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Perfecting your Microsoft Dynamics Go-Live Phase: A Readiness Checklist

Whitepaper by:Joanne Harrison
Director of Sales

For Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementations, user adoption is ultimately the responsibility of the client rather than the implementation partner or Microsoft themselves.

In addition to a technical implementation plan, you’ll need a project go-live checklist for the people and process aspects of your project. Without this, the project is likely to fail even with a fully-functioning system.

So, we are aiming to provide an essential go-live checklist for project managers and business change managers involved in rolling out Microsoft Dynamics 365.  It includes when you should be hitting checkpoints in your rollout before go-live, through to post-implementation and getting user adoption right.

Key System Milestones

A go-live checklist cannot and should not be independent of the technical implementation. It can also not wait for some technical hand-over before starting. There are some technical system prerequisites to keep an eye on as your go-live rollout progresses.

Test cases carried out and passed successfully

Dynamics technical implementation plans contain many iterations and types of testing. User acceptance testing, systems integration testing, process testing and unit testing are all intended to ensure integrations, customisations and user configurations are production-ready. Without a high pass rate on all these tests, you may not be ready to go-live.

There are no high severity bugs outstanding​

It’s reasonable to have a few known bugs, as long as they are not showstoppers or with high business impact. But, even if you have workarounds for high severity bugs to carry on executing business processes, leaving a high severity bug in production can create many unforeseen problems.

Pro Tip: Have a plan to react to any high severity bugs that emerge close to the go-live date.

Data migration and cutover activities have been tried-out

Practising ERP data migration and cutover activities in a pre-production environment is vital.  You could find corrupt or duplicate data that, if imported directly into production, would damage the system.

Pro Tip: Define a cut-off date and time to no longer consider legacy transactions. Any new transactions passed the cut-off date could be included in a future release.

The Production Environment is Ready

There are many different definitions of “ready” depending on who you ask. A reasonable description would be:

  • Production environment in place.
  • Tuned for maximum performance.
  • Configurations enabled, user profiles loaded, and security roles turned on.
  • Integration points checked for correct responses.

Backup procedures are in place

Test the whole backup system and process. Backups are not just crucial for the Dynamics project, but integral to the resilience of the company.

Rollout Strategy is defined and communicated regularly

For phased rollouts, the schedule has to be communicated to relevant stakeholders. There should be no surprises to anyone.

Pro Tip: At this stage, communicating with the end-users about the go-live process is crucial. This may include email announcements, newsletters or company-wide town hall videos.

Countdown Checklist

Stage 1. Months Before Go-Live

Define your Rollout Strategy

☐ Set a date for go-live during your least busy period.

☐ Plan all aspects of the rollout, scheduling backwards from that date. Make sure you allow for contingencies – if you can.

☐ Determine your end-user rollout strategy. You could consider going live with a group of users at a time by job role or region with limited functionality.

☐ Draw up a list of key individuals, third parties, and others. Keep them informed of the go-live date, and any changes to this, ensuring they are on hand to support when required.

Pro Tip: For go-live day and for a period afterwards, try to lighten user schedules.

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Stage 2. Many Weeks before Go-Live

Workflow

☐ Decide the level of user rights, approval and viewing rights that need assigning to all the users of the system.

Deciding these early will help the business work out user requirements whilst the Dynamics environment is still being built.

Training

Training is an essential success factor. During this stage, you will get to know first-hand how the users are reacting to the new Dynamics 365 environment and how much time users will need to use the system as required. Based on this information, trainers and the company can plan and schedule training.

☐ Outline the amount of time and the level of detail staff will require for training.

☐ Define training roles

☐ External training expertise and resource

☐ Internal Superusers (train-the-trainers)

☐ Training champions (peer groups)

☐ Assess training needs

It is easy to underestimate the amount of planning, communication and administration required to deliver a Microsoft Dynamics training programme with critical deadlines.

☐ What level of training resource do we haveavailable internally, and which will I need to source externally?

☐ Do I need tailored training solutions based on my specific system build and my user roles?

☐ If my users need to also work with other integrated systems, should the training program take this into account?

☐ Are there any newly introduced devices which are being introduced, which may also require training. For example, handheld / tablet devices for warehouse staff or customer service representatives.

☐ If external training resources are required, how will they integrate with my internal resources?

☐ Will you need on-going rollout, upgrade or refresher training?

☐ Align training timeline with roadmap for development and delivery, ensuring the end-user training delivery takes place no more than three weeks before go-live

Pro Tip: Consider using some external and some internal resources and techniques. Not only will this increase your training team during the busy go-live period, but will also provide the business with the in-house expertise for future system rollouts/refresher training requirements.

Develop Training Materials

Any training documentation and plans prepared externally should be available for end-users to access prior to the system go-live, ideally located in a centralised location such as an LMS system.

