When producer Anna Beattie was unsuccessfully pitching the idea for The Great British Bake Off I’m sure she had little inkling of the global phenomenon it would turn into, or the resurgent appetite for home baking it would prompt. Like millions of others I’m no pâtissière, but the Bake Off has inspired my own hit-and-miss dabbling. Part of the draw is the exactitude. While in cooking you can often achieve highly-edible results by throwing whatever you have in the press or fridge together and seeing what comes out, baking demands planning and precision.
Over the years I’ve made numerous cakes celebrating family milestones. As my work colleagues can attest, this often requires multiple practice runs (well, someone has to eat those test efforts!). So I’m regularly amazed when The Great British Bake Off judges ask a contestant whether they have practiced some elaborate bake they’re about to attempt and they say “No” or “I did, but it didn’t work out for X reasons.” Spoiler alert: if it didn’t work in the practice runs, it will rarely come good on the day when it matters most.
The runbook project deployment recipe
Similar lessons apply to project deployment (especially if it requires a system upgrade or implementation of new code). It may be a cliché, but planning and practice go a long way towards successful delivery.
Fundamental to that success is the runbook, the project equivalent to a cake recipe. This essential documentation should detail every step of the implementation, enabling anyone with appropriate knowledge to pick it up and “run with it.”
How do you draft a successful runbook? By planning out the steps, documenting them and then running through them in various stages until you have a repeatable, end-to-end process that works successfully, with all participants clearly understanding the tasks and dependencies involved in the implementation. And be sure to make no assumptions – there is a reason why many recipes have turning on the oven as the first task!
This series of exercises also helps in determining accurate estimates on timings, along with identifying, addressing and reducing the risks that may occur during the “go live” implementation. The Great British Bake Off demonstrates this time and again. If you have a time limit of four hours to complete your bake but each practice takes six, or if the structure turns out to be too unstable to create the cake you planned, then you know you need to rethink.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
However while many issues may have arisen and been addressed during the practice runs, unforeseen hiccups can (and probably will) still occur during the go live phase. Flexibility and preparedness are crucial at such times, with the experience gained during those implementation practices invaluable in helping team members to quickly identify an appropriate solution, whatever issue emerged.
For this reason, a runbook should factor in some additional time at those points where the teams have determined production issues are most likely to occur during deployment. Building in that leeway ensures any problems won’t impact on the overall implementation schedule. Similarly, if an implementation is due to take a whole weekend, it is critical that rest periods are incorporated within the runbook, to minimise the risk of human error creeping in.
After every runbook rehearsal it is also vital to have sufficient business user acceptance testing (UAT) to ensure the implementation goal has been met, and that feedback is relayed to the project team if changes are needed to make the go live implementation successful. By this stage of the project, a lot of time, effort and resources have been expended, so this should be considered as the final push.
Within Deep Pool, we have an extensive library of copies of client experiences that allow us to test and develop our own runbook ahead of deployment to a client’s UAT environment. This ensures Deep Pool experts will have addressed any issues internally and can provide recommendations if the upgrade/code deployment is part of a wider project on the client side. We are generally active participants or consultants during any client go live implementation, and the people that have worked on the product internally are typically the ones who are on hand to give assistance during these crucial deployment stages.
ABOUT DEEP POOL
Deep Pool is the #1 investor servicing and compliance solutions supplier, providing cutting-edge software and consulting services to the world’s leading fund administrators and asset managers. Our flexible solution suite, developed by an experienced team of accountants, business analysts and software engineers, supports offshore and onshore hedge funds, partnerships, private equity vehicles, retail funds and regulated financial firms. Deep Pool is a global organisation with offices in Dublin, Ireland, the United States, the Cayman Islands and Slovakia. For more information, visit: www.deep-pool.com.