Like you, we have read (and written) countless blogs on “how to manage a remote team effectively”; “how to motivate a disparate workforce” and “how to get the best out of a team who are dealing with the challenges of working from home”.
Applying these lessons to a project environment has been even more important to keep colleagues accountable for their work and ensuring they stick to timelines; while also keeping spirits high during what is often a stressful and time-pressured period.
What is less discussed is how to deliver a go-live during this time, something quite different from simply maintaining BAU operations and looking to keep morale high. A lot of organisations have paused projects due to the uncertainty or lack of resource, however there are some that are business critical and therefore have to get over the line in spite of the current climate.
One of our clients had a major ERP project go live during week 7 of the UK lockdown so, for a slightly different outlook, we have captured 9 specific activities you should consider when leading a remote project team over a cutover weekend.
- Regular check ins with an agreed format
Having diarised checkpoints set up prior to the cutover weekend means that individuals can plan their own activity around those touch-points. Agree a format for the meeting to ensure updates are concise, focused and enable for sticking points to be identified and resolved quickly
- Backup communication channels
Be clear about which communication channels you are and are not using over cutover weekend to simplify your team communications. However, make sure you have a backup option in place because if your chosen channel is having an off day, it is vital to quickly mobilise your team on to another platform to avoid wasting valuable time and missing key communications
- Have a plan for the unthinkable risks
“My laptop charger has stopped working” said the Data Migration lead on Saturday morning. It is important to have a plan in order to tackle your ‘unthinkable’ risks if they materialise; VPN issues, personal wifi outages, equipment issues, team illness, servers failing, accounts being blocked…all these things need a plan to resolve
- Buddy up
Consider pairing individuals in your project team to de-risk critical activities. If a VPN goes down or the person falls ill, there is a backup resource able to complete the work
- Agree actions with key stakeholders in advance
Ensure you have a clear directive from leadership on how to proceed if things are not going to plan and ensure that the Project Manager has ownership to make quick decisions without needing to loop back around with leaders. Time is precious over a cutover a weekend and trying to make key decisions with remote stakeholders, who are enjoying their weekend is always a tricky feat
- Issue hotline
Consider setting up a communication channel specifically for issues management so that the project team know where to assemble if an issue is flagged and requires a team effort to resolve
- Work in live, shareable documents
Find a way to make your cutover plan “live” so that the team can see and update progress in real-time. You do not have the luxury of shouting over the desk to say you have finished a task, so updating this on a document is the next best thing to provide real-time visibility across the whole team
- Execute a mini comms plan
In advance of your cutover, it is useful to map out your key stakeholders for the weekend and think about “who is going to need to know what and when?”. Your leadership team will need to know different information to the business users who may be using the system over the weekend and you will not all be working from the same office this time around. Thinking about this in advance of the weekend will reduce the risk of you missing someone out!
- Celebrate success
Celebrating a go-live sat in your front room on your own is nothing short of anti-climactic, however there are ways to show your team that they are valued and to celebrate success. Send some brownies in the post, organise a team zoom celebration (with videos ON!), ensure leaders and line managers recognise the effort of their colleagues. A little goes a long way in this new working we world we find ourselves in.
If you would like advice and support on how to overcome challenges to your projects, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org