Apex 3 Blog
A blog to offer ideas, suggestions and techniques to turn around or fix troubled or failed IT projects

Cutting Over To A New System

by Mark Davison February 15. 2012 18:07

Despite all the advances in automated technology, project management methodologies and experience gained over years of implementation work, making a major change in an organization’s production computer systems remains a disruptive and daunting operation.  This is particularly true for organizations that don’t go through such major changes frequently or don’t have the depth of resources and expertise on staff.  Success - or failure - can affect bottom lines, corporate cultures, work processes, and careers.  

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for successfully navigating the road to implementation.

  • Plan, then plan some more, than plan some more – it’s essential to devote the time and effort to put together a plan at the appropriate level of detail to stay on track with resources, time and budget, and to determine how to handle governance, issues and scope control.  But don’t expect to deploy one plan and be finished, expect to revise the plan many times along the way.
  • Set deadlines and milestones, determine owners, and invest the time to be sure those responsible meet their targets – this creates accountability for the project and allows for the identification of problems and errors early in the process when there is time to make corrections.  Also make the investment in detailing the exit criteria for each phase of the work, and to review the budget versus actual spend at the end of each phase.
  • Clarify expectations and deliverables – this is probably one of the hardest areas to nail 100% so it’s worth investing the time. Don’t allow lack of clarity around who expected what from whom when and how to compromise the work of a high performing team, and make sure all deliverables are well defined and agreed to in advance so that when delivered they meet requirements and expectations.
  • Test, test, test – providing adequate testing for complex cutovers can be difficult, but must be done to provide the needed level of comfort around readiness.  Take the time up front to apply best practices for test planning, test cases, and the appropriate types of testing to verify and validate readiness.  If there is an opportunity to perform a mock conversion, take it.  That’s another way to weed out potential problems and issues.
  • Don’t forget the impact on people and processes – sometimes in the team’s zest to assure the readiness of the technology, fully understanding the impact of the cutover on people, work processes, forms and paperwork, and other nontechnical challenges associated with the cutover gets left in the dust, only to come back and bite a successful team after the fact.  Talk with end users and management, and make sure the impact is understood so there are no surprises.
  • Training and documentation – people learn in many different ways, but ultimately some form(s) of training and documentation will be needed to prepare both the nontechnical and technical staff for their post-cutover roles and responsibilities.  This is often either overlooked, or short-cutted due to timing and budget, but can have a major impact on success.  The key is to determine what’s appropriate for the company, environment, type of cutover, project, users, etc.


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About Mark Davison

Mark Davison

After 25+ years of working on and leading projects primarily in IT, I'm establishing this blog to share knowledge, ideas, tips and techniques regarding how to turnaround and fix troubled and failed projects

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