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Your Helpful Guide: Here’s How to Transition to Business as Usual

Your Helpful Guide: Here's How to Transition to Business as Usual

Once your project is complete, you need to hand over its products, deliverables, or processes to the operational Business as Usual team. This means you need to create, document, and deliver an orderly transition to Business as Usual (BAU). 

This article describes the outline for how to do this and how to create and execute a BAU Transition model or BAU Support Model, to define how the project deliverables will be supported in BAU.

Transition to Business as Usual: Priority

Your priority is to maintain, as far as possible, the smooth operational running that should characterize business as usual. If your transition causes disruption, this can increase costs, reduce revenues, and harm staff confidence, customer perceptions, and therefore, your reputation.

I cannot over-stress the importance of building user confidence in your transition and support plan. The principles I discuss in this video are highly relevant.

Agenda

The structure of this article is very simple. To help with this, we will consider:

Your Helpful Guide: Here's How to Transition to Business as Usual

What do We Mean by the Transition to Business as Usual?

It’s always good to start by defining our terms. So, what do we mean by the phrase ‘transition to Business as Usual’? Well, let’s start with what is…

Business as Usual (BAU)

The term ‘Business as Usual’ covers all your regular, standard, day-to-day operations. We use the term to distinguish these from:

  • unusual or exceptional events, such as business disruption, crises, and disasters
  • planned changes, like projects, programs, and business transformation

So, Business as Usual sees:

  • Staff members doing what they normally do, and so following their job descriptions
  • Operational processes running as they should
  • Work being completed according to specification and schedule
  • Parties respecting and working to their contractual terms
  • A recognizable cycle of events and a high degree of predictability
  • Steady incremental improvements to processes

Transition to Business as Usual

Projects are not Business as Usual. But the new products, processes, or approaches they create need to become part of BAU. However, any change in BAU can cause resistance and disruption. Staff, customers, and business partners may not understand the changes, they might resist them, or they may simply need to make adjustments to accommodate them. This is the transition to Business as Usual.

And this transition requires three key things:

  1. Consultation
  2. Planning
  3. Communication

Transition means Change

You will also need to prepare users for the changes that will arise from the transition. This is all about Change Management.

This is an area I have covered elsewhere. So, rather than repeat myself, let me refer you to my recommended Watch and Reading list:

Three Primary Change Management Resources

Three Secondary Change Management Resources

An Outline BAU Transition Plan

Every situation will, of course, be different. Context is everything! However, the details are likely to depend, more than anything, on what you are transitioning. For example:

  • Mission-critical IT 
    You might expect a hard cut-over after extensive testing, but with parallel running for rapid safe fallback
  • Operational customer service process
    You might expect an incremental introduction of new capabilities or processes, with regular review and modifications
  • Physical infrastructure
    Formal commissioning following thorough testing, with a snagging period where service crews are at high readiness. Possibly reduced operational throughput, ramping up to normal volumes.

Therefore, the following sections will necessarily cover a generic process from which you can build out your own plan for your transition to Business as Usual. The sections are:

  • The Need for a BAU Transition Manager or Integration Manager
  • Consultation
  • Planning the BAU Transition
  • Preparing Your Stakeholders for Transition to Business as Usual
  • Training
  • Testing before transitioning to Business as Usual
  • Confirm BAU Transition readiness
  • BAU Cut-over process 
  • BAU Handover
  • Post BAU Transition

For a summary of this article…

The Need for a BAU Transition Manager or Integration Manager

There are two sides to the development process: project and operations. There are also two sides to the transition: before and after.

As a result, it makes sense that there are:

  • a project manager on the project/before side and 
  • an operational ‘Integration Manager’ on the business/after side

Each one will manage their own part of the process. But it is by working together and with regular communication that they make the transition work.

Consultation

Between the Project Management and the Transition Manager, your first step will be to tap into the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of stakeholders. They will be able to help you to understand the challenges of the transition to BAU, and to start to develop plans. This will involve a lot of:

  • Scenario identification articulation
  • Stress testing ideas against scenarios
  • Problem-solving

Among the stakeholders you consult should be:

  • Users – in particular, super-users or a Senior User
  • Steering Group or Project Board
  • Sponsor or Client 
  • Key suppliers

The outcome will be to develop your Transition Plan… 

Planning the BAU Transition

In putting together your BAU Transition plan, there will be a lot of questions to answer, to generate the levels of confidence you’ll want. But the biggest concern you will have is the risk. 

