Afiniti Insights

Implementing Change: How to Set Yourself Up for Success on the Countdown to Go-Live

Finally, after months of rigorous planning and countless programme meetings, you think you’re ready to go live and begin implementing change.

But is think good enough for something so critical? Wouldn’t it feel much better to know that not only are you ready to deliver change, but that your business is ready to accept it?

This insight delves into the key change management factors you need to consider in the countdown to your go-live and how to address them all.

The delivery phases

Generally, you’ll be working towards a technical go-live. From our experience, lots of programme meetings will happen immediately before go-live in which everyone will say they’re ready, but you need to assess what’s really happening between those meetings. Are the right actions being set and met, and are people delivering what they say they will? Has the right engagement taken place, and are your comms doing their job of making impacted colleagues feel ready and able to adopt the change into their business as usual?

There will also be a cutover period in your go-live phase while you move from the old state/platform to the new. During this time, you might have to postpone some things or do them more manually. Businesses often fail to plan for the cutover, when they really need to be sure how they’re going to keep the lights on during that transition. A good example of this is in finance, where you probably have continuous 365-day processes, and therefore the handoff from one state or platform to another needs to be crystal clear; especially as regulators won’t care if something slips because you were in cutover.

And implementing change doesn’t end there; immediately after your business go-live, you’ll be in a period of hypercare, in which you’ll need to address any immediate issues that arise. Only then, when you and your people are happy with the new ways of working, will you be able to transition to business as usual.

Bear in mind that the timescales of deployment will differ for each project. For example, some changes in the regulatory space can’t be considered embedded or business as usual (BAU) until one loop of the process has been completed, which could take a year or more.  

Building your change delivery plan

No one deployment plan fits all sizes, but there are some big-ticket items they all should include.

Obviously, some of these will be technical elements. What’s less obvious, and where many organisations fall short, is the need to factor in the people elements on your delivery plan.

Your plan needs to include regular, two-way communication with those impacted, especially as you go into training, then head to go live and subsequently during the hypercare period when issues are most likely to crop up. Factor in how future users can be onboarded too.

And note, impacted stakeholders might include your customers too. Have you planned this into cutover and talked to your customers about how they’ll be affected, and have you tailored these communications specifically for this unique user group?

Agree and embed your metrics for success as part of your delivery plan. These will also vary, although you can see some examples in our recent case study that examines change adoption metrics. A good general indicator of how well you’re implementing change is whether the issues raised in hypercare are predominantly technical or related to people being unsure about the new state or their role and responsibilities in it. If the latter, it could suggest the change wasn’t communicated well and hasn’t been accepted.

To make the plan transparent, we recommend creating an outward-facing countdown, focused on what your impacted stakeholders need to do when, for example, training or engaging with some specific comms. We suggest regularly sending bite-size nuggets of information from at least a month before your go-live, increasing the frequency as you get closer. These should be tailored for different user groups so that each function, team and individual knows everything they need to.

Top tips and best practices for implementing change

The last thing you want on day one is for people to say they did all of the training but didn’t understand why they were doing it and what’s expected of them now.

To avoid this, make sure you’ve proactively engaged impacted people, including through immersion sessions, that your KPIs are in place so you know what good looks like and that your leaders and teams are working together towards the same objectives.

Strong, active change leaders play a pivotal role in aligning wider teams to the North Star of change, helping it remain high on meeting agendas while keeping its narrative alive and in focus through team-specific immersion sessions.

We often develop internal sites to provide toolkits for leaders that help them promote training and articulate the change. If they can’t do this, you’ll face serious issues when it comes to change adoption.

Plan your hypercare phase carefully, making sure you have a process in place for people to raise issues, for example, a virtual office or a ticketing system. If anyone in the programme team identifies an issue in hypercare, they should be encouraged to be open, honest and up-front about this.

And don’t forget to celebrate success! An incredible amount of work goes into implementing change, which deserves celebrating, but that high volume of work is also the reason this step often gets overlooked. This won’t be your organisation’s last change, so you want your people to feel it was worthwhile, that they’re appreciated, that the training was valuable and that they’re ready for the next change, whenever it comes.

Don’t fall at the final hurdle

It’s your people who will make your change stick or fail. You may have a fantastic new tool or team of technical SMEs, but if your people don’t understand what this means for them, your change delivery will be extremely challenging, forcing you to focus on things you wouldn’t need to if you’d planned well.

Afiniti supports clients through every step of their change journey, including in the countdown to go-live. Our tried and tested business readiness toolkits, tailored to your specific programme, needs and objectives, can check you’ve addressed everything required to set yourself up for success.

Please get in touch to tell us about your programme, and we’d be happy to learn how we can help you with implementing change to ensure it realises your desired business benefits.

Emma Roberts
Emma Roberts
Emma is a Managing Consultant with over 25 years’ experience in organisational design, project business analysis, change management and communications. Emma has worked with a variety of large organisations in the private, public and charitable sectors, from life sciences to rail, NHS and RAF to financial services and energy as well as large scale transformation in other safety-critical, heavily unionised operational environments. 
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