Disciplines > Environment > Concepts > Implementing a Process in an Organization



This page explains what you do at the organizational level to implement process and tools in a development organization. 

Implementing process and tools at the project level in a software-development project is described on the page called Concepts: Implementing a Process in a Project

Related Information

A Step-by-Step Procedure

Implementing a new process in a software-development organization can be described in four steps.

The steps to implement process and tools in an organization.


Step 1: Assess Development Organization

You must understand the current state of the software-development organization in terms of its people, its process, and its supporting tools. You need to identify problems and potential areas for improvement, as well as collect information about outside issues, such as your competitors and market trends. When this step is complete, you should know:

  • The software development organization's current state.
  • The kinds of people there, including their level of competence, skills, and motivation.
  • The tools currently used by the organization.
  • The current software engineering process and how it's described.
  • The organization's business goals.

Reasons for assessing the current state are to:

  • Use it to create a plan for getting from the organization's current state to your goal.
  • Identify those areas that need to be improved first. You may not want to introduce the entire process and all tools all at once. You may want to do it in increments, starting with the areas that have the greatest need and the best potential for improvement.
  • Explain to the sponsors why you need to change process, tools, and people.
  • Create motivation and a common understanding among those people in the organization who are directly, or indirectly, affected.
Further Reading

The following pages describe how to assess one software development project and its surrounding organization. Most of these can be applied when you assess the software development organization.  

Step 2: Plan Process Implementation

Develop a plan for implementing the process and the tools in the organization. This plan describes how to efficiently move from the organization's current state to their vision. To develop this plan, you need to:

See the Guidelines for Planning the Environment Implementation section for more information on what to consider when you plan the implementation.

Set or Revise Goals (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

You need to set goals for the process, people, and tools—where is it you want to be when the process implementation project is complete. You need to set goals because:

  • Goals serve as important input when planning the process implementation.
  • Goals and the description of the organization's current state, achieved in step 1, are used to motivate your sponsors, and to create understanding and motivation among the people in the organization.

The result is a list of measurable goals, expressed so project members can comprehend and internalize them. These goals serve as a vision for the organization's future state.

Identify Risks (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

Identify risks associated with implementing process and tools. Listed below are several examples of risks:

  • "The pilot project involves many technical risks."

  • "There are too many new things for the people to learn."

  • "It is not clear how tool A and tool B will work together."

  • "It is not clear how to use tool A in a distributed development organization."

Further Reading

The pages listed below describe risk management in a software development project and they're valuable to note here as well: 

Select Software Development Projects (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

Define a sequence of software development projects, or iterations. Decide whether to run any pilot projects. See the page Concepts: Pilot Project for more details on what a pilot project is and how to select one. For each software development project, define the goals you want to reach, what you want to achieve, what risks you want to reduce, and what parts of the process and specifically which tools you want to implement. See the section called Different Implementation Approaches

Decide When to Launch Process and Tools (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

Decide when you what to launch the process and tools to a wider audience of software development projects. You may want to run one or two pilot projects before you launch to the entire organization. See the section called Different Implementation Approaches.

Decide how to facilitate the launch of process and tools. There are a number of things you can do to facilitate software development projects in implementing  the process and tools, such as: 

  • Developing ready-to-use templates and examples that all projects can use.

  • Developing training programs.

  • Developing process implementation guidelines that provide guidance to those people who will be responsible for implementing both the process and tools. 

  • Preparing mentors who will support the projects.

Plan Training (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

Plan training for the development organization. Study the current competency levels among the organization's people. This is handled in Step 1: Assess Development Organization.

Next, look at the parts of the process you plan to implement, and what tools will be introduced in each project. Identify those areas where the organization's people need to raise their levels of competency and to what extent this must be done.

Decide what training is needed for each project. A change of process and tools affects the entire organization, therefore, we recommend you train people outside of the projects to give them an understanding of what the change means. This training may consist of an overview course, combined with seminars to introduce the new process and tools. 

Plan Mentoring (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

Experience shows that having a mentor help with implementing a process is a key success factor. Therefore, we recommend that each software development project has a process mentor to help them start using the process. It's impossible to give exact figures, but, as a general suggestion, we recommend you plan for at least a 50% full-time equivalence during the first few of iterations in the project until the project comes up to speed. 

The projects also need help setting up the tools, so plan to allocate resources for tool mentoring and tools support. 

Decide Whether to Develop an Organization-wide Development Environment (back to Step 2: Plan ...)

Decide whether you're going to develop an organization-wide development environment that each software development project can use with the necessary adaptations. 

