How to Survive Go-Live in the Absence of a Go-Live Plan

A good go-live plan creates a smooth project transition from the mad scramble of development and testing into production. But if you find yourself staring down the barrel of a go-live date without a plan in place, all is not lost. You can still chart a course to success at the last minute.

Step 1: Steal a go-live plan

There’s a very good chance your project isn’t unique. If you or someone else you know and trust has gone live with a project similar to one without a plan, steal their plan. Make modifications to it, run it by your team for a sanity check, and then publish it. Congratulations, now you have a go-live plan.

Step 2: Make A List

There’s no go-live plan to steal? Your next best option is to draw on your own experience and draft a rough plan. Create a list of tasks you know have to be done. Tap your team to help brainstorm any tasks you may have missed. When you’ve assembled a list of every task you think you’ll need to go-live, prioritize them and decide which tasks can actually be accomplished in the time remaining before go-live.

Step 3: Divvy Up The Tasks

Now that you’ve got your rough go-live plan, it’s time to figure out who is going to do all that work. Unless you want to spend the next several weeks grinding out 24-hour days in an attempt to do it yourself, you have to delegate.

Assign a specific resource to every task on your list. Put each person’s name and contact numbers right on the list where everyone can see them. You want everyone to know who’s responsible for which items on the go-live plan, and how to reach them. Otherwise, everyone will be calling the person who published the list: You.

Communicate your rough go-live list to everyone involved. It’s critical that every person on the project understand that there’s a lot of work coming their way during the go-live period and who is responsible for which pieces of it.

Seeing the list might also convince everyone to be sure a go-live plan is in place next time.

Step 4: Automate Everything

Take a quick inventory of any existing automated processes your team has used for go-live in the past. Make a note of which tasks on your plan can be automated using those processes. Take all the items for which you have no pre-existing automation and determine whether or not they can be automated before go-live.

If possible, you want to automate the processes that are the most tedious or complex, as these are the tasks that are most likely to experience failures in human hands. Beg, borrow, or steal any resources you can lay your hands on and press them into service on automation. Your go-live team will thank you for it.

Step 5: Document as you go

Documentation is critical when you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Everyone involved in go-live should maintain detailed documentation about what they’ve done, what remains to be done, and how they’re accomplishing their tasks.

Reviewing this documentation will show you not only what was done, but how it was done. This helps you spot any errors early before they jeopardize the go-live date.

This documentation will also serve as a base of knowledge your team can come back to time and again, which will make your next go-live without a plan go much more smoothly.

While having a go-live plan makes everyone’s life easier, not having a plan doesn’t have to end in disaster. Organization, communication, and automation can help smooth out the nastiest bumps on the road to go-live, even without a formalized plan. While working where go-live plans are rare is a good reason to sharpen up your resume, it’s not the end of the world if you follow the steps laid out above.

Carl Lutz

Software Engineer