Do I need:

☐ Standard classroom delivery

☐ Drop-in surgeries

☐ Flexible, collaborative learning resources;

☐ eLearning

☐ floor-walking

☐ one-to-one coaching

☐ customised documentation

☐ If using Task Recorder, am I using it to its full potential?

☐ Does every user have a user ID and password?

Pro Tip: Many projects use a combination of internal resources and an external training consultancy. The internal resources provide the business knowledge whilst the external consultants specialise in producing role-based training deliverables using proven templates.

Stage 3. Several Days Before Go Live

Check testing

☐ Review evidence from testing:

☐ Ensure Unit testing for all system build is complete for:

☐ Screens

☐ Templates

☐ Reports

☐ System testing has ensured data passes from one function to another:

☐ Tasking

☐ Ordering

☐ Backup

Pro Tip: Review achievement of goals with critical stakeholders and reaffirm. Make any necessary changes if specific goals cannot be achieved in light of testing.

Check process improvements and workflow

☐ Ensure changes to processes and workflows are walked-through and documented.

☐ Distribute any new devices to staff.

Train Users and Super users

☐ End-user training deliverables are developed alongside user acceptance testing (UAT) to minimise the risk of potentially needing to rework them in a hurry.

☐ eLearning, in particular, should be created as close to go-live as possible.

☐ It is essential to build an internal training capability, securing this in-house skill set for future needs.

☐ Ideally, internal super users should not be part of the core project team, as the latter is highly likely to find their time stretched close to go-live.

Pro Tip: Training delivery should take place no more than three weeks before go-live or staff will forget what they have learned.

 


An effective training program is key to the success of your Dynamics 365 system implementation.

Contact us today to ensure a successful roll out.



Stage 4. The Day Before Go-Live

Verify readiness

☐ New users have checked that their devices are working, are connected to the network and have the relevant support contact information: help desk number to call, etc.

☐ User IDs and passwords tested and verified

☐ Staff have completed training

☐ Ensure that where required, users have completed the training with the required pass-rate before sharing User ID and password

☐ Last system walk-through completed

☐ Review escalation in the event of problems.

☐ First level support staff

☐ Second level technical staff

☐ Third level organisation management

☐ Fourth level system integrator management

Pro Tip: Build in time for buffer-breaks, huddles, debriefing, etc. People may need to work early or late due to changes, and they should be informed beforehand. Also, provide something special for new users.  This may be a coupon for an exceptional coffee or something else that demonstrates support and appreciation for efforts.

Stage 5. Go-Live Day

People

☐ Assign a superuser and/or partner representative to accompany initial users in the field for the first day or two

☐ Advise key staff to arrive 30 minutes early to prepare.

Work Environment

☐ Place signs around the building or on screensavers to let people know that rollout is being implemented today.

☐  Establish a Go-live day “break area” with snacks and drinks for the staff.

☐ Set expectations that the go-live day might not be perfect, but we will get through it and the future business and user benefits will be well worth it going forward. i.e this new functionality will make your life easier.

Support

☐ Support escalation procedures completed and are in place.

☐ An escalation plan is communicated to all staff and partners.

☐ Support team “huddles” established to check-in and review issues.

☐ A person has been identified and will be available to make critical system changes on the fly.

☐ Call/visit each new user, if possible, to check readiness, speak with the help desk staff, super users, etc.

Pro Tip: Keeping excitement levels up as user readiness to accept the new change is crucial for the overall project to succeed.

Stage 6. Post Implementation

Employees

Post Implementation, it becomes essential to monitor users. User acceptance, ease of use and understanding of the overall product, workflow, policies and procedures should now be in line with expectations.

If you identify any loopholes, use the experience of your training partner to plan for further training as necessary.

The Microsoft Dynamics System

By the “business-as-usual” stage, performance is key. Transactions are being carried out in real-time and new data is being loaded into the system. If a process is taking too long, focus on finding a workaround to shorten the cycle, ensuring you communicate this change to all users so that everyone is using the system in a consistent manner. Microsoft Dynamics is there to make work easier, not increase it.

Changing people not systems

Microsoft Dynamics rollouts are challenging and need to be resourced and funded correctly. Unrealistic expectations regarding the total cost of ownership (TCO) is often the first domino to fall on the road to ERP failure. If businesses end up cutting corners on activities that are critical success factors – they will fail.

People experience change, not systems. How they react and respond to new processes and procedures will determine rollout success. While it’s essential to have training tools to help an end-user adopt a new system, it’s not the complete story. End-users are going to experience their new role as part of broader changes within the business. Careful planning and a nuanced set of approaches are needed to make sure rollouts succeed and change works.

Having perfected our ERP training methodology for over 20 years, we believe Optimum’s approach is the obvious choice to ensure a successful Microsoft Dynamics 365 rollout – get in touch with our team of experts today.

Optimum Dynamics End User Training

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