It's important to understand the different documents and tools a project manager will need to effectively carry out any change. An efficient, fast-paced project will often fall at the last hurdle because the project manager doesn't apply the rigour of a go/no-go checklist. This document can save a lot of time and effort at the implementation stage, and is a good way to show that you have applied due diligence before launching a critical business change. If you're new to project management, learn more about why you need to use a go/no-go checklist, and find out how to get the most from this simple, but crucial project tool.
What happens without a go/no-go checklist
A go/no-go checklist helps the project manager confirm that the project team has completed each task that's critical to a successful launch. Project managers have a lot to consider at the implementation stage and launching too soon can have significant consequences. The impacts of a premature launch can include:
- Defects and problems in live systems that stop users and customers doing what they need to do
- Confused users and business process owners, who don't understand their roles
- Key documents and processes not in place
- No contingency in place
- No disaster recovery plan in place
- Inadequate system security
If one or more of these impacts occurs, your project is likely to need more money. You may need to repeat certain steps or carry out further testing. Ultimately, a premature launch is likely to negatively influence the cost, timing or quality of your project, and that reflects poorly on the project manager.
What to include in your go/no-go checklist
Your checklist should include at least one measure of success that relates to every business unit that the project involves. According to the nature of the project, some functions will have multiple measures, but you should only include measures that are critical to the successful launch of the project.
It's often useful to list these measures as questions. This helps project team members understand what the measure means, and encourages them to go and find the answer. For example, instead of saying 'update knowledge management tool', you could include a measure that says, "Has the knowledge management tool been updated with all the new product information?"
Against each measure, you should then assess the go-live status. You will normally select:
- Green – all work is complete, with no quality issues outstanding.
- Amber – work is not complete, but there is a revised delivery date in place and work is on track.
- Red – this work is not complete. There is no revised delivery date, or the work is off track and likely to finish late.
This information allows the project team to make a collective decision about how to proceed.
Using a go/no-go checklist
Schedule a go/no-go meeting at least two weeks before you want to go live. This will help you understand how close to completion you are. Work through the checklist, collectively agreeing on the RAG status of each point.
Generally speaking, you cannot launch a project where you assess any item on the checklist as red. This issue is too severe to ignore, and will impact too greatly on delivery quality. If every item is green, you will normally agree to go live. Amber items are up for discussion, and the go-live decision will vary from one project to another. In some cases, you may decide to go live in a limited way, until the team can shift these items from amber to green.
Avoiding common go/no-go mistakes
Your go/no-go checklist is not a project plan, and should not show every work package. View the document as a list of quality criteria. Many project managers include too many items on the checklist, and struggle to make a final decision. Here are some other mistakes to avoid:
- Describe exactly what needs to happen, as ambiguous criteria are unhelpful. If you can't all agree whether the work is complete to the right standard, the checklist measure isn't clear enough.
- Make sure you only consider the measures that are critical to delivery. If something doesn't impact on delivery, you shouldn't include it in the checklist.
- Continue to review your checklist daily. At this late stage, the status of any item can change significantly, and your project team needs time to update their work.
- Don't leave the review process too late. If you find that some items are red one day before you are due to launch, you won't have enough time to react.
Finally, it's critical that the right stakeholders and subject matter experts assess the checklist. For example, if you have a financial measure in the checklist, make sure somebody from the finance team reviews the document. Only allow qualified people to influence the outcome of the meeting, or you could settle on the wrong decision.
A project go/no-go checklist is a vital tool for new and experienced project managers. Implement your project successfully by using this simple document to make sure your project will meet time, quality and cost objectives. For more information, consider participating in a project management training program, such as those offered at http://www.plentytraining.edu.au.