You’ve spent all that time working with your team and delivering a fantastic product. Now it’s time to put that live and have the users take ownership of the end result. Are you ready? You will be after you’ve read this.
1. Project Implementation Starts With a Plan
Whatever you are implementing, you need a plan to transition the project from ‘project’ to ‘business as usual’. Hopefully, this is already documented, or at least sketched out. It’s the part of the project that falls between Project Delivery and Project Closure on the project life cycle.
If you don’t have a detailed plan, now is the time to work out exactly how this part of the project is going to go down. The rest of this article will help you.
2. Involve the Operations Team
If you haven’t got the business as usual or operational teams involved fully, start that engagement now. They are going to own the output going forward. If you built an office, they are going to work in it. If you designed a smartphone app, they are going to sell it and deal with customer complaints.
They need to be ready to receive whatever it is that your project is giving them.
Bonus Tip: Build trust with the right people early on in the project and it will pay back at this point.
3. Prepare Your Training Materials
It would be great if your project was delivering something so intuitive that no one would need training in how to use it, but that’s rarely the case with the complex projects we work on today.
If it’s a small enhancement to an existing system you could get away with a brief email to users and a screenshot of what is going to look different when they log in tomorrow.
Anything more than that and you’re going to need to put together some serious training material to help them get to grips with it.
Bonus Tip: Make sure you have people lined up to deliver the training. If you are going down the route of ‘live’ training (or even online self-paced training—you still need someone to record the materials) you should check their availability. Ideally, you shouldn’t be delivering training yourself as the project manager.
4. Schedule Enough Time for Training
Training, that’s an afternoon, right? We can fit health and safety training in for the new staff in a lunch break, OK?
No! Talk to some people in your HR teams and find out how long it really takes to deliver quality training. Add to that the fact that you might have to run face-to-face courses multiple times to allow for people being on different shifts or off work or involved in something so critical that they can’t attend training on that day, and you can see how quickly training time expands.
You need however long you need. Skimp on training and you won’t get the return on investment from the use in your end result. Simple.
5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Does everyone know what is going to happen on go live day? If necessary, prepare a countdown plan that documents who is doing what for each hour. We’ve used these successfully on large software implementations where there are multiple steps and teams involved in getting the new technology up and running. For example, the infrastructure team needs to ensure the hardware is ready and has gone through the final checks. Then the platform team prepares the environment and takes the necessary backups. An applications team does the installation and then there is data migration that needs user sign off. You can see how so many moving parts could cause problems if there isn’t a clear step-by-step approach to running the big day.
6. Tidy Up Your Documentation
Your project documents are going to form the basis of what people are looking at in the future to find out what they need to know about what happened.
Make sure that you archive and tidy up any project-related documentation including your project logs, and any project reports that show the history and key decisions. People might need to refer to these in the future.
7. Do the Change Management
Or work with someone who is going to do it, if you have skilled department leaders or a business change manager on staff.
Managing change on projects is a key factor in making sure that you get the business benefits that you are expecting. It can help embed the new processes or products and stop people from going back to the old ways of working.
8. Check the Knowledge Transfer
OK, so you won’t be making the IT Service Desk sit an exam on your project or anything, but put some time and effort aside to check that they really have taken onboard the knowledge that you have transferred to them.
You can do this by sticking around for the first week of go live, or getting them involved in dealing with projects, or even letting them run the whole of the implementation.
Be there if they need you, and talk to the management of those teams to check everyone is feeling confident before you move away.
9. Don’t Forget the Data
Whether you are implementing something new or upgrading something, there is going to be organizational data involved somehow. If you have to move data from one place or system to another, plan for that (and how you are going to check that it’s all made it OK). If you are creating new data sources—be that a new office location or software product—make sure that it can feed data back into the company’s main systems as planned.
In many cases, the final test is in the live environment. Have the technical team and data analysts on standby in case things don’t work out quite as you had hoped.
10. Plan Your Exit
You don’t want to be part of this project forever, so you need to know that you can gracefully exit. The idea is to make your dispensable so that you can easily transition into a new project. Once the business as usual team can stand by themselves, you should no longer be needed. Plan to make that happen as quickly as possible!