In most situations, we recommend you wait until several software development projects have used the process and tools before you take this step. At that point, it will be easier to identify those parts of the process and tools that are reusable and those that will benefit from being owned, and maintained, by a separate organization. 

If you decide to develop an organization-wide environment, you must initiate a project to develop the organization's development environment.

If you decide to initiate a project that develops the organization-wide development environment, it must be made clear that this project team will work very closely with the software development project teams. It must also be understood that the team who develops the organization-wide development environment is a service organization measured by the success of the software development projects it supports.  

Step 3: Execute Process Implementation

Executing the environment implementation in an organization means running software-development projects in which you implement the process and tools. See Concepts: Implementing a Process in a Project for more information. From a organizational point of view, this step means that you:

  • Monitor the software-development projects.

  • Manage launches of the process and tools across projects. 

  • Monitor the development of and organization-wide environment.

Step 4: Evaluate Process Implementation Effort

When you've implemented the process and tools in a real or pilot software-development project, you need to evaluate the effort. Did you achieve your established goals? Evaluate the people, the process, and the tools to understand the areas to focus on during the next phase of the process implementation effort. 


When you implement a process and tools in an organization across individual software development projects, there are document artifacts that might be valuable to develop. This is, of course, in addition to the Development-Organization Assessment and the Development Case for each project.

  • First, you may need an Implementation Plan to describe the overall plan for how to implement process and tools in an organization across individual projects. This plan covers process, tools, and training, and normally spans several software development projects.
  • Secondly, you may need to develop Deployment Guidelines to help individual projects implement process and tools. Deployment Guidelines contain advice and guidance on how to plan the implementation of process and tools in an individual software development project.

Different Implementation Approaches

There are several approaches to implementing process and tools in an organization. Several examples of different approaches are listed below.  They describe what you do for a development organization, however, to understand what to do in a software development project, see Concept: Implementing a Process in a Project.

A Typical Approach (back to Different ... )

The typical approach, illustrated in the figure below, means that you implement the process and tools in a pilot project, as an initial step.  

After the pilot project, evaluate the use of process and tools, then prepare the process and tools to be launched to a wider audience. 

The typical approach is often the most effective way to introduce the process and tools.

The typical approach to implementing process and tools

A Fast Approach (back to Different ... )

The fast approach, illustrated in the following figure, uses the process and tools directly in real projects without verifying that they work in a pilot project. This approach introduces a greater risk of failure, but there can be good reasons for taking those risks. For example, if the current process is very similar to the Rational Unified Process (RUP) and if the tools are already used in the organization, it may be relatively easy and low-risk to implement the new process and tools.

Another time to use the fast approach is when the organization is suffering from such severe problems that any change is perceived as an improvement. This assumes that the potential for improvement is greater than the problems the organization will inevitably encounter.

The fast approach

A Careful Approach (back to Different ... )

A more careful approach is to run more than one pilot project before a real project starts using the new process and tools. Use the careful approach when the risks are high and when there are many new factors. You may want to use the process and tools on several projects before you launch it to the entire organization.

The careful approach

Consider using the careful approach if one, or more, of the following is true: 

  • There are many changes in process and tools for the people to learn.

  • There are many risks.

  • The capacity for change is low.

A Distributed Approach (back to Different ... )

The distributed approach means you make the RUP available to the entire development organization. Each software development project is then free to decide how to use the process. There is no coordination or reuse between software-development projects.

The distributed approach can still give value to the organization in these ways:

  • The projects get a common vocabulary. 

  • People get used to the RUP as a common process. 

  • The distributed approach may be the first step towards really making use of process and tools. 

A Development Environment for the Organization (back to Different ... )

If the organization decides to develop and maintain a development environment for the entire organization, this must be well planned. There must be a team to develop and maintain this organization-wide environment consisting of process, tools, and infrastructure. See Concepts: Development Environment, specifically the section titled Organizational Development Environment.

Planning an organizational environment project has to be synchronized with the software development projects it supports. The goal of an organizational environment project is to develop an environment that the software development projects can use.


An organizational environment project 

We recommend you treat an organizational environment project as you would any software development project. Follow the Project Management discipline of the RUP.

Organizing the Work

Someone in the organization must be appointed with the overall responsibility for implementing the process and tools for the entire organization. This responsibility includes planning, managing, and budgeting both the process and tools implementation. 

Treating Process Implementation as a Project

Implementing a software development process in an organization is a complex task and needs to be done in a controlled manner. We recommend treating it as a project that is external to or is a sub-project of your software development project. Set up milestones, allocate resources, and manage it as you would any other project.

The process-implementation project is divided into a number of phases where all four steps are performed in each phase until the project is ready and the process and tools are deployed and successfully used by the entire organization as shown in the following figure.

