Comparing a Big Bang versus Iterative Approach to Oracle Retail and NetSuite Projects

Kimberly Berneck, Senior Vice President, Delivery Management

Whether B2B or B2C, customers expect fast and easy experiences when interacting with a brand. Systems and applications like POS and ERPs have sought to meet those demands, but the shift to “faster and easier” has permeated even further, down to how a technology is implemented at an organization.

Traditionally, technology implementations have had a “big bang” approach wherein a really big, complex project is executed over a period of many years and costs millions of dollars. A new system or integration is rolled out in the end; it’s the grand finale to many years of work. However, the benefits of goals of the big bang project may never be fully realized because the timeframe is long and customer demands are changing so quickly.

In our experience with Oracle Retail and NetSuite clients, the big-bang approach is rightfully fading away and an iterative or “stair-step” approach to project work is taking hold. Rather than attacking a very large problem or goal at once, we’re helping clients take manageable, bite-sized chunks of work that result in quick wins and benefits over time within manageable chunks of change for their team and their customers.

Why are companies using an iterative approach for Oracle Retail or NetSuite projects?
Most of our clients are moving quickly to the iterative approach for their technology projects because of these reasons…

Capital constraints
Very few companies are willing to tie up capital for years while waiting for a large project to be completed.

Instead, smaller chunks focused on tangible benefits show a more immediate ROI without tying up resources for long periods of time. Likewise, the current labor market makes it nearly impossible to set aside employees for a multi-year project. An iterative approach allows them to jump in and out of work as needed, without having to ignore their typical responsibilities.

Easier change management
The more changes you’re making, the higher your risk and the greater the need for change management. With an iterative approach, change management can be handled in smaller pieces and give employees more time to adapt to small changes instead of one very large shift, which may impact your ability to serve your customers.

Faster innovation
From financial investors, to company leadership, to consumers, everyone expects an organization to respond incredibly fast to changing demands. The ability to innovate and set up a technology backbone that supports front-end capabilities is essential. To achieve that, a company needs tight turn cycles that slim down the time it takes to innovate and get to market.

One client’s experience
A large, global organization wanted to make significant changes to its technology infrastructure, but it traditionally moves very slowly. A “big bang” approach – as they typically did tech projects – could take anywhere from five to eight years to complete!

We wanted to help them transform faster and get more immediate value from their investment. We suggested an iterative approach that allowed them to do manageable pieces of work that would have more immediate benefits to the employees, customers and the organization as a whole.

Instead of waiting a few years to see a really big return, the client is now turning around faster results in a mere six months – and these results have cascaded into unforeseen benefits. For example, one improvement in task efficiency has freed up employees to do other work that’s added more value to the organization. They’re able to pivot more quickly and figure out the next best thing to serve their customers.

Is an iterative approach best for your team?
There can be downsides to an iterative approach, so it’s best not to assume it will work for your organization. Sometimes, a big-bang approach will be more cost-effective and time-effective in the long run because testing, stabilizing, production, etc. are all done at once. Your total elapsed time will be less.

However, we believe that for most organizations, an iterative approach allows you to offer quick wins – or, if something isn’t working, to pivot more quickly.

Successfully managing this approach comes down to your team: What are their skillsets and how much guidance do they need? Certain projects may be easily managed, but others – like POS implementations that may be the first update you’ve had in 15 years – will be more labor-intensive and will require your implementation partner to provide consulting and change management.

Partnering with BTM Global
Whether an Oracle Retail or NetSuite undertaking, we work with clients to identify the organizational objectives that they want to achieve. In other words, the goal isn’t “We need a new POS.” The goal is something specific about serving your customers with a better/faster/easier payment experience, or making a particular part of your organization more efficient.

We can also help you set-up your teams to maximize their time on projects that are going live and syncing any production changes with up-coming work. In short, we’ll keep development and change management moving fluidly.

We work with clients to identify their greater company goals and how technology will get them there. Each part of an iterative process should achieve tangible wins that move you closer to the ultimate, measurable goal.