Apr 9, 2015

Keep Calm & Go Live: 8 Tips for a Seamless Software Implementation

Learn how to keep your cool 
under go-live pressure.
by Stephanie Jones,
Senior Professional Services Consultant, MasterControl  

Does this scenario sound familiar? You have the perfect software implementation team assembled. Together you’ve configured, tested, reconfigured and reconfigured some more. You’ve written and/or updated your standard operating procedures (SOPs), created your user training materials, validated your new system and trained your user community. Now it’s time to go live, and your knees are knocking. What do you do? 

First things first, keep calm. Take a deep breath, and consider the following eight tips I’ve learned from participating in hundreds of software go-lives, both as a user and as a consultant. Keep in mind these tips can be scaled to fit the size and scope of your implementation project, and they can be useful regardless of the type of software you are implementing.

This article is related to the Whitepaper: What is the True Cost of Not Having an eQMS?. To get the full details, please download your free copy.

1. Queue Up External Tech Support

Ensure that your software provider’s tech support team is queued up and ready. It’s a good idea to let tech support know the exact day (or days) you’ve set aside to go live. Some customers forget to do this, but giving tech support a heads up will ensure that they are standing by to address any questions or concerns immediately.

2. Queue Up Internal Tech Support, Too
Don’t forget to queue up your internal IT professionals, as well. Ensuring that a dedicated internal IT team member (or members, if the implementation is large or will involve multiple sites) is at your disposable during the entire go-live process is critical to your success. The key word here is dedicated—as in specifically allocated or assigned to your go-live project. I’m not suggesting that they pledge their allegiance and devotion to you, but that wouldn’t hurt, either.

3. Assign a Point Person
Assign one member of your implementation team to be the point person who interacts with the software consultant, tech support and internal IT group. Your point person will be responsible for collecting, documenting and tracking all problems or issues. Again, if your go-live involves multiple sites, you will need a point person at every location.

4. Distribute Implementation Team Members Company-wide
Strategically place your implementation team members in various departments throughout the company. Placement will be driven by the type of software you are implementing. For example, if you are automating your document control processes with a solution like MasterControl Documents™, your internal implementation team should include a representative from document control, quality and manufacturing, especially if you are removing large paper binders from the manufacturing floor and replacing them with computer terminals. These team members will be responsible for providing support to end users who are critical to the new software processes. They will report all problems or issues to the point person for tracking purposes. Tracking is essential for spotting trends, and can save you time and effort. For example, if the same issue is reported three days in a row, by multiple users, you’ll know that it needs to be addressed quickly; it’s not an issue that will resolve itself.

5. Establish a Communication Plan in Advance
Be proactive. Before go-live day, establish a communication methodology between key implementation team members. Communication is the vehicle that drives a successful go-live. I suggest establishing a communication methodology:
  • Between your point person and strategically placed team members. It should define how to address “hot” issues and establish periodic touch points, such as how often team members will check in with each other during the go-live process. If your implementation involves less than 100 users, you might agree to meet every four hours, whereas a multi-site implementation might require more frequent communication. Even if no issues have been uncovered between touch points, it still important to check in for moral support.
  • Between your point person and your software implementation consultant. This is particularly important if the consultant is not going to be on-site during the go-live process.
6. Get Users Involved
Encourage your user community to reach out to the strategically placed team members when problems arise. This will facilitate user adoption.
7. Create a Post Go-Live Support Strategy
Determine how long your team should remain in place to assist end users after you’ve gone live. It might be as little as three days, or as long as 30 days. Once again, the size and scope of your project will determine the length of the initial support period. 
8. Continue to Track, Trend and Keep Management Informed
At the end of the initial support period: 
  • Continue to track problems/issues to determine if there are any new or unexpected trends or scenarios that require user education or re-education.
  • Report your findings and the status of any unresolved issues to management and the user community.
Congratulations! You’ve survived your software go-live. But what happens next—when your consultant is no longer part of your day-to-day? Again, keep calm; I’ll be addressing that in a future post.

Stephanie Jones joined MasterControl in 2011 as a professional services consultant. She has more than three decades of experience working with enterprise systems. Stephanie’s skills include project management, business systems analysis, software implementation, data conversion and computer system validation and compliance. Stephanie’s real-world expertise, particularly in the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing industries, and exceptional problem-solving and interpersonal skills, have helped her complete hundreds of successful implementations for companies both large and small.

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