To get to the point of go-live your change programme has successfully completed the journey from concept, through design, development and testing, but it is about to be experienced by the most important people of all - your customers. How do you ensure that the organisation is ready?
I would imagine that everyone regularly involved with project work has had their share of difficult go-lives. Fortunately for most of us, few would have been quite as public as the disastrous opening day at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in March 2008 when problems included the staff being delayed when they couldn't get into the car park.
A further combination of computer and mechanical failures finally resulted in the cancellation of 34 flights and a lot of unhappy and frustrated passengers.
One of my own favourites was going live with our carefully tested system only to find that nothing, and I mean nothing, would work for the users. Several frenzied hours later we realised that every member of the testing team had been given system administrator privileges and this is why it all worked when they tried. Functional access corrected we were back on track.
Although not of the same scale, both anecdotes illustrate the need to complete testing in the "real world" and to have a thorough and methodical approach to assessing business readiness. This may include the following two processes:
Organisation Readiness Assessment (ORA): this is a detailed assessment based on predefined criteria by business area that must be met to ensure that the people and processes are ready to start live operations with minimal risk. The person or team conducting the ORA will carry out extensive interviews and will collate and review documentary evidence of all implementation work products such as plans, procedures, training documents and test scripts.
Go / No-Go Checkpoints: these are a series of checkpoint meetings held at key milestones. They must be attended by senior users and suppliers and will use the ORA report as input to assess readiness and approve the decision to continue. Risks, issues and mitigation will also be discussed.
The process of readiness assessment is often at risk due to the high degree of pressure to go live. The change programme is likely to have been going for some time now and the key stakeholders want to see the benefits realisation begin. It isn't always easy but this pressure must be resisted.
Amongst the consequences of not completing this exercise are that your customers may echo the sentiments of Sir George Martin in 2008 "When I came here I was very excited about the new terminal, but not now".
Written by Mike Gamble: Director JEM Retail Consultants