This Friday sees Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates, and marks the start of another Premier League season. Along with Arsenal and Leicester, 18 other teams in the league will have clearly defined their objectives and expectations at the start of pre-season. So, after a few months of intense and rigorous planning, procurement, testing and training it’s time to go-live and see if those objectives can be met. Nine Feet Tall may not be responsible for the delivery of a professional football club’s season (yet), but there are a lot of similarities between the project go-lives we regularly experience with our clients and the start of a Premier League season. Let’s take a look at a few of those similarities….
- “Pre-season was a great opportunity to experiment” Pre-season friendlies can be seen as the testing phase of a project for a team. Pre-season fixtures are critical for a team to test out whether their current plans and resources are sufficient to meet their season’s objectives. If testing isn’t going well, the manager may have to try out different formations or request new players that are more capable. The testing phase is often under-valued and is usually the phase which is shortened, with project managers being pressured to deliver the project on time.
- Fail to prepare, prepare to fail It is essential that a team has their training strategy and plans defined before go-live. Nowadays this is a given for all professional sports teams, with standalone departments responsible for laying out meticulous individually personalized training plans. Liverpool players are probably hoping that Jurgen Klopp doesn’t have any more 3-a-day sessions built into his training plan once the season begins.
- “They’re just not ready” How many times have you tuned into the first Match of the Day of the season and seen Hansen and Shearer pointing out that the side promoted through the Championship playoffs isn’t quite ready for the season? Just like a project, a business readiness assessment should be undertaken before go-live. Unfortunately there’s no delaying the start of the season, but by performing this assessment a team can highlight the areas of deficiency and plan how to overcome these challenges as soon as possible.
- Are the terraces singing your name or booing your every move? You’re undoubtedly going to get a few fans pointing out that Rooney is clearly past it and doesn’t deserve a place in the starting lineup, or that you should break the pay structure to re-sign Ozil and Sanchez. It’s clearly important to keep the supporters informed, and their happiness should be a key objective. However, how you interact with the fans and manage their expectations should have been planned out way before the start of the season. Stakeholder management is essential at every stage of a project, with project go-live being no different.
- Pogba’s new haircut for the first game of the season, how are we going to market this? Of course communications planning is a key component of a project go-live, but it should be pretty simple right? With global interest in the league growing every year, this is becoming more difficult and time consuming. In addition to the traditional match day programs and announcements, clubs now have to plan for social media, TV interviews, website content and a whole host of other media outlets; this isn’t even taking into account the raft of internal communications. There’s no doubt marketing teams will be in overdrive over the next few days.
- Could the pre-season have gone any better? Whether a team is successful in meeting all their objectives laid out at the start of pre-season obviously can’t be measured until the end of the season. However, a lessons learned workshop can definitely be held to focus on how the pre-season went and how it can be improved upon next year. Did transfer negotiations not go to plan or were there too many friendlies played? Identify the failures, learn from them and do it differently next time.
- Expect the unexpected What happens if Coutinho leaves for Barcelona on transfer deadline day, or Kane ruptures his Achilles tendon in the first ten minutes of the season? Contingency planning is essential, just like a project team would have to contingency plan on an IT change project, if appropriate contingency plans aren’t in place all the hard work undertaken in pre-season could be wasted and objectives won’t be met.
- Celebrate success along the way There’s a long season ahead, but just like any project there should be opportunities identified to celebrate success. Hopefully there will be an opening day victory to celebrate, but seeing all the hard work over the summer come together and the season finally get underway is enough cause for celebration.