The decision to implement the project
Many projects have failed on the last hurdle due to poor implementation planning or inadequate analysis just before going live. It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that implementation is planned and communicated to stakeholders, and that adequate due diligence is carried out before the project progresses. This second point is often overlooked. Many project managers have some form of project implementation plan or cutover plan, but fail to perform the necessary rigorous analysis to determine whether they should Continue. This article focuses on this analysis – what is called the ‘go-live decision’.
The decision whether or not to go live should not be taken lightly; it is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions in a project’s life cycle, and a wrong decision can jeopardize the success of the entire project.
Implementing a project without everything in order can result in:
– unresolved defects
– insufficient testing
– insufficient training
– business processes not understood
– procedures not written
– missed stakeholders
– lack of communication
– failed data migration
– interfaces do not work
– system management and support not available
– business areas that are not ready for the changes
– have no unforeseen circumstances
– workflows and exceptions not mapped
– no backups and disaster recovery
– insufficient system security
– unclear responsibilities, responsibilities and property
– inadequate implementation strategy
And finally …
– system / application error
– impact on the company / organization
While the project manager is always under pressure to deliver on schedule, it is sometimes wise to step back and delay going live rather than risk the consequences of moving forward.
What due diligence should be done?
Ideally, the project should have an independent source to carry out the readiness assessment. If the analysis is performed by the project manager or people who are closely involved in the project, there is a risk of bias or influence of the pressure to implement on time. The use of an independent source ensures a level of impartiality and thus credibility in the decision-making process. It’s also helpful to get an outsider’s perspective, especially if it’s someone with years of project experience and knowledge. Well-funded projects often employ external consultants to conduct audits and health checks throughout the project lifecycle, including go-live readiness assessments.
Unfortunately, not all projects have the resources or desire to hire consultants, and therefore require internal staff. In this case, it is best to use a tool with previous project experience (eg Another project manager), but with no vested interest in the outcome of the project. This increases the chance of an objective outcome & recommendations. Remember that it is in the project manager’s interest to get an honest assessment of where the project is really at as any major shortcomings must be addressed or remedied before going live. If the outcome of the assessment is predetermined or intentionally skewed, it makes little sense to do the assessment!
If it is not possible to secure an independent internal source to perform the readiness assessment, the project manager can do this himself. However, they must ensure that they give a fair account of the situation, ask people questions and do not hide problems. These assessments should never be conducted without extensive consultation, as it is vital to speak to as many project people as possible to find out the true state of affairs. Some people hide problems or only tell you the positives. It’s important to get the ‘warts and everything’ view as all major issues and roadblocks need to be discovered and addressed before a decision is made.
What should the assessment include? Rather than starting from scratch, it’s easier to start one Implementation checklist. This provides a starting place, based on common best practices, and ensures that you don’t miss any important points in your review. Use what’s on the checklist to ask other questions and checks that may be relevant to the project.
The project does not have to tick all the boxes to continue and there is no required score or pass / fail. However, if there are multiple noticeable gaps, the decision becomes quite clear. The checklist helps identify serious gaps and deficiencies that need to be remedied before going live. It can also support further funds or resources if a specific area needs to be addressed. The checklist should support the decision-making process and not form the basis of a decision. The person making the decision (normally a steering committee) should also consider the bigger picture and include other factors such as external pressure, urgency to proceed, risk appetite, consequences of delays … etc.
If significant gaps are identified, it is generally much better for all concerned to postpone implementation until these gaps are resolved. The implications and costs of a failed or difficult go-live are often much worse than a small delay in planning. The only exception to this is if there is a non-negotiable implementation date (eg, a response to legislative changes that must be by a certain date). In this case, the gaps in the checklist must be prioritized and addressed in order of importance and resolution. In this case, the go-live steering group would essentially accept the risks identified in the assessment, on the ground that it is more important to meet the implementation date than to mitigate the risks and have a smooth go-live.