As an IT project nears completion, one thing all parties heartily share is the desire to put the solution into production. After months or years of hard work, the client can finally start reaping the promised benefits that triggered the project and the supplier can enjoy the satisfaction of delivering those benefits.
In a perfect world, the solution works exactly as expected in the non-production environment, the bugs are fixed, legacy data is transferred, the users are trained, and its only a matter of flipping a switch to much fanfare and celebration.
However, the world is not perfect. A leading technology firm introduced the Hype Cycle to describe the adoption of new technology. While initially applied to a technology, industry-wide, it generally applies to specific projects as well.
Very simply, consider the red line indicating satisfaction with the solution, with the beginning of the Plateau of Productivity roughly representing project launch. Due to exaggerated promises, changing requirements, delays in delivery etc, the project stakeholders may be less than thrilled at the prospect of launching the solution.
I was brought into a large project that was deep in the Trough of Disillusionment, for all the reasons mentioned above. Being a large, multi-year project, it has not been easy to climb out of the trough, but as launch is approaching, we are indeed on the Slope of Enlightenment.
Most projects I’ve been involved in experience some degree of Disillusionment as expectations meet reality. A key lesson from my current project is the critical importance of trust between the client and the supplier. With that trust, the trough can be bridged without serious impact to the project. Although the delivered project may not perfectly match the ideals envisioned at the beginning, the stakeholders can see clear benefits, and are satisfied. However, if trust is lost, it may be impossible to see the way forward to the post-launch results, and the project can stagnate.
Easier said than done, but it is absolutely critical that the supplier gain the trust of the client as the project proceeds from vision to reality.