Readiness management in a services organization

how to ensure preparedness in services delivery teams

Introduction

In a New Product/Service Launch project, you’re planning for design, development, testing and New Product Introduction, but has enough been done to ensure your Services Team is ready to support your product at Launch? Is the First Delivery of your brand new Service Solution going to be compromised by lack of training, adequate documentation or tools? Is the infrastructure in place for the first deployment to be supported appropriately?

Service Readiness Management ensures that you are fully prepared to launch new technologies and services by proposing a Readiness Practice, to be planned and executed in support of the New Product/Service Launch project Execution phase, so that your Services Team is fully prepared to support those initial pivotal activities in New Product/Service Introduction.

The Service Readiness Practice illustrated in this paper is based on several years of field experience and Customer feedback. Service Readiness supports your Project Plan and helps you identify well in advance risks, action items and experts needed to ensure success during launch activities.

For simplicity throughout this paper, we will refer to the term “product” to indicate either products or services that are developed using a company-approved New Product Launch lifecycle process.

We’ll discuss how you can use a Project Management approach to plan, execute and control preparedness for your Services Teams, so that when it is time to deliver Services, you can be successful – from the outset.

Service Readiness Framework

We will use the term Readiness in this discussion to refer to set of activities planned for and implemented in support of a project. Readiness ensures that project Teams have the right skills and assets to successfully complete work on a project (Abramo & Onitiri, 2007, p. 1). You can apply a Readiness Model to prepare your teams to deliver Services successfully on time to meet the Business Objectives of the organization.

This Readiness Model uses common processes to introduce consistency, repeatability, and resource optimization in service readiness activities. The model is based on an interaction between the project team and the Readiness team, which leverage reusable assets to ensure knowledge transfer and preparedness. A Service Readiness Plan is developed as a component of the overall product development project plan to ensure project teams are ready to perform tasks, deliver services, or implement new processes for Customers. A reporting platform is used to track progress and report status, as delays or roadblocks to Readiness will have to be accounted for in the primary project, and vice versa, any modification to the project plan might impact Readiness activities (Abramo & Onitiri, 2007, p. 3).

Why do you need to plan for Service Readiness?

A book initially published in early 1908, which is still considered one of the most widely popular books in the 20th century, reminds us that “you should know what to do the moment an accident occurs, and do it then and there” (Baden-Powell, 2004, p24). When deploying New Products and features, Customers also evaluate how effectively you manage the first problems detected at site: which tools are available for trouble shooting, and what infrastructure is in place to quickly address Customer concerns. In other words, your Services are being evaluated at launch just as much as your product. While this aspect of Service Delivery might not be a concern with well established technologies, it can become a high impact risk item for projects involving complex emerging technologies and associated services.

When does Service Readiness come into play?

In a product development environment, the Project Management Office (PMO) typically assumes responsibility for developing and ensuring a Product Lifecycle (PLC) process is operational throughout the company. The PLC starts with the business plan, continues through idea and concept, to product development and deployment, ongoing operations and product divestment. (PMI, 2004, p. 24) Under the PMO, we recommend you assign a Service Readiness Project Manager and a virtual Readiness Team to implement and monitor Service Readiness Management activities within the framework of the PLC process. Three key factors are essential:

  1. Tightly link Service Readiness deliverables to the business objectives,
  2. present Service Readiness deliverables during PLC Decision ”Go-No Go” Checkpoint Reviews, and
  3. establish a strong relationship with the development Project Management team.

The Service Readiness Project Manager should represent Service Deliverables in the PLC Process and be an approver in Decision Checkpoint Reviews. This approach requires a set of closely coordinated activities between services development, product development, and deployment, which ensures a higher quality experience for your Customer.

How do you implement Service Readiness?

Let’s say your Company wants to introduce a new Gizmo in the market following the approved New Product lifecycle process. Early in the Product Development Initiating Phase of your project, as you define your product concept and develop your business objectives, we recommend that you also review and evaluate Service Readiness deliverables, issues and risks against the overall Business Objectives of the project. You should develop and define a Services Portfolio, as well as outline a high-level schedule and key deliverables for service preparedness activities. These activities should be performed while the product development Team continues to plan and execute the new product launch project.

