Have you ever wondered why some organizations appear to transition to new ways of working after the completion of large projects or programs seamlessly, whilst others struggle and find the experience very disruptive? The answer may well be The Model Office.
A Model Office knits together the people, process, and technology components of a new proposed solution. It iteratively tests it against real scenarios within a simulated work environment to evaluate the usefulness and effectiveness of that solution.
The Model Office engages the key people involved in the solution early in the development process — allowing for feedback as the solution is being developed. It is also a great way to obtain buy-in from all necessary parties, as it allows you to demonstrate the benefits of the solution early in the development process.
A Model Office:
- Unearths and tests assumptions baked into a solution to ensure it delivers the desired customer experience
- Validates that the new solution satisfies functional goals and meets performance and quality targets
- Facilitates early knowledge transfer to business teams — reducing the severity of the learning curve for staff who will use the solution
- Enables the gathering of feedback from a wider audience and adjusts the solution to meet identified needs and mitigate project risk
- Enables early identification of gaps in process, people, and technology
- Facilitates iterative design for the optimal way to fill potential gaps
- Encourages buy-in and develops champions for the new solution — easing the transition through delivery.
The Model Office Process
In order for the Model Office to be a success it is essential to run it with very clear objectives throughout the duration of the project or program. Here is the process which I use:
Phase 1: The Planning Phase
The Model Office Planning Phase occurs at the start of program execution. The objective of this phase is to set-up everything necessary to facilitate the Model Office running throughout the duration of the program. This stage will typically contain the following steps:
- Identify the key participants in the Model Office
- Plan when Model Office sessions will take place. To do this you will need to align the Model Office workshops with key deliverables. If R&D are providing regular releases (for example monthly) then it will make sense to hold the sessions just after these releases are made.
- Ensure an environment is available for use in the Model Office. This refers to ensuring a testing system exists and has enough data in it if necessary to reflect real world use.
- Plan the desired outputs from the Model Office workshops, such as a prioritized list of recommended improvements, and a list of positives and negatives of the new system compared with any existing systems.
Phase 2: Early Stage Model Office
In the early stages of your project or program it is unlikely much will exist by way to deliverables which can be tested. This does not mean you shouldn’t run the Model Office. Using whatever does exist at this stage (wire-frames, rough notes on new business process), Business Scenario Walkthroughs can be performed.
The purpose of these BSW’s is to walkthrough the business processes even though the software or hardware doesn’t yet exist to test the planned business processes to ensure they are workable. Because no software or hardware exists participants should be asked to role play, using props or just pieces of paper rather than real systems.
Phase 3: Mid Stage Model Office
This stage starts when the first real deliverable is available to test. In this stage, in addition to performing Business Scenario Walkthroughs we start carrying out Business Simulations. Business Simulations involve using the delivered systems to perform real world tasks to simulate as much as possible the tasks which will happen once the systems are handed over to the Operations team. As much as possible we are trying to simulate the entire business process end-to-end.
At this mid-stage it is probable that only a fraction of the final systems will be available. However, in addition to the systems delivered at this stage, new wire-frames or designs will be available for those parts of systems being delivered next, and we should continue to perform Business Scenario Walkthroughs on these items.
Phase 4: Late Stage Model Office
The late stage model office starts when we no longer need to perform Business Scenario Walkthroughs and can solely rely on performing Business Simulations. The purpose of this phase is twofold:
- To sign-off all systems delivered as acceptable for Operations
- For the participants of the Model Office to go out into the organization and train and prepare their colleagues to use the new systems which are coming.
It is a good idea to prepare the final sign-off criteria for Operations, and training plans towards the end of the mid-stage Model Office. Final sign-off means that everyone is confident that the systems being transitioned to the Operations team are fit for purpose and the necessary people know how to use them.
The Model Office is a great way to ensure that systems developed during the project or program transition to operational use smoothly. It is also a great way to gain buy in from those people who will ultimately use the system, as it gets them involved early, adapts the systems based on their feedback, and ultimately gets them to sign-off the systems and processes as fit for purpose.