First, let me set one thing straight… There is no such thing as a perfect project. No matter how much you plan or prepare, there will be some sort of challenge when it comes time to execute. So you may ask, "how is it possible to ensure 100% success on every project?". It's simple, in addition to having a good plan, you must have good communications and be well prepared for the unexpected. Let's break this down.
Good Communications:Communications include a number of things such as documentation and adequate training, but it must also include one thing that I see missing in many projects - setting realistic expectations. When you are presenting the change to the affected users, you must not allow them to think everything is going to go without a hitch. Believe it or not, there are those amongst your community that want the project to fail because they don't want the change. The key is to engage the affected users to define their critical functions upfront and determine the best actions to take in case of a failure. This gives them skin in the game and quite a sense of pride if and when they have to take action and show how their plan really worked. Otherwise, any failures will certainly gain the kind of visibility you aren’t looking for in your project.
Preparing for the Unexpected:There is no crystal ball to show you what is going to go wrong, but something will. So let’s say you have mapped out your critical functions and you are prepared for business continuance. On the day of cut-over to the new system, you need to have the right people on staff and be prepared for a worst case scenario. Select liaison within the affected community to be the first line of resolution. Train them on the business continuance and be clear about who to call from your team if there are any issues they cannot resolve. Educate the affected users about how to quickly get the right service if there are issues. Develop an escalation procedure for your triage team so each issue can be handled very professionally and expeditiously. It is also a good idea to communicate to everyone just before cut-over that your team is ready to go. This goes a long way to ease the minds of the skeptical that everything is going to be OK.
I have personally used these simple methods on most of my projects over the years and received very good results each time. By communicating realistic expectations and being overly prepared for the unexpected will make you the unsung hero when the dust settles. Do not kid yourself, you are not going to receive a medal. The absence of a mob with pitchforks and torches should be reward enough!