Ask 100 people to define Change Management, and you'll get 100 different definitions. At the end of the day, the definition is just semantics. What really matters is whether you can implement a Change Management program in a practical way that allows you to support your organization in successfully achieving its goals. Whether you're a Change Manager, a consultant, or the tech. guy who was told to "figure out some Change Management stuff," this blog will help address common issues and topics you're likely to run into along the way.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Change Management in the Project Lifecycle: Test Phase

By now, your Change Management team should be fully staffed and ready to put in some serious hours.  The test phase is when the project team verifies that the system they built works the way it was designed.  Although the Change Management team is sometimes left out of testing activities, it is extremely beneficial for your team to participate in test.  This is especially true for training developers and deliverers, as this is the perfect opportunity for them to get extensive, hands-on interaction with the new system.

The majority of your team's time during the test phase will likely be dedicated to training development.  Now that the system is built, your training developers can get into the system to figure out how it works and start to create training documentation.  If this is a packaged system, experienced developers may only need to figure out how the system was customized.  In the case of custom systems, developers may end up needing to learn the system from scratch.

I could write dozens of posts on training alone, but for now, here are just a few of my top tips for training development during the test phase:
  • Functional team/SME access: No matter how experienced your developers are, they will have questions about the system.  Ensure they have access to members of the functional team, as well as Subject Matter Experts.
  • Document, Document, Document: It is always easier to cut content from training than it is to try to add content that was missed.  Stress to your developers the importance of thorough training documentation.
  • Standards: If you have more than one training developer, make sure to put in place documentation standards prior to the start of training development.  Then make sure all of the developers understand the standards.  This will help ensure consistency of training materials across all developers.
  • Sign-off: Put in place a sign-off process.  Involve members of the team and the business.  No matter how busy people say they are, enforce the sign-off process.  Nothing will explode in your face faster than training materials that are delivered to the business without proper sign-off.

Now that you are getting closer to implementation, it's time to begin communicating details.  People will start to be very interested in information about training, especially when and how much.  They will also want to know when they will be expected to begin using the new system.  Everyone is busy, and it's best to give them plenty of time to begin planning their schedules around things like training delivery schedules and go-live activities.

This is also a critical time for keeping your ear to the ground.  As people hear more about the new system, complaints are likely to begin popping up.  This department doesn't like the screen layout.  That department feels like they're losing functionality that was provided by the old system.  Another team heard that the system won't go live on time.  Rumors will be swirling and you can only address them if you are aware of them.  Work your network, and remember: It's always better to address issues and concerns head-on.  If you don't tell the project's story, someone else will...and you might not like the story they tell.

Super User Training
The test phase is an excellent time to begin hands-on training with your Super Users.  Three easy ways to start their training:
  1. Involve them in test activities.  This will give them lots of hands-on experience with the system, as well as the opportunity to ask questions of the functional teams.
  2. Involve them in training development.  Super Users can provide valuable insight during the training development process about which activities are likely to be the most difficult for their peers.  This can help you focus the training materials on the most important topics.
  3. Involve them in training pilots.  You will likely want to pilot your training materials with a small group before rolling them out to the entire organization.  Using the Super Users as your pilot group not only gives you a ready-made pilot group, but it also gives the Super Users an early round of training.
Keep in mind that the type of training you put your Super Users through will be highly dependent on their role in training and implementation.

Hopefully, by now, you have run a number of system demonstrations targeted at different audiences across the organization.  What most people really want to know, though, is, "How will this change impact the way I do my day-to-day job?"  Running special Day-in-the-Life demonstrations gives you the opportunity to address this question.

A Day-in-the-Life demo focuses on how a specific person/job/department will use the new system as they do their normal activities throughout the day.  It looks at:
  • Where information comes from
  • Where information is sent
  • New tools and processes
  • Integration with existing systems
  • Specific activities required to perform a specific job/role
A word of warning.  If, during the test phase, the team discovers major bugs in the system, it is best to hold off on doing Day-in-the-Life presentations until the bugs are resolved.

Change Discussion Guides
Information that comes from a trusted and respected colleague is always received better than information that comes from an outside consultant.  This is why Change Discussion Guides are a great tool.  Change Discussion Guides are information packets that are given to managers.  The managers then use this information to hold discussions with their direct reports and teams to help them understand the changes that will come as a result of the new system.  Information you may want to include in a Change Discussion Guide includes:
  • How jobs/roles will change
  • Aspects of a person's job that will become easier or harder
  • Required and optional training
  • Implementation timeline
  • Where to get help with the new system
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Department-specific changes
As part of the Change Discussion Guide, make sure to build in time to review the guide and the information in it with the managers, so that they are fully prepared to meet with their people.

Go-live Preparation
Now is the time to start making a Go-live plan.  Most of the plan will revolve around communications.  What information do you need to send out?  When does it need to be sent?  Who is the best person to do the communicating?

I would also recommend that you have a back-up plan.  The back-up plan should focus on what communications will need to be sent if the system does not go live as scheduled.  I know it sounds like a very negative step to take, but sometimes cutovers do not go as expected, and it's important to have a plan in place to address this scenario.

Only two phases left!  You're almost there.

Let me know: Have you ever served as a Super User?  What activities were most effective at keeping you engaged in the project?

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