Back in the day I managed a number of IT transformation projects, mostly where a new system was being implemented or a current one was in the process of being replaced. I always found the work interesting but the major excitement which came from the work was predicting and then managing the risks and issues associated with the implementation.

To this end, I recall many late nights and intense evaluation of scenarios as the new approach was carefully and deliberately phased in and the old system phased out. A good number of the clients involved had highly valuable information and, most importantly, interfaces with customers that often numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Because, when it comes to information systems, when it does go wrong it can be catastrophic. Even those of us who have very little to do with IT systems will remember famous examples of much heralded system improvements which turned septic - Novopay is a good case study.

Change of ownership can also herald system and function change, and oftentimes these situations are no less risky and, particularly where the new owners want to do things differently, the same rigour which accompanies a major system overhaul must be applied carefully.

Advertisement

So it was with some amusement to me that, while on holiday, an ownership change at a resort coupled with the implementation of a new booking system almost caused disaster for plans Mrs Bell had set in motion back in December. The basic facts are that an island resort in Fiji had a new owner and over the last few months a new booking system was implemented, however, from what I could glean historical bookings did not migrate to the new system.

What this meant was that the resort was overbooked and we arrived to find our only option was to accept a downgrade from what we had booked and paid for.

We were among the lucky ones however because a number of people arrived only to be repatriated to another resort (or back to the mainland). All this because crucial data disappeared, creating stress and tension for customers and staff alike. However, despite not getting what we had booked, the management dealt with our situation exceptionally well and, having a travel agent back us up was essential (something that Trivago and the other websites don't give you). Thanks to Cathy Taylor (Travel Brokers/Hello World), who was just awesome, we had a relaxing break without disruption.

So, if you are looking at making a system change know exactly what you are getting first and follow that up with having a plan to ensure that all of your important data is both backed up (make sure the backups work!) and can be readily transferred to the new system.

Then also have a plan and approach to keeping in touch with your customers to ensure that there are no bugs in the customer experience.

Finally, like the resort we dealt with, make sure that you manage the customer interface well, because if you do this right even those who have a negative experience will come back.