Communication Best Practices: Preparing for Change Before “Go Live”

preparing for change before go live

The months leading to a technology project’s “Go-live” day can be stressful and nerve-wrecking. The time before, during, and after “Go-live” are all critical points of change for your colleagues undergoing the system implementation. It’s important to manage this change proactively from the start and to have a plan to manage this change. Ideally, the days leading to “Go-live” day have included a lot of work to prepare your stakeholders. Hopefully you’ve been engaging them in the project by building the awareness on why the project is important, addressing their “WIIFM” concerns, paving the way with clear expectations on training and using the new system, and holding your team accountable to what is expected. These are all the major tenets in the ADKAR model for change management.

The most creative and impactful ideas on engaging stakeholders to help them ease through this change comes from our clients. We’ve had the fortune of working with hundreds of major nonprofit organizations bravely managing the change on a major system implementation. We’ve had the privilege of working side by side these leaders as they guide their teams through these difficult and challenging transitions. We also learn from our clients and we share those best practices with the larger nonprofit community. Below are some of the tips and communication examples from our clients on what they did to prepare their team members the month or two before “Go-live” day. 

Pre Go-Live Phase

The Pre Go-Live Phase period typically spans one to two months before Go-Live with the new system and includes activities such as Go-Live expectation setting and Go-Live training. Below are best practice communication examples our clients sent to their stakeholders during this Pre Go-Live period.

  • Town Hall Meetings: One client arranged a town hall meeting two weeks before Go-Live day. The town hall invited all stakeholders who would begin using the new system on Go-Live day. The meeting was one hour in length and included a mix of a celebration and information sharing. The meeting started out with a light breakfast and a brief speech by the CEO of the organization. Below is a sample agenda of what was included:
    • The CEO aligned the purpose of the project with the mission of the organization to relay the bigger picture view of why this project was important. The CEO also acknowledged the hard work it took, and the additional work it would take post-Go-Live. (~5 min)
    • A few speeches (~15 min tops) from various team members and sponsors were given.
    • Go-Live logistics: The majority of the session (~30 minutes) was spent relaying the logistics of Go-Live, which included
      • High level timeline: various phases it took to get to Go-Live (Testing, Feedback, Data map).
      • High level scope statement: clarity on what is included in this project and what is not included.
      • Decision making process: how decisions were made to prioritize certain things over other priorities.
      • Timeline leading towards Go-Live
      • Delta Load or applicable Downtime Data reconciliation process
      • Contingency Planning
      • What to expect on Go-Live day
      • Help resources (Training Videos, Support & Knowledgebases)
      • Life after Go-Live/How to submit ideas/enhancements
  • Go-Live kits: Go-Live kits were prepared and sent to key stakeholders 1 week before Go-Live. The kits were sent to those power users who were asked to be a resource to other team members during Go-Live. The kit included small mementos with reminders on how to survive Go-Live.
  • Follow Up Email to All Stakeholders: This email is a follow up email sent to all stakeholders the week before Go-Live that reiterates some of the details from the Town Hall.
  • Follow Up Email to Operations: This email was sent to vendors and the Development operations team that was involved with all direct mail and gift entry needs. The email was sent a couple of days before Go-Live to clarify how various processes were being handled and who was responsible for each part of the process.

Go-Live Expectation Setting Tips from our Clients

“Communicate to your users that there will be “bumps” in the road, and have them help you solve these “bumps.” We started this conversation a year before we went live, and we have had bumps after Go-Live. It’s to be expected.”

“I’m a big believer that repetition is the key to remembering, so we attacked this on all fronts. This attitude (repetition is the key to remembering) helped us stay positive about what seemed on our end to be over communicating and in some instances, the same information. This requires a lot of thought and work but is critical to having your end users be part of the team.”

“Go over how you’ll prioritize new ideas and enhancements. Your users will want to know how the priority system is evaluated.”

“Make sure you take the time to thank the people that have worked on this project in many ways. They’ll need to be reminded often from the period leading up to Go-Live, the day of Go-Live, and after!”

Go-Live Training Tips from our Clients

“Make sure on training day that you tell everyone that training starts at Go-Live and continues from that point forward. Set the expectation that additional training will be available to everyone after the formal training days. Have a couple of staff ready to be your trainers after Go-Live.”

“Be clear on what the system does well and focus on that. Don’t promise that it does everything well. Highlight those points in Training and Go-Live.”

“Have printouts ready, and enough available. Some people need to write things down, or work better having something next to them to reference.”

“Everyone loves snacks, and for a Go-Live training we had snacks branded (stickers on the bags) with puns about going live with their new system. They were kind of silly but I think the laughs helped contribute to an over-all good feeling.”

“Some advice: 1) Don’t build your training at the last minute 2) Involve a few of your end users in the training – have them do a test run through 3) Know that your training will evolve and that’s OK. It won’t be perfect on day 1.”

Do you have any tips or best practices you’d like to share? If you would like any specific examples of some of the tips referenced above, we’d be more than happy to share.

Learn More

Read more about change management and how it can impact technology initiatives in our paper Managing Technology Change at Enterprise Nonprofits. In this paper we discuss factors that influence an organization’s response to change, a process for managing change, and how managing change effectively can impact the success of a nonprofit organization’s CRM and technology initiatives.

About the author

Team Heller

Heller Consulting has been helping nonprofits establish and improve their communications, fundraising and mission management systems since 1996. Our distinctive methodology comes from our hands-on experience with the technology AND strategies utilized by today’s successful nonprofits to build rewarding constituent relationships.

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