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Operational Readiness: The bridge between Deploy and Operate

Posted by: Stelica Gheorghita
Category: Operations Management

Ideas make money only if they are Planned and Executed as a Project

Everything in this life starts with an idea. This is also true, for big business products and services. It can start in a boardroom or in a Product Management casual meeting or it can even be a pitched idea to an Investor or a VC.

That idea, once validated by the right stakeholders, takes the shape of a Business Case which outlines clear Business Requirements. The Business Analysts and the Technical Architects and Designers work together then to translate everything into Technical Requirements which are the inception inputs to a Project.

Introducing the Project Manager – with his teams and delivery “armies” to Plan, Execute and Control a predefined set of Activities with a clear Start and End Date, assigned to owners and by using a planned and available budget.

Of course there is more to managing a project, then what can be encapsulated in a one liner.

The bottom line of a Project, the signal that is has been successfully delivered is constituted by the delivery of its Benefits to the stakeholders, i.e. the Implementation of the System, the Creation of the Product, the Launch of the Service.

This is not the end, this is just the beginning

Once all the Project Targets have been made and the Product has been delivered or the Service has been launched – it needs to be Operated.

Introducing the Service Delivery Manager (SDM)- with his Operational and Support teams to manage the day-to-day Service Delivery, applying on the Operational Model.

The Handover between PM and SDM: Crossing the bridge

Just before the Launch, the PM and the SDM must do the Handover in order to formally end the Delivering stage and start the Operating mode.

Here are 7 steps to ensure you successfully hit Operational Readiness:

  1. Make sure you start the Handover with a clear agreed Operational Readiness Checklist

When you don’t know where you’re going – all the roads will take you there. The Operational Readiness Checklist is the Map of the Handover. It contains all the mandatory checks which needs to be in place prior to the end of the project and start of the operations. i.e. Have all the technical designs been handed over from the Project to the Operations and accepted by the latter? (Y/N)

Common sense is the enemy here – everything has to be formal, agreed in advanced and owned, otherwise you’ll end up in endless debates and in costs ping-pong.

2. Handover of Defects is a must

According to PMI, 44% of the projects in 2015, suffered from scope creep. In order to ensure Time-to-Market, sometime the Marketing or Product departments are imposing tight deadlines to Launch. This will cause an impact in the items being Handover from the PM to the SDM. Defects will need to be followed up and closed in the Operations. even though the closing of these defects were deliverable in the Project.

List the defects, ask for owners from the project side to follow up the resolution and for God’s sake, make sure that the PM is the one to secure additional budget to close this up. The alternative is the Business Stakeholders signs off on the budget to be assigned to you and your teams to follow through the Defects resolutions.

3. Always have an Operating Model signed off at the Handover Phase

Some call it Service Description, other call it Operational Blueprint, but regardless of how you call it, make sure you have it, is signed off and it coverall all the possible Operational Scenarios. It is the Constitution of your Operational Delivery and in the Handover Phase is your only chance to amend it to fit the purpose – without incurring any additional costs.

4. No RUN without a Dry-Run

From conflict simulation to end-to-end operational flows testing, make sure you do it all in advance, prior to completion of Handover. Wargaming is the best approach to ensure you have it all covered. Leaving anything to chance will surly generate costs and impact Customer Satisfaction after Launch.

5. Ownership is a mark of Professionalism, not a sign of weakness

Agreement between PM and SDM of who does what before and after Launch, is a sign of Organizational maturity and professionalism on both sides. Formalizing everything into the Handover Plan will create the opportunity of having the right artefact in the for the Business Stakeholders sign off.

6. Baby-sitting is a real operational concept

In the Handover Plan agree a period of Baby-sitting, where the Deployment Teams will sit and support the Operational Teams under special agreed terms and using a agreed budget with Business Stakeholders.

7. The outstanding items from the Project are becoming inputs to your Service Improvement Plan

You’ll have defects handed over from Project to Operations, you’ll also have activities to be completed which were signed off by the Business Stakeholders and agreed with the PM to move them to Operations. As long as every item is captured and there is a resolution action agreed and an owner assigned – the only thing that you need to make sure you have is: the budget to solve those items. The Service Improvement Plan can capture everything from day 1 of the Operations Delivery.

“Luck is when Preparation meets Opportunity” – Prepare the Readiness in advance as you’ll have plenty of Opportunities to run a smooth Operation!