The Implementation (Roll-out) Plan

Any project needs a plan. What are you going to do and when is it due?

As with any project, if you don’t have a strategy and a deadline, you run the risk of wasting a whole bunch of time and ending up with an outcome that isn’t recognizable.

Create awareness with your agency or department that there will be some changes. If you have done the preliminary work and received input from everyone (I do mean everyone), then they’re aware there will be change.

Managing change and the transitions that take place will be the hardest part of this process.

Why? Because everyone is working hard, doing their jobs, dealing with deadlines and demands – and now they’ll be doing all that while learning new tools to manage what they do. Whew!

Chances are your colleagues are already stressed and super busy because of the inadequacy of the tools they’re using.

Now you’re asking – no requiring – them to give up their old trusty (and cumbersome) toolkit for something new.

Be prepared.

Get management on board. They have to be champions of change, as well as have your back.

Get a team together – a lead person from each department (e.g. creative, accounting, etc.). They’re responsible for keeping their group up to date on progress.

Meet with the team and put together a schedule.

The schedule can include:

·        Contract approval. This may take time for an in-house department that must go through the budget and legal processes. (I worked with a client that took nine months to approve a contract.)

·        IT preparation. There may be network or system (or even hardware) work that has to be done in advance.

·        Setup and configuration of the system (this varies greatly by provider and some will do this for you). This includes setting up users, clients, departments, and vendors.

·        Testing. Each department lead should test out the various applications to ensure it works as you imagined (and as the solution provider stated). Also a note on testing: Any test projects can skew future reporting (e.g. number of projects by client). Ask your vendor to walk you through closing / deleting them; or perhaps they can make a separate copy of your database for a testing and training environment.

·        Training. There are lots of ways to train. Webinar; live, on site; train the trainer; videos. I have preferences and will post those separately. However, I do recommend that you train by role. Creatives don’t want or need to see what accounting has to do, and vice-versa.

·        Roll out. Do discuss this early. Do you rip off the Band-Aid and launch everyone at once? Start with a single client group to test all applications then roll it out to everyone? There are plenty of pros and cons to each. This too can be a separate post. I’ve tried them all.

·        Go Live. Pick a date and try to stick to it. If the team has stayed on top of every step of the implementation, you should be close to your original schedule.

Once you go live, make sure your team is ready to jump in and help their team members individually. Even though everyone received training, by the time Go Live happens, they’ve done a million other things. So walk individuals through the steps, and take note of any issues. Assist with user-related issues, and log / report any software issues. Bugs happen, and if there is anything that doesn’t work as anticipated, get your rep on the phone and get help immediately – then report back the solution to your team. If there’s a glitch to fix, let your team know when a patch is expected.

Now that you’re live, pull your implementation team together at least once a week at the beginning. Discuss the list of issues, how people are working with the new tools, and compile users’ suggestions (enhancements) and complaints. Share that list with your vendor – they may have had the same requests and complaints from other users. That’s how they make their solutions better.

With all the planning in the world, no one knows what will really happen, or how the agency or department will embrace the new applications until you’re live. If everything falls apart in the first few days and appears insurmountable, then get your team together and go over all the issues.

Sometimes you just have to pull the plug and re-group.

I hate that. And I have done it.

However, you are addressing the needs of your colleagues – they will appreciate it. And a relaunch / reboot with thoughtful consideration will earn some serious buy-in.

One last word on implementation failure. It happens, and unfortunately not uncommon. Often, it’s due to incomplete upfront evaluation and / or lack of support from management. It’s not the end and your vendor should be able to help.

No? I can help. Call or email me.

There is also the human element to consider. Most people hate change. They certainly don’t want another software program that tells them what to do. And sometimes, a stubborn individual just needs to buck-up and get with the program.

Change isn’t insurmountable. It’s just hard.