Thursday, 20 September 2012

Launching with Technical Difficulties

It's not the first time I've blogged from an airport and neither is it the first time I've written whilst on the plane, but this may be the first time I've blogged on the plane and at the airport. My second flight in as many days and the 'technical difficulties' here make it two for two on that count unfortunately for me and my fellow travellers. Thing is, in the learning technologies world these kind of things are (hopefully) more fatal to a launch than for an aircraft.

So your brand spanking LMS is a hot jet ready for its maiden voyage and you're ready for take off, just the final checks prior to launch.. Fully loaded with passengers all excited, lots of cool luggage.. Oh no! Something's awry somewhere, technical difficulties and the sync isn't working or the payment gateway doesn't work or.. You haven't got enough band-width, or nobody even remembered to check the firewall to make sure it would allow the LMS or content through. Whatever the technical issue you have it can be a killer to your project as your launch opportunity only really exists once, it's that first impression time and as they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The answer to your problems is really simple, the problem is it starts a way back before you got this far into your solution. If you have a time machine, or you haven't got this far yet you need to ensure you have a good implementation plan in place with time for testing and correcting any issues required, go back earlier whilst you're at it and remember to involve your IT department at the start and get them on board, you don't need them to fly your plane but you sure need them to clear you for takeoff and fix any issues along the way so involve them.

So what if you can't go back in time and the implementation is in full swing, how do you avoid disaster? Firstly you need to understand that this isn't a quick win situation, but it doesn't have to result in total disaster either. They key to saving your first impression is a combination of communication and planning again. Secondly our plane metaphor happily rolls on here as there's no way you would fly in a plane you thought may have fatal flaws and the same is true for your LMS. If there's a real chance of crash and burn, or even it not getting off the Tarmac then stop right now before you make a massive mistake you won't be able to undo. I was on a so called flight once that didn't happen for nearly two hours and not a word of what was going on was passed to the passengers, I had another flight once delayed for nearly 12 hours (yes, I travel a fair bit) where the staff were awesome; meal vouchers, humour and above all honest and plain communication. One of those companies I would not fly again, the other was an unacceptable delay handled very well and I simply would fly them again happily.

So the key to surviving this mess is to open up and not close down the communication lines. Start to re-plan, involve the right people, don't promise what you can't deliver and allow the time to get it right. You can recover with a re-launch once if you go about it the right way, but do it again and it looks like you don't know what you're doing and no one will have faith in a flight without a flight plan that will work. The last tip is that you need to use the gap time between failed launch and re-launch to positively reinforce everything you did (or should have done) first time round. That equates to getting champions, walking and talking the vision and above all else communicating what's going on to everyone on board.

Speaking of which, the engineers have now signed off my flight so we're off in a second and I have to turn off the blog here. With a bit of luck I'll see you in the skies!

Chocks away!

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