Communication Best Practices: Preparing for Change Before Go Live
The months and week leading to a nonprofit 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 involved in the system change. Go-Live communications play a critical role in how your employees get their first start in the new system. Some of the most creative and impactful ideas we’ve seen on engaging stakeholders through this final launch phase come from our clients.
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It’s important to manage change proactively from the start if you want to ensure your employees adopt the new system and your project is successful. Nonprofits who recognize this and develop a change management plan from the start have a higher chance of success.
We’ve had the privilege of working side-by-side with the leaders of hundreds of nonprofit organizations as they guide their teams through complex and challenging technology change. Below you’ll find some tips and examples from our clients on the change communications they found effective with their staff leading up to and immediately after Go-Live day.
The pre-Go-Live period typically spans one to two months before Go-Live. Activities during this period typically include:
- Expectation setting
- Reinforcing awareness of the reasons behind the change
- Clear communication of changes to individual job responsibilities resulting from the system change
- Proactive and reactive identification and management of resistance
- Go-Live training
- Final pre-launch preparations
Below are some of the more common successful strategies we’ve seen from our clients around pre-Go-Live communications. Be sure to download our free guide for more details!
- Town Hall Meetings:
One client arranged a town hall meeting two weeks before Go-Live day, hosting all stakeholders who would begin using the new system on Go-Live day. The meeting – an hour in length – included a mix of a celebration and information. Download our free guide for more detail, but the high-level agenda included:
- CEO kickoff to reinforce the alignment of the project with the mission of the organization to relay the bigger picture view of why this project was important. (5-10 minutes)
- Sponsor speeches – short speeches from key business leaders and sponsor (15 minutes)
- Project Lead outlining Go-Live logistics (30 minutes)
- CEO thank you and toast (5 minutes)
- Feature demos
Hosting a few open house sessions leading up to Go-Live where your employees can get sneak previews of the new system can help build excitement and minimize anxiety about the unknown. These can be short videos, or live or virtual hosted sessions. They should focus on one or two areas or key features rather than try to do deep dive demos of the full system. This is also a great way to get your project team and sponsors out in front of the stakeholders ahead of time, allowing your users to see how comfortable these change leaders are with the new system.
- Internal newsletter or intranet posts
Leverage your internal communication tools to build excitement. Interviews with project team members are a great way to highlight some key features – questions like “what are you most excited about in the new system?” and “what are you most looking forward to leaving behind?” are great ways to get people talking in a positive way. A Q&A doesn’t have to be long; even short quotes or testimonials can enhance a formal communication and make the system start to feel real for stakeholders who were not directly involved in the project implementation.
- Go-Live kits:
Some clients prepare Go-Live kits and send them to key stakeholders a week or so before Go-Live. Some ideas include tips on how to survive Go-Live, one-pagers and some small fun mementos. Examples might include mugs, mouse pads branded with the internal name or logo of the new system.
- Follow Up Email (s)
It might not sound as exciting as some of the other bet practices, but it’s important to send an email to all stakeholders immediately before Go-Live detailing the logistics they need to know. Knowing what to expect is critical to minimize employee stress.
The Go-Live period starts on launch day and typically spans one to four weeks after that. Key activities in this phase include:
- Building competency in the new system
- Support and enablement
- Issue resolution
- Monitoring adoption and proficiency
- Reinforcement training
The critical focus in this period is ensuring employees feel supported and can successfully adopt the new solution and business processes. Below are some best practice communications ideas we’ve seen work well during this phase.
- Using internal social messaging
One client used Salesforce Chatter with their key power users to celebrate Launch day using a hashtag that celebrated the launch #NameofProjectLaunch. Users posted pictures of themselves on Go-Live day with positive notes. Clients have also used Yammer, Teams, and home-grown intranet tools to post encouraging messages.
- Launch Room
Our successful clients clearly identify how to find the support team on launch day and the weeks after. A few of our clients have set up a specific room full of decorations, balloons, and put out food. This creates an environment is inviting and helps staff feel comfortable asking for help.
- Inspiring Daily Message from Executive Sponsor
Consider having your executive sponsor and other key change leaders send daily inspirational emails during Go-Live week.
- Launch Celebration
Many of our clients plan a Launch celebration happy hour, party, lunch, or dinner with the key project team members. This is a thank you for all the hard work from team members and to acknowledge there’s more work to continue. Some of our large clients with multiple locations have held virtual parties as well!
The Post-Go-Live period begins typically within one month of launch and expands out three or more months after Go-Live day. This phase typically includes a continuation of issue resolution as well as the beginning of the introduction of new system enhancements. Be sure to download our free guide to check out best practice communication examples our clients used with their stakeholders post-Go-Live.
In Your Words – Tips Directly 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, repeating the same information over and over again. 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!”
“Make sure you include some fun and celebration. It’s too easy for us to focus on getting people up and running and forget to celebrate the accomplishment of Go-Live! Make a point of taking the time.”
Read more tips and tricks in our guide, Project Communication Plan for Technology Change: A Guide for Nonprofits and Higher Education Institutions. In this free resource, we provide tangible examples from real clients who successfully used change management techniques to improve their employees’ experiences through technology change.
About the Author
Catherine has served the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, defining and guiding the strategic pathway for technology, digital transformation, marketing, and fundraising at the Canadian Cancer Society and others. She is skilled at understanding and addressing the human concerns... Read More