Product Launch: Transfer of Care, Custody and Control
You really cannot start to properly gather benefits from your portfolio work or the products of projects unless they are properly launched and established. Regrettably, this is often a vital step that "falls between the cracks". Project management believes that their work is done once the product is created, tested and proved functional according to requirements. Operations and support people are content to wait to be called when needed. Why should they "interfere" sooner? Meantime the frustrated user of a new product or service is busy deciding that "the old way" was far superior until, after several weeks, even months, they come to realize the advantages of the new product. In short, there is a gap in the flow of communication, improvements and consequent benefits.
Filling the Transition Phase Gap
This gap corresponds to the transfer of the products of the portfolio work to the "care, custody and control" of the user. This is an important concept that is not generally recognized in project work. What does it mean? It means the formal handing over of a project's completed deliverable into the hands of the new owner of this product and, more particularly, into the hands of the user or users. Someone must also take responsibility for the product's care, usage and maintenance. In practice, it is a transition period in which a number of activities should be organized and conducted, but that may vary according to the product and the relationship between the parties.
Where IT projects are concerned, typical activities that are generally well recognized include: Introduction, rollout, marketing or promotion, training and support. In addition, this is the time when project records including "lessons learned" and "construction history" must be sifted and archived should the product need to be "reopened", or for when it comes time to upgrade. Also, accounts must be closed and costs finalized for purposes of establishing relevant asset investment value Training in the use of the new product will also be necessary. This may include "Change Management" that arises from any revision to the way people should think and work. And finally, this transition phase includes the traditional product support to fix any bugs or minor interface changes that surface as usage ramps up to full capacity.
Selling the Product
Perhaps the best answer is to look at it as an opportunity to "sell" the product into its operating environment. Here are Ten Tips for preparing to sell your project's product to the product's users:
- Make sure you understand the product's value
- Target those who will value it and be responsible
- Clearly communicate the benefits it will bring
- Understand how people actually buy, or buy in
- Differentiate on value (not on cost)
- Listen hard, sell softly
- Make your user's job easier to adopt and adapt
- Sell to the individual, not to the organization
- Provide product use initiation or startup support
- Better yet, become a part of the user's team