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Talking Point – Roll Outs – timing is everything

When an organisation is ready to upgrade their website or operating system, or make changes to how they do things in their business which might impact their clients (or staff), timing is never more important, yet so many organisations (who should know better) still manage to get it wrong.

Take the NZ Inland Revenue Department. Their systems have been archaic, outdated, antiquated and dysfunctional for many years, decades even, so when an announcement was made to finally address it with a brand spanking new system, the $1.6 billion Business Transformation Initiative, it was met with cheers by many, especially small business owners. We all knew it would be a mammoth undertaking and it wouldn’t happen quickly, and we were prepared to wait for it. We also knew it would come with some pain for tax payers, especially small business operators, but again we accepted that. No more waiting in long telephone queues to have simple questions answered or transactions undertaken. Yay. But why on earth would anyone roll out a new system at the busiest time of the business year?

In the case of IRD, they shut down their client-facing part of the business for a week at the start of the new 2019/20 financial year (April) while they rolled out a key stage of the new system. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the roll out not-surprisingly ran into the coming weeks and months – the busiest time of the year for most tax payers, tax agents, accountants and small business operators (who, let’s face it, make up the majority of employers in New Zealand). They might have had a good reason for doing this, other than it happening around Easter when a lot of businesses were closed for the break, but we’ll probably never know. The new on-line system showed promise (let’s face it, anything was likely to be an improvement on the old system) however it still relied on humans in call centres to interface with its clients for some activities, such as authentication and validation, and clearly the volume of calls was grossly underestimated by someone. We still face long waits to get the answers we need. Possibly even longer than they were before…

Other examples that spring to mind are the Wellington bus network rollout of 2018 which was undertaken in the middle of winter when the buses were at their fullest. Why not roll it out over summer when schools, students and most office workers are on holiday? A new section of road on State Highway One on the Kapiti Coast was opened a week before Christmas 2018, just as everyone was leaving Wellington for their annual Christmas and summer holiday breaks, resulting in horrific delays and congestion. The timing of this might have been dependent on the progress and milestones of the Transmission Gully project, and can probably be excused or at least justified, however there are plenty of other times when road works are carried out during busy holiday periods – just ask anyone heading out of Auckland for a long weekend.  And occasionally we hear of community swimming pools that close for routine maintenance work during summer. Duh.

The point is that if your organisation is planning to make any changes that might substantially affect your customers or staff, please don’t do it at the busiest time of your working year. There is a saying that ‘timing is everything’ and it is very true. There are some exceptions to this, for example if you plan to change the financial accounting system for your organisation, it’s usually best to do it at the start of the new financial year, however you’ll need to prepare for the changeover months in advance.

If you use your website for on-line sales, consider the timing if you are making any changes to it, and don’t roll them out when you’re experiencing the largest volume of trading. You can usually have the changes prepared in advance and implemented when it is quiet. If you plan to make changes to your operating platform don’t do them while your annual conference registrations are open, or award entries are being received. Same goes for annualized membership renewals. If there are legislative changes happening in your industry or profession, don’t wait until the last minute to add them to your website as chances are your web providers might be busy working on other clients’ projects at the time – it’s not like you haven’t had plenty of warning that they’re coming. 

You might have noticed that Expert rolls out our non-urgent updates on Sunday afternoons as we researched when MoST was least used by our NZ-based and overseas clients, and Sunday afternoons topped the poll. Being at the mercy of operating in a 24/7 world makes it hard to find a time when things are quiet enough to make your changes, so really all that most of us can do is give it plenty of thought before leaping in.

Remember to put yourself in the shoes of your clients first. Annoy them enough and they’ll go somewhere else. Or just hate you, if they can’t leave you. Timing really is everything.

For more information on timing your next roll out contact us.

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