the project's deadline, rather than planning SharePoint's successful adoption. It is important not to under-estimate the resource required to effectively communicate, train and support end-users.

For a "Big Bang" roll-out to succeed, significant planning effort must take place. The information architecture design and EDRM building blocks must be clearly defined and repeatable, limiting scope and risk. This would typically involve designing common site templates, library templates, content types and page layouts that can be delivered using PowerShell scripts.

Our preferred strategy involves the "Phased Roll-out" of the SharePoint EDRM system. The initial adoption of one or more pilot departments allows the organisation to learn about SharePoint, identify issues and risks, and therefore develop and evolve an effective deployment strategy. The experience allows the organisation to control the amount of change being introduced, make adjustments to the roll-out timetable, and provide more time to train and support end-users.

The danger with the "Phased Roll-out" approach is the organisation loses its focus and becomes distracted with other projects and business activities. It is important that the key stakeholders remain committed to the delivery of the EDRM system for the duration of the project. Planning and consultation is equally important to the "Big Bang" roll-out. As part of the delivery process, it is recommended that a SharePoint Governance Board is established, focused on defining standards across departments. This helps to ensure the adherence of common system design principles.

In summary, we believe there are compelling reasons to adopt a "Phased Roll-out" approach to the delivery of a SharePoint EDRM system. By learning from the experience of the initial phases the organisation is better placed to deploy SharePoint successfully to the remaining departments. The success of the pilot departments further serves as a "showcase" to demonstrate how the system will work to other employees. Ultimately, the strategy chosen must take into consideration factors such as the costs, ROI, available technical resource (to support the implementation) and the impact on productivity.

Article by Martin Driscoll


1. Plan for SharePoint 2013, Microsoft TechNet - see

2. Susan Hanley (various articles) - see

3. Essential SharePoint 2010, Scott Jamison et. al, Addison Wesley (2011)