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Conference Room Pilot Techniques – The Dry Run 01/25/2011

Posted by TBoehm30 in Project Management.
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The final practice run through that you perform when getting ready to implement your new software system is called the Dry Run.  This is when you make sure that there are going to be no surprises.  You make sure that you’ve crossed all your ‘T’s and dotted all the ‘I’s.  Everybody knows what they are doing and when to do it.

 Order Matters

The order in which you proceed could make a big difference to the success of the project.  I recently practiced a process to load inventory into a system that already had work orders loaded.  Because the system was supposed to automatically allocate inventory when work orders are created, the inventory was allocated as it was loaded.  This was not what the client wanted.  Because they had only practiced loading inventory and work orders separately, they never saw the interaction of the two processes until I helped them test.  We determined that we always needed to load inventory first to avoid the issue.  Later, we found the checkbox to turn off the auto-allocation during the load.

Had they never done a full Dry Run, they might not have seen this problem until it was too late.  Once the data gets loaded into a Production environment it gets difficult to remove without starting over completely.

Practice

The people involved in the implementation need to have hands on practice performing their responsibilities.  They need to have demonstrated to the team that they know what they are doing.  One time I watched a lady using the new system who had no idea what she was doing.  She had previously reported practicing with the system and putting the time in to learn her job.  The difference at the Dry Run was that nothing was scripted out for her.  She had to figure out where to go to find work to do; no one had written down the order numbers for her to easily find.

The important thing about practicing for a go-live on a new software system is to demonstrate your knowledge.  You need to be able to perform under pressure while others watch you.

Is it fully setup?

There are numerous parameters and setup data that will need to be transferred from the test environment into Production.  You need to make sure that you understand that process, that you’ve covered all the parameters or setup data, and that those items have been tested.  A full Dry Run will ensure that the entire process to copy data has been practiced and can be done again successfully at go-live.

Balance the Reports

The Dry Run is a time when you should run actual data through the new system.  You can compare reports from your old system with the reports from the new system.  Can you make them balance to the penny?  Does the data go to the general ledger correctly?  Does the new system handle the one-off exceptions correctly?

Communication

Management should be involved in the Dry Run.  You can prove to them that the project will be a success.  You can gain the confidence of management. 

You probably worked with a core team on the project.  That core team should know all about the new software system.  If there are others who need to understand or learn about the system, then they can be included as well.  You may have scheduled training for another time, but the Dry Run is a time when all modules of the software should be shown on the big screen.

What else can go wrong?

There are far too many ways that an IT project can go wrong.  The Dry Run is the final opportunity to prove that you have covered all the risks.  Try to think about what could go wrong and mitigate the problems.

Have your Pilots gone well, or have they spiraled out of control?  I’d love to hear your stories – especially if you understand that it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.

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