Project Cutover-A vital step in Project Go Live

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Project Cutover-A vital step in Project Go Live



Preface

Through the rough and tumble of a project, when all the hardworking on solution design, Integration and  testing is done, QA has satisfactorily passed the results, the time comes to setting the product or result of the project into real life use. The real life has never been tested for this unique work so there shall be challenges and issues. To make sure that transition from the DBT (Design, Build and test) stage to real life happens as smooth as possible, a project needs a cutover process. Though PMBOK doesn't elaborate much on the subject, but refer to transition as an output of the 'Close Project or Phase' process group, as Final Product, Service, or Result Transition.

 

Cutover is vital process as it involves placing the product or service or result of a project to its operating lifecycle, so that initial issues/pitfalls could be monitored, minimized and managed effectively, thus in context of Project Management it is important to understand the 'Cutover Process'.

 

Definition

Cutover process involves a series of steps need to be planned, executed and monitored in order to make the project golive. It encompass Cutover Strategy, Cutover Plan, The Cutover Date, Agile Monitoring of the cutover activities and Controlling undesired variations. Its a crucial process and sets focus of the project on important activities which are necessary to make project result for actual use by the end user.

 

'Cutover' as defined -'rapid transition from one phase of a business enterprise or project to another'. It follows approaches that are emanated from various project experiences and aligned with the organisational policies and procedures for better execution and control. In simple terms, when a project or product completes a development stage, it needs to transit into operations stage or another phase.

 

Though cutover process is more associated with or pertinent to the IT processes, but it is equally relevant in all types of products/projects, the scale and volume of activities may vary.

For example, rolling out a designed and tested ERP application, a well laid out Cutover process needs to perform in order for the system to work uninterruptedly from the date of its going live, similarly, for rolling out a new train service between two stations also need cutover planning and execution but the activities and steps might be different than the ERP project, same can apply for any infrastructure project etc.

 

Why do we need to 'Cutover'?

This is very relevant to know why do we need cutover? We have following key aspect of a Cutover Process:

  1. Migration from the development cycle where transition of the product/service from the controlled, cockpit kind of environment to real operating environment needs to happen.

  2. Establishing or finalising a predefined cutover date from where onwards, new operating procedures/processes comes into effect.

  3. The product/service standard operating procedures are going to be changed from the previously used methods/steps and operating instructions these must be prepared and put to use, so 'Cutover' entails user trainings, Handholding and Post Live issue handling procedures.

  4. Where it is legally required to follow some different rules after a given date so as to ensure compliance, for example, Govt. brings in law to implement GST instead of VAT w.e.f. 01/04/2017, this becomes imposing date for all the organisations to adopt GST from this date, so this becomes natural Cut Over date for all the organisation to follow.

  5. Where support of a product/service is obsolete after a certain date, the obsolete product service must be replaced cutover needs for implementing the new product/service.

  6. So that product support function can be activated to support the project during its life cycle

     

    New Product Launches, New Service Launches, New Market Launches, New Software Implementation, Replacing Old system with New improved system, all involves cut over process in order to enter to the real life it a well planned approach so that the transition becomes smooth.

 

Following are pre-requisites which must be met in order to cutover:

  1. All the customer requirements have been incorporated into product or service design and all change requests have been implemented.

  2. Testing of the product or service has been completed to the satisfaction of the appropriate team of the customer , as per the acceptance criteriaset up in the Validate Scope process

  3. Quality Audit by competent expert(s) have been satisfactorily carried out and their results have been considered by the customer

  4. Pre production mock drill have been carried out by the project team along with the customer core team

  5. Trainings to the end users of the customer have been completed

  6. Any other completions or conformance criteria set out in the SOW or Contract has been vouched and confirmed by the customer

  7. All the documentation for use of the new product/service/result is ready in the form of technical documentation as well as the user manual which can be used as a ready reference to any issue faced during the post go live stage.

  8. All the Go-Live critical issues have been resolved and their resolution is documented to assist in future recurrence.

  9. All legal formalities such as Government Clearances/License fees/ Taxation has been properly dealt with.

 

The cutover process:

The Cutover process includes strategy, planning, execution and monitoring and control, the whole process is elaborated in following paragraphs:

 

1. Cutover Strategy

Cutover strategy is the core guiding principle of the organisation, which requires certain organisational objectives to be achieved by putting up the outcome of a project for end use. The cutover strategy is set out in the Initiating phase and developed an insight by project planning phase. It is revisited and revised and finalised  before the cutover plan is worked out.  Cutover strategy provides critical facts which aligns organisational activities to the objectives relevant to project rollout.

 

Key aspects of a cutover strategy are:

  1. Timing and market conditions or other environmental aspects necessary in order to place the product/service or result to end use

  2. Determining the need and assess the requirement with respect to Blackout period and devise clear guidance to the project team

  3. Requirements with respect to organisational preparedness and orientation in terms of competencies and resource availability

  4. Ensuring alignment of cutover plan to organisational objectives

  5. Setting up the Organisational Communication in order to clearly defined roles/responsibilities and accountability

 

2. Cutover plan: All rigor of a project goes into creating a product, service or a result. The time when we have completed the execution of the project activity, all testing of the product or service with respect to Customer Requirement and Product Characteristics and Project Quality is completed and this product/service or the result is to ready to be launched for commercial purposes, we need to roll out to a step called Cut Over planning.  For every project the cutover requirements differs as per the requirements or the nature of the product and the project, but the procedure of the cutover remains generic. In a typical project plan the cutover date is set up based on the baseline scope/schedule dates. So the cutover planning begins with the original project plan and it is essentially elaborated at a later date when project execution is in the last of its leg. Normally detailed cutover planning is started at around 2-3 months before the date of the rollout date depending upon the size and complexity of the project.