Service Readiness process flow

Exhibit 1: Service Readiness process flow

Exhibit 1 shows how Service Readiness activities proceed in parallel with the product lifecycle, including development of the deliverables defined in the Service Readiness Plan.

In order to successfully meet your objectives (e.g. increase market share, increase revenue by 20%, be the first to introduce a leading edge technology), you must determine how best to prepare your Services team to deliver any Gizmo-attached services flawlessly, on-time, and within the cost structure established. The Readiness Team should prepare a Readiness Value Statement and clearly define Readiness Objectives for the project. These objectives should be measurable and status should be reported at regular intervals to the stakeholders.

By the time the product development project enters the Planning phase, a supporting Service Readiness Plan is proposed by the Readiness manager and approved by the project team. This approach will ensure preparation of the Services Portfolio on time for new product launch.

Focus on Repeatability

As a new product is developed and prepared for market launch, Services Teams need to make sure they are identifying those Service Readiness deliverables that can be used during the new product introduction, but also establish which ones can be reused for future deployments. Once the new product becomes generally available, these assets will allow a quick transition to an operational model, and reduce contract implementation costs.

Some examples of Service Readiness deliverables are: escalation procedures for support, debugging tools, internal documentation, and laboratories for reproducing field problems. As you can see, some of these can be used not only across phases in the same project, but also across projects as a part of a best practices library. In this way, Service Readiness helps you establish an approach to best practice identification and implementation throughout your existing product lifecycle.

Reusable Assets: a sample WBS for Service Readiness

Reusable assets are all of those deliverables from the Service Readiness Plan that will ensure the services team is able to support and provide value added services for the new product, during and beyond new product introduction.

A reliable method to ensure all such elements are accounted for in the Service Readiness practice is to develop a template Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). We propose in Exhibit 2 an example that can help you identify the high level work packages that can be used in your organization. Taking time with a cross functional committee from your Project Management Office as well as from the Functional areas of the program can help produce a solid platform for this practice. This approach typically gives the best end result because “both the doers and the planners must be in agreement as to what is expected” (Kerzner, 2006, p. 420).

Service Readiness WBS example

Exhibit 2: Service Readiness WBS example

Services Validation is a very important element in the WBS proposed here, because it ensures deployments are repeatable and key support procedures are verified prior to the new product introduction. This approach will lead to a set of procedures and services that can be executed with less product group support after the initial product launch.

Tools: checklists and templates

Once a template for the Service Readiness WBS has been approved by your organization, you can use it to develop an effective project plan for your Services Teams. We have also found that some checklists are very helpful in ensuring all planning elements are identified and accounted for. These checklists have been developed after several projects have been completed following the Services Readiness practice illustrated in this paper, leveraging on lessons learned information. They provide a framework for proactive thinking on what needs to be accomplished, and might have to be adjusted to reflect project priorities (Kerzner, 2004, p. 307).

One example is a Roles and Responsibility matrix, that spells out not only which work packages must be expanded in your activity sequencing phase, but also which departments will be considered Responsible, Accountable, must be Consulted or just Informed for individual work packages. Exhibit 3 shows an example of such a matrix. In this context, the following definitions apply:

  • Responsible: who produces the work package, and provides definitive input.
  • Accountable: who is ultimately accountable for delivering the work package
  • Consulted: who provides inputs to the work package, based on their skills and abilities
  • Informed: who needs to be informed of the outcomes of a work package, and is not expected to provide input.

Having a consistent set of templates will improve your reporting as well: it is much easier to consolidate a standard input into a set of automatically generated reports, than it is to manually input data.

Contact lists indicating primary point of contact in the different organizations, and stakeholders’ surveys are also valuable tools to help you reach the Service Readiness objectives identified in the Service Readiness Value Statement.