You are entering into an uncertain endeavor, with a potential impact on critical business operations. So, let’s start with some of the questions to consider:

  • What are the scenarios (good or bad) that can happen
  • Create contingency plans for a range of scenarios
  • Can you phase transition to lower the risk?
  • How else can you reduce the risk of the transition?
    Look at our detailed article on 
  • What are the risk triggers that you’ll be able to spot early and respond to rapidly

Look at these primary resources:

But there are plenty of other elements to build into your transition plan, such as:

  • Schedule of events and activities
  • Allocation of roles and responsibilities for the transition
  • Update your benefits realization plan
  • Creating a communications plan
  • Budgeting the process

When you have a plan – and have tested it by subjecting it to a critical review by colleagues – present your plan for your Sponsor, Client, or Project Board’s approval.

Preparing Your Stakeholders for Transition to Business as Usual

Your stakeholders – or some of them – will be at the sharp end of the transition to Business as Usual. So, you need to prepare them well. And, guess what this means? Excellent communication. As always, your stakeholder engagement process involves:

  1. Identify who your stakeholders are 
  2. Analyze what they need from you
  3. Consider the best way to engage with them
  4. Briefing user group and other stakeholders 
  5. Maintaining the communication process under review

Training

In many transitions to Business as Usual, training of users is an essential consideration. If it is for you, then your outline process will be:

  • Conduct a Learning Needs Analysis (LNA) 
  • Create a training program 
  • Use multi-modes to appeal to all your users
  • And ready reference materials 
  • Pilot the training and materials, and revise them accordingly
  • Schedule training and prioritize user attendance
  • Communicate your training plan
  • Roll it out

Testing before the Transition to Business as Usual

Whatever you created, whether it is a service, a product, a process, or some software, you will need to test it thoroughly, before making the transition of incorporating it into your BAU operation. 

The final tier of testing is User Acceptance Testing (UAT). And we have a video, ‘What is User Acceptance Testing?’ https://youtu.be/sGwm4p9sGPI which covers the different tiers of testing, including alpha and beta testing – all the way up to UAT.

This final acceptance testing should answer the question, ‘are you sure you are ready?’ That is, do the products or processes meet acceptance criteria and quality standards?

If they do, you need to:

  • Complete the testing documentation
  • Secure formal sign-off
  • Communicate the status to those who need to know

This allows you to move toward the next step…

Confirm BAU Transition readiness

Is the project ready? And, is the business ready?

You need to make a clear Go/No-go decision. And you must support it with a robust, accountable decision process.

And, once again, you need to communicate the status to those who need to know.

BAU Cut-over process 

Before you finally start your transition, you may want to conduct one or more:

  • Rehearsals (without simulated major problems)
  • War games (with simulated major problems)

Now you are ready to trigger the actual transition process. This will include:

  • Put in place robust support processes and assign people to support roles
  • Make sure procedures for accessing support are easy and well-understood by everyone
  • Assign responsibilities
  • Create a rota for emergency support, with call escalation lists
  • Being ready to trigger your contingency plans and fallbacks

And, you guessed it, you need to communicate the status to those who need to know.

BAU Handover

Project Handover feels like a big milestone. But it is also more of a process than a milestone, so there is a lot to get right. For more information, check out our article, Ultimate Project Handover Guide: What You Need to Know.

BAU Handover Documentation

The essential documentation you need is to secure sign-off of transition of responsibilities from Project to BAU.

  • Operational use memo
    A formal statement of transition of the new process, product, or service into operational use. This is signed by the operational manager to indicate formal acceptance.
  • Snagging
    A formal statement of outstanding issues with the new process, product, or service, which remain the responsibility of the project, rather than the BAU team

Post BAU Transition

As you may expect, the transition to Business as Usual is not the end of the transition process! Among other things, you’ll need to expect:

  • Snagging – putting small things right
  • Completing post-handover documentation and activities – see our handover guide/checklist
  • Benefits realization and optimization activities
  • Project review and other project closure activities
    See our article, Project Closure: How to Miss Nothing when You Shut down Your Project
  • A final Lessons Learned review – and maybe a report.

What is your Experience of the Transition to Business as Usual?

As always, I welcome your comments below and will respond to any thoughts or questions.

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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