The 'fog' of war and cloud implementations

There are many benefits of cloud-based accounting systems. After you've selected a new application you then begin the process of implementing the new solution. In order for your project to be successful, you will need to have a thorough and detailed cutover plan.

Golden Gate Bridge in foggy clouds
Credit: flickr/Camille King

The fog of war is a concept written by military analyst Carl Von Clausewitz in the mid-1800’s. The term implies a lack of information during a military operation. This uncertainty can lead to poor decision making by leaders and decrease the chance of the operation’s success. The risk of the fog of war is mitigated through intelligence and planning.

The exact same concept applies for your cloud-based accounting application. During a go live, you may not have an “adversary” like in war, but there are a lot of tasks and activities that are highly dependent on each other. These tasks and activities need to be coordinated and often involve everyone in your organization and external parties.

For example, you need to coordinate with your bank to setup your integrations and complete the infamous penny test. You might need all of your employees to clear transactions (e.g. requisitions) out of your legacy system and setup their reimbursement information in the new system. There literally can be thousands of tasks associated with a go live.

If you do not have a proper plan in place and the right intelligence, you may find yourself in the fog of war come go live. You put yourself at risk of making wrong decisions based on limited information and “reacting” vs. “executing your plan.”

The way to mitigate that risk is to develop and follow a cutover plan. Each task on the cutover plan should include a cutover category, title, task name, owner, dependencies, criticality, start time, stop time and status. The cutover plan should include tasks for the following groups of activities:

1.  Go / No-Go Criteria – a clear list of gated items that need to be completed or mitigated before cutting over to the new system. This includes, but is not limited to critical issues, processes, data conversion, interfaces, communications, reports and training.

2.  Production Build – configuring and migrating custom reports and interfaces into the production. Communications – drafting, approving and sending communications associated with the go live – from awareness e-mails to requests for action.

3.  Training – developing and delivering training courses and job aides required for go-live.

4.  Data conversion – extracting, transforming, loading and reconciling master, historical transaction data and open item data.

5.  Firsts – identifying each time a new process or interface will occurring in the new system to monitor and support.

6.  Lasts – identifying the last time a process or interface will occur in the legacy system.

7.  Support – a clear production support plan including hyper care support across all geographies and functions include hotlines, war rooms, issue tracking, escalation procedures and emergency mitigation plans.

8.  Security – setting up and/or turning off security in the new system (to enable functionality) or legacy system (to restrict functionality).

9.  System decommission – identifying, archiving data and turning off legacy systems.

System implementations are large complex projects with a lot of moving parts. Issues will occur. With proper planning and a sound execution strategy, you can put a plan in place to make sure that you address these issues effectively and efficiently with the most information possible. You can avoid the fog of war!

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