Service Readiness Roles & Responsibilities Matrix

Exhibit 3: Service Readiness Roles & Responsibilities Matrix

Service Readiness as an element in Risk Management

The Service Readiness team decides, during project meetings, how to approach, plan for and mitigate the risks identified for service preparedness activities. Once these risks have been identified, the Team should develop options and decide on a response plan to reduce threats to project and business objectives. As a part of the Service Readiness Plan, the risks will be reported and monitored during project meetings with the other stakeholders. By identifying and planning for Services risk items from the early stages of the product development lifecycle, you’ll be prepared to manage them before you hit the critical deployment milestones.

Measuring Readiness Impact

Measuring the success of Readiness activities and their impact on the business is critical to a project. Successful and high quality projects deliver the required services within scope, on time, and within budget. (PMI, 2004, p. 8) During project definition and planning activities, the use of a Readiness Flexibility Matrix can help direct discussions and clarify what constraints (i.e. Scope, Time and Cost) are flexible or must be upheld to satisfy project goals. The Readiness Flexibility Matrix, modelled after a standard Project Flexibility Matrix, sets the priorities of the project, helps to manage change throughout the Project Life Cycle, and is a major input in determining Readiness success. (ProjectConnection, 2007). The project Team should identify the high priority elements (Readiness Factors) that are important to the success of the project. This matrix will indicate the importance and flexibility of a factor when it interacts with other factors. Exhibit 4 shows an example of Readiness Flexibility Matrix.

In this flexibility matrix, the flexibility ratings range from 5 (High Impact to Project Success) to 1 (Low Impact to Project Success). You should assign a flexibility rating to each of your Readiness Factors.

Sample Readiness Flexibility Matrix

Exhibit 4: Sample Readiness Flexibility Matrix

You can determine the success of your Readiness activities at any time during or at the conclusion of the Execution Phase by using a Readiness Success Matrix (Exhibit 5). This matrix can be used to calculate the Success of Readiness activities for each of your Readiness Factors and the Overall Success of Readiness Activities for the project. Exhibit 6 provides a definition and calculation formula for each column.

In our Sample Readiness Success Matrix, the Overall Actual Success Factor is 48.2 out of an Overall Maximum Success Factor of 77.5. The Overall Success of Readiness for this project is 62%. At the beginning of our project, we set the Overall pre-Project Defined Risk Threshold to 86%. Since we are below this threshold, a Red Flag status is triggered to indicate that Service Readiness Activities were not successful according to our requirements.

Readiness Weight, obtained from Customer input, as well as the Flexibility Factor and a Risk Threshold are identified in the planning phases. This approach allows you to monitor Service Readiness activities, and, if needed, ensure the project Team identifies any additional risks related to inadequate progress on Service Readiness activities.

Sample Readiness Success Matrix

Exhibit 5: Sample Readiness Success Matrix

Exhibit 6 lists the definitions for each column in the Sample provided.

Definition of Columns for the Service Readiness Success Matrix

Exhibit 6: Definition of Columns for the Service Readiness Success Matrix

Conclusions

The ability to support new products and services in the field from the earliest stages of product deployment is critical to project success, Customer satisfaction, and to your ability to achieve business goals. Unless services’ planning is an integral part of the earliest phases of new product launch planning, it is unlikely that you will be adequately prepared to provide the level of support required to meet Customer expectations at deployment.

We have seen how you can plan for and implement a Services Readiness practice starting in concept phase, using a set of templates and tools that facilitate the development of a solid Services Readiness Plan. This approach will maximize your probability of success as you prepare your Services organization, and will reduce risk during deployment.

References

Abramo, L. & Onitiri,. Project Managing Readiness (2007). 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Atlanta, GA, USA

Baden-Powell, R. (1908), Scouting for Boys, (2004 ed.), Oxford University Press

Project Management Institute. (2004) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK®) (2004 ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Kerzner, H. (2006) Project Management: a systems approach to planning scheduling and controlling. (2006 edition) John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

Kerzner, H. (2004) Advanced Project Management: best practices on implementation. (2004 edition) John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

ProjectConnection. (2007) http://www.projectconnections.com/templates/detail/project-flexibility-matrix.html

© 2008, Loredana Abramo & Retha Onitiri
Originally published as a part of 2008 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Sydney, Australia

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