Transitioning to business as usual – The elephant in the room

What do we mean by business as usual?

It’s been said many times before, but go live is not the finish line, achieving the benefits that the project was tasked to deliver is. However, in many organisations, once a project is “across the line” it is bucketed with other “completed” projects and are unceremoniously dumped on the doorstep of a support team. It’s the elephant in the room, the problem we will deal with later, and not yours to worry about. While this is one way of transferring ownership, this lack of planning and accountability, once the impending go live milestone is reached, can have a detrimental impact on adoption and ability to deliver and measure ROI.  

The Association of Project Managers defines business-as-usual (BAU) as “an organisation’s normal day-to-day operations”, in contrast to projects which are “unique, transient endeavours undertaken to bring about change and to achieve planned objectives”.  

Business as usual never ends (or at least it doesn’t until that organisation or function ceases to exist), however, for most it is not clear when it starts. This is predominately since the transition will be different, both in timing and grandeur, for different stakeholder groups. While one group may be able to successfully complete their daily tasks within hypercare (the period after go live with additional support), others must wait for this window to close, before “successfully” completing a cycle of reporting unaided, and this could take months. For whole teams such as IT, their “usual” may begin even before go-live due to their role in supporting others achieving business as usual.  

My advice, much like thinking about your stakeholder groups and their interaction with the solution in the design phase, is to consider when their BAU might begin. Planning for the transition should adhere to the same governance principles as other phases, preparation, risk mitigation, suitable resourcing, and capability and as the name suggests, transfer of ownership from one responsible person to another. This should be demonstrated through engaging with stakeholders, managing resistance, contingency planning, and ultimately an acknowledgement from the project board that the transition has begun in earnest.  

Ok, but what does that look like in practice.  

  • The transition to BAU should be listed in the roles and responsibilities of someone on the project.  
  • Planning how, when and who will be involved in the transition should be incorporated into your project plan.  
  • It is likely this planning and ownership will be divided between the technical delivery and the change management teams. For example, resolution of bugs, status updates and exiting stage gates should all come from the programme management and technical teams, but engaging with stakeholders, gathering and actioning feedback will most often fall to the change management network or specialists.  
  • There should be a clear strategy and plan for transforming project documentation to relevant sources of truth, likewise, ensuring capability build internally if specialist contractors have been used, it is called knowledge transfer for good reason.  
  • Risks should be identified and managed. 
  • Budget should be set aside to suitably resource the transition.  
  • The project team are clear where they should go for help, and they should be correct.  

Does BAU start when it’s an accepted system, despite its faults? Or when the hyper care becomes obsolete, and the Project Team has been stood down?  

For me it is the point where all benefits can be (or at least begin to be) realised. It will be the sum of embedded ‘to be’ processes, so embedded that they are now ‘as-is’. It will be the sum of the capability uplift which was necessary across the business and the sum of the well managed risks and the sum of the transfer of ownerships. It is each team in turn falling into BAU and therefore, never one event but a series of transitions. So go on, try tackling that elephant in the room, you never know how valuable that planning could be.  


Struggling to transition to business as usual? Stuck in the ‘go live’ phase not able to return to normal? Our team of consultants are always happy to have a chat and dicuss your pain points. Contact us to day to get things moving again.

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