A process-implementation project can be divided into phases.

The following table gives a general idea of how a project can be planned with four phases.  

Purpose Important results after the phase
Phase 1 To sell the process-implementation project to the sponsors A go or no-go decision from the sponsors. To support the decision, the tools may be demonstrated and a development case may be exemplified.
Phase 2 To handle the major risks A demonstrable prototype of the customer's software development environment is ready,  including tools, templates, guidelines, and examples of development cases. 
Phase 3 To complete everything Completion of the customers software development environment including integration, test, and demonstration of its usage. All tools are ready to use. Templates, guidelines, and examples of development cases are ready, a training curriculum is ready, and mentors are ready to start supporting the real projects through the next phase. 
Phase 4 To deploy it to the entire organization Process and tools are deployed to the entire organization.

Four phases of a process-implementation project.

A project to implement process and tools in an organization has many similarities to a software development project. It has even been suggested that the phases above are named Inception, Elaboration, Construction, and Transition as they are for a software development project using the RUP. However, we recommend that you do not use the same names on the phases to avoid any misunderstandings.  

Guidelines for Planning the Environment Implementation

When you define the content and goals of the milestones, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Keep the final vision in mind.
  • Reduce major risks early.
  • Focus on major problem areas early.
  • Select those areas where you can make some easy gains early.

Some typical factors and how they can affect the plans are provided below.  Also see Guideline: Process Discriminants.

  • Problems in the current development process. Focus on those areas of the development process where the organization has problems today. Focus on areas where you can expect some easy results and where people can see the benefits early. Make sure the first iterations focus on an area where you know you will address and solve one of the major problems in today's organization.
  • The need for change in the current organization. If there are lots of problems in the organization—with the tools or the way people work—the frustration level in the organization will be high. In this case, you can be more aggressive and employ the new process and tools, or parts of them, in real projects.
  • The capacity for change in the current organization. If they are either unaccustomed to change or currently overwhelmed by it, the goals of the first few iterations should be modest. In this case, the primary objective should be to build credibility and confidence in the process, with more intrusive changes reserved for later iterations when they can be more easily accommodated. See Concepts: Managing Organizational Change.
  • The size of the organization. If the organization using the process and tools is large, be sure that the development case and the tools are stable enough to be used by many developers. In this case, be more careful by implementing the process and supporting tools during several iterations in one or more software development projects.
  • The risks involved. If they are small, be more aggressive and start using the process and tools in new projects earlier. If the risks are large, be more careful and use pilot projects to verify the process and the tools.
  • The attitude among people in the organization. Communicate the problems with today's organization and how it's working. If current personnel understand today's problems, it will be easier to accept and understand the need for change. Involve those people outside of the immediately affected part of the organization.

Do not try to do everything all at once. Instead, divide the implementation into a number of increments and, in each one, implement a portion of the new process together with the supporting tools. Typically, focus on one of the areas where you believe the change will have the most impact. If the software-development organization is weak in testing, you may start by introducing the Test discipline of the RUP together with tools that automate testing. However, if the organization is weak in capturing or managing requirements, start by introducing the Requirements discipline together with its supporting tools.

Implement the process and tools in iterations of software development projects whether in pilot projects or real projects. The purpose is to verify the process and the tools in as real an environment as possible. Consider the following points when you select software development projects and iterations:

  • If the goal is to implement the process and tools in one single software-development project, decide to implement the process and tools in that one project, then monitor and improve the process as the project continues.
  • If the goal is to implement the process and tools in a large organization over many projects, consider implementing and verifying the process and tools in iterations over several phases. In that case, choose a relatively small project where you can apply the process and tools during the whole lifecycle of a software project.
  • If the RUP represents a significant departure from your current software engineering process, if you need to get a better handle on the risks and advantages of introducing the new process or if you are in a new organization with little or no process in place, consider trying out your development case, or a simplified development case, on a mini-project or a pilot project before applying it to your major, mission-critical development project. See Concepts: Pilot Project for more information.

Also, see the section titled Different Implementation Approaches for examples.

The use of a new process, new tools, and possibly new technology in a software project makes the project's schedule more volatile. Be sure to allocate time and resources to implement the process, train people, and so on during the iteration in the software-development project where you start using the process and tools.

Top Reasons for Failure

It is important to understand these top reasons for failure:

  • Failure to incrementally implement process and tools.

  • Lack of management support.

  • Lack of bringing stakeholders onboard—all stakeholders affected by the new process and tools must be onboard, including customers, other department, and sub-contractors.

  • Lack of willingness or ability to deal with organizational change. 

These reasons focus on non-technical issues, which is exactly what our experience shows. 


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