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Implementing Solutions to Business Problems

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Any solution is ineffective until it is executed. This lesson provides several strategies for implementing a solution to a business problem, including the go-live playbook, rollback plans, and key performance indicators.

When Pigs Fly

A hospital that serves a growing community in the western United States recently adopted the slogan ''When pigs fly.'' The hospital had been in continuous operation for more than six decades, and repairing the aging physical plant was becoming less feasible by the day. The hospital has faced dozens of substantial hurdles when updating its facility (hence the slogan), but the community embraced the hospital's vision to build one.

After almost three years of planning, the time for implementation had arrived. The hospital needed to move operations from the old facility to the new facility about 20 minutes away. The implementation was a success, and we can use this scenario as a case study for completing a successful implementation.

The Go-Live Playbook

A go-live playbook is an important tool during the implementation of a solution. As the name implies, the playbook is a step-by-step guide that details the responsibilities of each entity involved in the implementation. In implementations like the hospital's move, the playbook is a minute-by-minute outline used by dozens of people to ensure that all the tasks are completed in the right order.

Dependencies

Not all implementations require a minute-by-minute playbook, but all implementations do require a plan that specifies time frames, dependencies, and necessary resources. In this context, dependency means a piece of the implementation that cannot be completed until a different task has reached a certain status.

In the example of the hospital move, the presence of medical staff in the new facility was a dependency for the ambulances that would move the patients. The ambulances could not start transporting patients from the old facility to the new one until medical staff were there to receive them. The go-live playbook outlines these dependencies so that all the players know precisely what is required of them during the implementation process.

Rollback Plans

All implementations should include a rollback plan. If an implementation encounters problems that threaten its ability to continue or proceed with day-to-day operations, a rollback plan outlines a reversal to quickly bring an organization back to operational status. In the case study, the rollback plan outlined how the hospital would react if the new facility was not able to care for patients as anticipated. To the extent possible, all rollback plans should be tested in controlled conditions so that their reliability during an implementation crisis is guaranteed.

A rollback plan is a way to reverse an implementation if the businesses core functions are threatened by unforeseen problems.
Fig1

Using Simulations in Implementations

Simulations effectively gauge the efficacy of the implementation plan, the go-live playbook, and the rollback procedure. Simulations are essentially rehearsals for actual implementation tasks. In cases like the hospital move, the simulation can be done on tabletop in real time to test the components of the go-live playbook. It ensures that the correct resources have been given adequate windows to accomplish their tasks.

The Point of No Return

When implementing solutions to business problems, there is often a moment of truth in which giving the implementation a green light triggers a chain of events that cannot be easily reversed. Implementation plans should clearly identify this moment of truth, who is responsible for making the green light decision, and the consequences associated with making an incorrect decision.

Fig3
Implementation plans should outline who makes the point of no return decision.
Fig4

In the hospital move, the point of no return was the patient transport. For numerous clinical and legal reasons, the two hospitals could not be simultaneously operational. Thus, the implementation playbook identified the point of no return as the moment when the last patient left the old facility. Once the old hospital was taken off-line, there was no further opportunity to roll back, and the implementation's only path was to move forward at the new facility. During an implementation, it is crucial that each decision-maker know where the point of no return is located on the timeline and what information will be required to decide if it should proceed.

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