Moving new or modified products or services from the staging environment to the live environment should happen smoothly without causing any interruption or disruption to the operational environment and other running services. For a successful and smooth transition, it is critical to:
1. ensure that any changes to the live environment in the form of new, or modified service meets the current expectations of the customers, as well as the business.
2. plan, manage and coordinate all the activities with the required stakeholders. The transition plan must support the business needs & constraints, adding value to the business being the end purpose.
3. ensure that a new product or a modified service has no adverse impact on the customers and the business.
Challenges in service transitioning
Let’s take a scenario where a product was successfully developed by an experienced team and delivered within the agreed schedule and cost parameters. The product was validated in collaboration with the customer and they were highly satisfied with the product. They were eager to use the product, but problems started cropping up once it was moved into production. There are many possible causes that might lead to an unsuccessful product/service release into production.
Any change comes with its challenges and additional risks. Planning the communication is critical for awareness and compliance to business and governance requirements during the change. One of the biggest challenges during service transition is changing people’s behavior to accommodate the new or different service or product. People have a critical need to feel safe and comfortable with the changes that will affect them.
The challenge is to establish and maintain the integrity of all identified service assets and configurations as they evolve through the service transition stage. Managing the variations of the actual against the estimated and the improved plans and the budgets is an important decision to make during the service transitioning phase.
How to ensure successful transitioning?
Following are 9 important factors to consider for a successful transition of a product, new or modified service.
1. AID the transition scope
Before you start creating any transition plan, complete the following activities for the new product or its newer version:
- A: Attain the product overview and documentation
- I: Identify the service details and its impact on other processes, services or workflows
- D: Document all the relevant findings
2. Consider the logistics
Evaluate the hardware and software specifications for the service to be transitioned, analyze its environment details, facilities and contractual amendments. Consider all the logistic needs before planning a service transition.
3. Involve the right people
Analyze the people, appropriate expertise, technical, functional, and soft skills required for an accurate and successful transition. Identify the people who have the required knowledge and expertise for a successful transition and to maintain the stability of the product.
4. Strategize and develop the transition plan
There are multiple transition strategy options available from an incremental or a parallel implementation to a one-time conversion and switchover. Choose a transition strategy that suits the demand of your product and its related dependencies.
After identifying the appropriate strategy for the transition, select a project management tool and develop a detailed plan to move a service into operations. Consider the following aspects while developing a service transition plan:
- logical work breakdown
- key milestones and their schedules
- affected components
- testing the service/change in question and the impacted services
- contingency plans and workarounds
- roles and responsibilities of the assigned resources
- knowledge transfer between developers, vendors, operational staff, technical support
- the communication process between stakeholders and status reporting
- review the transition process to appraise and document its results
- highlight and document any defects and specify their corrective actions
5. Identify the risks and their mitigation solutions
Possible risks and contingencies that may occur during the transition process should be identified, evaluated, and grouped by common aspects for their effective management and mitigation. Prioritize risks considering the severity and possible impact on the project. Each identified risk should be assigned to an appropriate person who will be responsible for preparing a risk mitigation plan and tracking the risk status.
6. Aim for customer delight
It is essential that the customers have a clear image of the end product state. They must acknowledge the importance and need for a service and its benefits to the organization.
For an effective service transition, customer expectations regarding the performance and the use of new/changed services should be clearly determined. It is equally important that the customers and operations team understand and identify the benefits of the new services. It will reduce any reluctance to change and will ensure better cooperation between the affected parties, helping them maintain the stability of the product.
7. Create an elaborated knowledge transfer plan
The purpose of the knowledge transfer activity is that the operations team acquires sufficient knowledge to support the applications and to understand the possible critical issues of the application and their impact on the business. Often, the project team focuses on providing new functionalities, while the operations team concentrates on business continuity and customer experience of the existing and new services. Both the development and operations teams work towards one common goal that is to generate business value, each providing it in different ways: the development team handles the change, and the operations team ensures the overall stability.
At the end of the knowledge transfer phase, it’s recommended that the support team performs a reverse knowledge transfer activity about their understanding of each service/application component. This summary should be reviewed and adjusted in collaboration with all the stakeholders.
8. Delegate the knowledge transfer to diligent people
For every project player, organizing and documenting the project know-how may not be an interesting activity, and lesser interesting to hold knowledge transfer sessions for an operations team. Preparing a team to take over the entire service support is a big responsibility and a challenge that not everyone can undertake. Ensure that you spend some time to evaluate and assign the best and diligent people to perform the knowledge transfer.
9. Handover the support; step-by-step
The service transition should be done in a phased manner to avoid compromising the continuity of the business.
It is advised that the new operations team acts as a shadow of the outgoing team for an agreed duration, even if the knowledge transfer has been successfully completed between the incoming and outgoing service providers. During this time, the new team should assist in solving the emerging issues. The actual working experience enhances the knowledge gained during the knowledge transfer sessions.
Nevertheless, it still does not accomplish the objective to have the new operations team fully prepared to take over the entire operations responsibility.
A certain duration should be planned for Reverse Shadow support for the primary (new) team to maintain business continuity. This way, the new team gets enough time to assimilate the information and has the opportunity to manage unforeseen situations having a real backing solution.
Within Nagarro, we follow the ITIL framework which is a set of guidelines for IT service management that focuses on aligning IT services with the business needs. ITIL describes processes and procedures which are not specific to organization or technology but can be adopted by an organization for establishing integration with the organization's strategy, delivering value, and maintaining the targeted level of competency. The ITIL framework is used to determine compliance and to measure improvement.
Service transition is a comprehensive topic within the ITIL framework for having so many specific processes. Every transition is unique and requires special consideration for multiple factors. It is not mandatory nor recommended to strictly respect the ITIL practices but to consider using them at the right time and adapting them to fit the business needs to increase the overall service quality and customer satisfaction.
The aspects presented above are not a bulletproof solution to handle all the situations. However, when used in conjunction with the ITIL guidelines, they may be very helpful in achieving effective transitions.
Last but not the least, a comprehensive checklist based on the service acceptance criteria for each process under the service transition, along with a defined mechanism to measure it objectively, is a must to ensure the success of that service transition.
As a service provider, our objective in Nagarro is to enhance our collective knowledge to be skilled and agile enough to improve the quality of our delivered services continually, and to meet customer expectations & their ever-changing business requirements.