 

The cutover plan needs to be well laid out and needs to be elaborated enough not to leave anything to speculation because cutover involves phasing out the old product/service/result or setting out new product or service as the case may be, so as to minimize on the issues of post go live. Cutover plan, as a sub component of main project plan needs to incorporate following actions:

  1. Planning of the availability of Hardware/Software and other material resources and people necessary for the rollout

  2. Declaration of Going Live and other subsidiary communications as per the communication management plan from the executives to relevant user group, its timing and content

  3. Setting up issue management protocol, alignment of organisational functions with the new requirements

  4. Determining Blackout period in alignment with the Cutover Strategy and layout dos and don'ts during this period.

     

    Blackout Period: It is important step to roll out a new product/service or the result that we need to create some space in the ongoing environment of the existing product/service or result so that new product/ service or result can be placed before start. The context of this step is known as 'Blackout Period' where in the current product/service or business as a whole needs to be stopped for predefined period of time  in order to roll out the new product/service or result.

     

    It is important to differentiate among the IT objects/software products, physical product rollout such as a good, machine or other material or an infrastructure such as a road or bridge or a building or a new service such as mobile phone service or rolling out a chain of super stores etc. where concept of blackout to be appropriately modified

     

  5. Setting up focused core group for monitoring and controlling variations from the transition process and technical and functional support teams

  6. Setting up key success criteria to help measure the success/completion

  7. Risk reassessment and devising a fallback plan in case of unforeseeneventuality

 

It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure adherence to the cutover plan once it is approved by the project sponsor or the steering committee.

 

3. Cutover  Procedure

Cutover procedure involves series of activities that are  carried out in adherence to the cutover plan. This the execution of Cutover Plan and  needs active participation from senior management.

Cut over procedure entails below mentioned steps:

  1. Freezing Cutover date- Once the product or result is ready, planned cutover date or new date is finalized at an appropriateforum

  2. Formulating Cutover Strategy and communication to relevant stakeholders

  3. Detailed Cutover Plan and communication to relevant stakeholders

  4. Ensuring all steps defined for validation of the deliverables have been achieved and any of parked issues to be taken up after going live have been acknowledged and documented

  5. Orientation of the Project Team and The Core User Group for better execution has been ensured

  6. Detailed procedure of events and tasks to be carried out in blackout days (if any) and allow for suspension of activities to adapt to the procedure take place with stop, look and go strategy.

  7. Big bang opening of the first output of the new product/process recording and acknowledging the start of new process or product life cycle and communication of the success in order to carry the positive message and boost themorale of the teams involved

  8. Monitoring and Controlling of the Execution of the Cutover activities

  9. Announce the completion of cutover activities and sending out success stories and developing lessons learnt documentation

 

4. Successful go live and post live support

Once the cutover procedure is executed and the product/service or result went live, all the initial issues have been settled and user has started working on new procedures, the project Go-Live happens to be successful. Now the post Go-Live support is crucial for some time lets say for a month in order to stabilize the new process and hand over completely to the operations teams. After successful go live, product  support is taken over by the specialised support team to support the ongoing operations. On successful transition, appropriate management communication must be issued to all relevant stakeholders so that the project team can proceed with other Project Closing activities.

 

Conclusion:

A strong cutover strategy followed by a well defined cutover plan is indicator of success in transiting the product/service/ result into real life. It ensures  issues are minimized and controlled, operating becomes easy and a speedy recovery of costs and ROI. A diligent planning ensures that all steps/activities required for transition has been taken into account and uncertainties has been duly accounted. All risks have been duly noted and response plans are weighed and appropriately adjusted.  While we execute the cut over procedure the care must be taken to adhere to the plan and any deviations noticed must be duly communicated to the relevant stakeholders in order to take any corrective steps as required. An active participation by senior management is imperative for success of a cutover process.

Posted on: December 12, 2016 04:08 PM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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Thanks for the very detailed article.

Very detailed cut over description, thank you for sharing!

Thanks I'm working on an ERP upgrade cutover plan and found good information in the post.

Appreciate this thank you

Thanks for the detailed explaination - I think Roll-Back (Strategy & Plan) should also be part of Cutover

@Mohammed Anis, thank you for your valuable comments.I fully agree with you. Infact fallback plan is touched upon in point no. 7 of section cutover plan, 'Risk reassessment and devising a fallback plan in case of unforeseen-eventuality'

Thanks for a valuable reading and feedback. @Mayte Mata-Sivera, Ballo S. Touvoli &Lisa Marle Fray.

Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom! Great article...definitely worth my time!

Hi Satish, Thanks so much for sharing your insights about cutover. You're right, this all too important phase is all too often ignored, rushed through, or sometimes not even all steps thoroughly completed. It is very important to document, and turn over project documentation, and transfer knowledge. Thanks again and have a great day

@Joanna Couto- thanks for liking this piece...

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