In the film Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman (in the role of Thomas ‘Babe’ Levy) is repeatedly asked the question ‘Is it Safe?’ by Laurence Olivier (playing Dr Christian Szell). There appears to be no correct answer to this question.
At project initiation we identify a series of milestone dates such as completion of design, finish system configuration, sign off user acceptance testing, conclude end user training.
However there is one burning question:
‘What is the go live date?’
During project delivery we maintain a countdown to go live; 26 weeks, 25 weeks, 24 weeks …, 10 weeks, 9 weeks …, 3 weeks, 2 weeks… The go live date is etched in our mind, the project calendar, and the minds of the great and the good.
Everyone is expecting great things. This pinnacle of success; the supreme moment when we can crack open the champagne, breathe a sigh of relief, congratulate the project team on their herculean achievement, thank them for their dedication, for their marathon effort through thick and thin, to celebrate success.
Yet we must not get caught up in the euphoria of meeting this date. Prior to go live, there should be a go / no go meeting where we ask the question
‘Is it safe … to go live?’
At this session it is important that there are key questions asked, and honestly answered! Subject areas including: Was a representative set of User Tests run? Have the issues been resolved? Is user training completed? Has a countdown to go live been prepared? Is the data migration ready for sign off? Did the performance of the system meet expectations?
We are likely to have to ask the question a number of times ‘Is it safe … to go live?’, and take a decision based on the considered assessment of the project status.
For it is better to delay and get it right; than to go marching forward, fingers and toes crossed, hoping for a tail wind, luck on our side, checking the tea leaves to foretell the future and asking that great god of projects in the sky to make it alright on the night.
At Touchstone our experience in project delivery includes recognition of the importance of asking challenging questions. At the Go / No Go Project Board meeting we have a checklist of questions to go through. These encourage an open, balanced and constructive dialogue on the readiness to go live, the areas which need to be considered and a risk assessment on success.
By John Chapman