Welcome, all! My name’s Emily Merron and I run the Google Cloud training and change programmes for Appscare customers globally. Appscare is the Google services division of Netpremacy, one of the EMEA Google Cloud premier partners. I’m currently writing from the sunny UK after an extremely busy go-live event here today, where the team and I successfully supported 1000 employees to move across to Google! This is one of multiple customer go-live events we’ve supported in recent months, which is why I have written a post specifically on this topic – so I can share my top tips and lessons learnt with you all.
It may seem obvious that the transition to G Suite within a workplace warrants a specific date for technical migrations, but managing the end-users experience is also fundamental for a successful business change. This blog post will explore the prerequisites for a successful go-live event within a Google deployment, laced with examples that I’ve experienced from the field.
Why go-live days are so important
For change management programmes, a go-live event is just one aspect of the deployment, but one aspect that it is key to get right. When initially pitching the idea of a “Googley” go-live event, it can often divide the people in the room. Occasionally you may find that some members of the customer’s project group will regard the idea of a go-live event as unnecessary. I have sat in many meetings with CIOs/CEOs/COOs pitching the idea of a go-live with balloons, cakes, t-shirts, goody bags and other swag, to be met with the rolling of eyes and glances at other colleagues in the room.
This response may, in fact, be well-founded in some organisations. There should never be a “one-size-fits-all” go-live event, and the project group should know their employees and organisational cultures better than most. However, this is where it is imperative that we explore the different options that would be well-received, and align our ideas accordingly. It is important to note that a go-live event is a critical point in any change management programme – not just initial G Suite deployments. They can be used to inspire employees dealing with any change and should be considered as a fond farewell to previous ways of working, and a warm welcome to the new ways of working.
Think of a time where you’ve worked in a company that has tried to introduce new initiatives before. This may have been new training programmes, ways of working, business processes or systems. In my experience, typically what happens is that an email is sent out which we read (or not…), and then forget about within a week or so. You will find with a go-live day, involvement is company wide and when done right, adoption is boosted by the positivity and buzz that surrounds it.
Tip 1: Get the right people involved in planning
In any deployment planning workshop, the most important consideration for change managers is to ensure that you get the right people in the room. The difficulty we often face in G Suite deployments is that the move to Google is seen as an I.T project – therefore the planning workshop ends up being based on I.T decisions. In order to combat this,make sure you engage with business change representatives within the organisation in the initial stages of the project. This will ensure you have their full buy-in. How have they run change projects in the past? Do they use go-live events to kick-start adoption initiatives? If not, why not?
Earlier this year I led the ITV Australia G Suite change project where we had the full support and engagement from the change, training and L&D team right from the beginning. The team were engaged, proactive, and fully understood the importance behind it. This was achieved by their eagerness to please the executive sponsor of the project, and them fully understanding the benefits that Google would bring to the workplace. We ran two great go-live days in Sydney and Melbourne, with fantastic energy and great results. If you are in any doubt that the right people are not present in the early stages, it’s imperative that you flag this before it’s too late. Otherwise, before you know it, your team will be mundanely riding the waves of an I.T project and contributing logistical communications via the standard channels when instructed, rather than doing anything with proper impact.
Tip 2: Create a buzz and build excitement
So, how can we create buzz around the project? Working with an organisation’s internal communications team goes without saying. However, it’s important to challenge their standard channels of communication. G Suite will no-doubt be a huge change to users way of working, and the communications should reflect this. Elevator pitches (see here for more info on this topic) are brilliant, and when teamed with a countdown to the go-live it becomes more memorable. I recently ran a change initiative with Sofology in the UK, whose employees received desk drops counting down to the Google go-live, along with surprise stickers on their screen monitors in the week leading up to it. In a media company based in London, we captured the users’ frustrations with their legacy system i.e. lack of ability to collaborate in real time, so we sent countdown emails to build them up to when this will change; “Three days to go until we can take full advantage of instant messaging and video conferencing…!”. I’m also currently working with a production company in LA and New York whose users will soon be receiving their own countdown by way of letters and screensavers to introduce them to unlimited storage.
Tip 3: Boosting impact
We’ve ensured we’re working with the right people to execute, and have built users up to attending the event. What does the day itself include? Training can be a key aspect to your go-live event. Depending on the programme and logistics, training could be a great addition to the day to convey the inception of new initiatives from this point forward.
However, as you plan any training activities, think about training sessions that you have attended in the past where you and your colleagues dreaded going, yawned throughout the sessions and went back to work in exactly the same way that you did before. How can you stop that from happening? What if employees were excited to go to training, inspired during the session, and desperate to get back to their desks to try out new tools or ways of working? I have learnt the hard way that your attendees have their usual day jobs to be getting on with, and minds will wander while you are trying to enthuse them. My background has taught me that run-of-the-mill sessions can have little effect on adoption of new ways of working, so if you do include training, make sure it echoes the positive and creative sentiment of the day! This way, the experience of the new system is positive from the outset for users. Training should ideally go hand-in-hand with a go-live, and be scheduled as close together as possible.
Tip 4: Make it visual and involve employees
In terms of what surrounds the go-live, aesthetics are the easiest but often most important part. You’ll be surprised what some balloons and swag can do for users. Remember, we want this event to be as memorable and as stimulating as possible, so draw on anything you can to contribute to this. From the entrance to the building to the lighting and atmosphere, make sure you have considered all elements.
At ITV Australia, we organised Google cakes, sweets, and had mugs displayed as a surprise for all employees. In London, we planned a “Google Breakfast” where employees could grab a training handout which included a training programme of the day. These little touches make for great photo opportunities to include in company comms around the success of your go-live days, which could be shared on G+ or the company intranet. I’d suggest that you think of an overarching brand/theme for the day, and make sure you communicate this wholeheartedly.
Tip 5: Streamline your logistics and celebrate success
A go-live event can be a stressful day for the whole project team, from the technical leads to the change leads. The logistics of the day (in terms of aligning the technical migrations with the correct trainees in sessions) needs to be well planned and communicated beforehand. When done correctly, the day will be a smooth transition for users, who will then often praise the project group for their efforts! To aid the process, I’d recommend that you create an issue tracker for your floorwalkers or Google guides to fill out. From this, the team can then tailor the post go-live communications accordingly, to reflect frequently asked questions.
A post-deployment survey is key in any change management project. It is from these surveys that I have learnt to understand the real value that go-live days bring to a deployment. Allowing users to let you know how they found the day and surrounding events are key to learning and continuously improving as well as helping you to plan post go-live communications and training activities.
The hard work really does pay off – we have collected some outstanding feedback from our customers, and even influenced their change management processes as a whole for future projects!
Don’t forget to keep up the momentum post go-live day. Sharing success stories is a fantastic way to mark out the day the company changed, and employees are left with positive memories of a great day that provides a perfect introduction to their future way of working.
I hope that this post has highlighted that there are many reasons for running a go-live event, either for an initial project kick-off or as a signal to employees that they need to start working in new ways from this date forward. My recent experience with running customer change projects has really emphasised just how influential the go-live day is on the overall success of the project and how big a boost they can make to the levels of employee engagement.
Get the right people involved, make it visual and engaging for employees, nail the execution then celebrate your success with the whole organisation!
I’d love to hear any of your personal stories about project go-lives and would also be happy to answer any questions you might have for me on this topic.
Blog post written by: Emily Merron, Head of Change Management