In my experience, Project Managers tend to focus on getting the project complete and the service implemented within the constraints of the project budget, timescale and quality criteria. How Operations will manage and maintain the service isn’t normally their prime concern.
As a Transition Manager, I have spent many hours talking to Project Managers about why Acceptance Criteria are crucial for Operations. So here are my top tips to convince and encourage Project Managers to work together with the Transition Manager so that their projects can be implemented as smoothly and as painlessly as possible into Operations:
- Make friends with the Project Management Office (PMO) or whoever assures Projects against your company standards / methodology. Build the service acceptance criteria into the Project Management methodology, it needs to be fully integrated and agreed at an early phase / gate. Transition must be represented at the relevant project gates, to help the PMO to assure that service acceptance gets done right!
TIP – Ensure you have set out exactly what is expected to meet each criteria and ask them to demonstrate how that criteria has been met.
- Be realistic, one size does not fit all. If you have a standard list of criteria review it fully, engaging with the operations staff (who own the criteria) to understand what criteria they must have and what’s nice to have. You don’t want the Project team to see this as a tick box exercise, if you can explain the value and risk associated with each criterion you’ll build understanding and buy-in. You need to be seen as the Projects ally within Operations.
- Engage with the Project Manager as soon as the Project has been agreed, we need to size the Project, depending on the resources available it may be that certain smaller or less risky projects do not have a dedicated Transition Manager and we ask the PMO to assure our criterion is met.
- Work with the Head of Project Management to build the Acceptance Criteria into all Project Managers objectives. Don’t forget to regularly feedback (aligned to the company’s review cycle) to the PM’s boss on who is achieving their objectives and more importantly who isn’t!
- Praise those Project Managers that actively work to get your criteria met. Share the successes of those collaborative Project Managers to the Leadership Team and the wider company. Consider what would influence behaviour.
Real life example: One large public sector organisation instigated a ‘Project Manager of the Month’ award which they shared with the Leadership Team and publicised on posters in the operational areas. It was surprising how competitive the PM’s got; it was seen as a significant achievement to be selected.
- Make yourself part of the project team. Your focus should be on the non-functional requirements and how the service / product will behave and how Operations can support it. Think of yourself as a facilitator, your role is to engage and communicate between the project and support teams.
- An important part of the transition role is to educate the development and project teams about what makes a successful operational service. Talk in their language, explain that any criterion not met poses either an issue or risk which will need to be mitigated. Any acceptance criteria not met needs to accurately articulate risk exposure to allow the Project Board / Senior Management to make a fair and balanced view of readiness to go-live. You may need to explain what you don’t do, the project needs to own communication and training.
- All good transition processes should have an element of Early Life Support (ELS) which becomes a phase in the project. The entry criteria for ELS should be clear and should include the completion of all relevant acceptance criteria and exit criteria. The project cannot close until these have been met, waivers or exceptions can be agreed. We don’t want a situation where a project sits in ELS with the Project Manager gone and Operations not accepting the service.
So let’s not forget why new services are deployed, we need to not just satisfy but delight our customers. Working collaboratively must always be in the forefront of our minds to ensure we deliver services that exceed their business needs.