This article takes you on a very short journey - that of the implementation of a new product or a new release. Everything has to be organized perfectly. Nothing can go wrong. If it does you must be able to go back to square one. But, how do we do that?
The last step in any development project is the implementation of the newly developed or modified product, which means putting it into production. The development and testing phases are completed. No blocking issues are open. No severe (high risk) issues are open.
Only a limited number of small issues are open and transferred to the QA department. The acceptable number of issues is defined in the Master Test Plan.
All aspects of implementation are defined in a Master Implementation Plan in which the implementation strategy is defined. The implementation strategy includes:
- the communication
- online help
- support of third parties
- an implementation script
- relation with other processes in the organization
- installation a temporary helpdesk
- support of project management team members
- and, etc.
The strategy is defined by the implementation manager who does a risk analysis together with the stakeholders and acceptance criteria are defined. The implementation project manager is responsible for the implementation process, including the final result: a correct operation of the system after implementation. He or she makes an inventory of risks of the implementation (the post-implementation situation) and risks of the implementation execution. And of course the required measures. This process looks a lot like the process of creating the Master Test Plan by the test manager. And after the implementation the results and findings are reported to the project manager. Of course the process of analysis, execution and testing also applies to implementation.
Planning the Steps
Usually the planning of the implementation is critical. Implementation is usually done in the weekend, at a time that business operation is not disturbed. So the exact time when who will have to do what during implementation has to be defined. Time is limited and communication is vital. Sometimes the implementation takes place in different locations. Therefore the implementation has to be defined accurately. For this an implementation handbook is created by the implementation manager. Sometimes both a functional and technical implementation handbook is created, but it is better to only use one, in which the functional steps can be detailed so that more technical information is added. The handbook is discussed in detail with the people in the organization who take part in the implementation: these are the more experienced representatives of the departments involved.
Often before the actual implementation the handbook is executed during the final integration test on a test environment. During this phase in fact the implementation handbook is tested. At the same time it is a final check that all the parts work together properly. But that is a secondary goal since that has already been established during the testing phase. The primary goal is to establish that the implementation handbook is correct and that the people involved exactly know when to do what.
Before the actual implementation the production environment is frozen. No transactions or activities are allowed after a certain time, e.g. Friday 18.00 hours. If a backup of data is required then this is the time to make one.
After the implementation is done on the production environment the same integration test that was selected for the testing of the implementation handbook is used to establish that in the production environment everything is still working correctly after implementation. E.g. you could follow the lifecycle of a purchase order or a sales order and see that this is processed correctly. As long as you make sure that the whole business process in which the new functionality is integrated is executed at least once. When something goes wrong, then this is the time to fix it. Better to find out on a Saturday then in production on Monday morning. When the problems cannot be solved the situation before implementation has to be restored. So: there must be a fallback scenario defined in the implementation handbook and this has to be tested too during the testing of the implementation handbook.
Precondition for successful implementation is the involvement of the organization. Participation and communication are a precondition for acceptance. The new functionality should be communicated properly with the stakeholders and the people who have to work with the new or revised product. Also the people who will work with the new product must be trained properly, to ease the transition to the new situation. In advance.
This article is part of the book Q-Course Quality & Organization, see www.q-course.com.