Post go-live: The true test of a software vendor

Many things change when the implementation team hands off post go-live support. Here's what to watch out for and six things the best vendors do to ensure a smooth transition.

Getting your project to the go-live stage is an important milestone in any software implementation. However, most organizations experience last-minute challenges or post go-live issues that need to be resolved. How these issues are handled is the true test of a vendor.

While both the customer's and the vendor's implementation teams want the project to be a success and address all the outstanding and new issues, the vendor's team has diverging priorities once the go-live milestone is achieved. The implementation team may provide some post go-live support to address critical issues, but smaller issues or new requirements may not be in scope.

You -- the customer -- often prefer to keep working with the vendor's implementation team for a number of reasons.

First, employees from both companies have come to know each other and what to expect from each other. While the team may have been formed for a particular project, the divide between customer and vendor may become less apparent. Once the project ends, it represents a loss due to change and can be similar to losing a colleague from your own company.

The implementation team also knows the software configuration and your processes. Once you transition to technical support, you will almost certainly have multiple people working on your tickets, requiring you to re-explain how your system has been configured and why.

Your issues as a customer may have been caused by a poorly implemented feature. From your viewpoint, it should be resolved before moving into the tech support phase to ensure it is fixed quickly and properly.

There may be some concern that issues will take longer to resolve once you have to submit tickets to technical support. Your employees also do not typically have a direct email address or phone number to a preferred agent when they have an urgent issue, like they may have had with the vendor's implementation team.

Finally, there may be some hesitation to start working with a technical support team because of anticipated issues, such as difficulty with communications, negative experiences with other tech support teams and time zones that must be accounted for.

Vendor has its own post go-live issues

While the vendor's implementation team may want to continue helping a customer post go-live, it often has competing priorities as a project comes to a close.

Employees on the implementation team will start to be assigned to new projects for many reasons. The amount of effort that the implementation requires will begin to diminish, and other projects will be starting. Or the software vendor will try to keep all of its consultants billable.

Furthermore, the implementation team may not have a ticketing system, making it difficult to manage ongoing requests effectively.

There's also potential for feature creep as you begin using the application. While the vendor may want to address new issues, at some point, they become new projects rather than continuations of the existing one.

Finally, the vendor might not have the capacity or structure to answer critical questions as quickly as you need. An implementation team is often smaller than a technical support team, isn't set up to provide 24/7 support and will have other projects requiring its attention.

The best vendors do these six things

For your organization to have a good overall post go-live experience, it is up to the vendor to ensure a smooth transition between the implementation team and technical support.

For your organization to have a good overall post go-live experience, it is up to the vendor to ensure a smooth transition between the implementation team and technical support. This transition can be made less difficult and stressful if the software vendor takes the following actions:

  1. Early in the project, it explains how post go-live support will be handled. In one of the first meetings with your organization, the vendor should explain the project plan, including an overview of post go-live support.
  2. As go-live approaches, it revisits the support process post go-live. This will remind your employees of the approaching change and enable them to ask questions so they can be prepared.
  3. The vendor clarifies what will be handled by each team -- implementation team and customer technical support -- and for how long. If the vendor is clear about the division of responsibilities, your organization will be able to prepare for the transition.
  4. It performs a knowledge transfer between the implementation team and technical support, if applicable. While the implementation team is closing out its project, members can ensure technical support staff have access to all necessary documentation and provide them with an overview of the software configuration.
  5. It holds a meeting to introduce technical support to your organization. This gives your employees an overview of the services offered by tech support, explains how tech support works -- such as how tickets get assigned -- how it handles critical issues and its hours of service, for example. Such a meeting also clarifies when you should start logging tickets with tech support instead of the implementation team.
  6. It is consistent and clear about how it will deal with issues post go-live. If the implementation team continues to try to help by working on some of the issues but not all of them, your employees might be unsure who to contact when they have issues.

The transition from project team to technical support can be stressful, especially for large implementations, because of the cost and the expectations placed on the project team. For the post go-live transition to be successful, the vendor must take steps to ensure the implementation team has completed all of its necessary configuration and handoff activities, the technical support team must be ready to support your organization and employees must have been educated about the services that the technical support team offers and how to contact it.

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