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The acceptance of the products and deliverables of a contract is normally a milestone for their commissioning to productive operation. The responsibility is now assumed by the business unit responsible for the operation and maintenance of the final project outcome/ product while the Contract Management Team is limited in taking care the control of contract completion and closure.

In cases where the contract scope involves the development of an Integrated Information System that will be utilised to execute all of the work electronically, the completion of the acceptance testing marks the commencement of Pilot Operation.

In the Pilot Operation phase the Contract Management Team (Project Steering Committee and Project Manager) continues to have the responsibility to monitor the Contractor and see to the repair of any errors or the restoration of omissions that will arise from the pilot operation but at this time now the users of the project owner enter into the “game".

During the pilot operation period of an information system, the following are checked, verified and adjusted:

The installation of the equipment
The settings, parameterising and adjustments of the system
The system fine tuning to improve the performance
The completion of the subsystems
The availability of parts of the system hardware or software
The system response time
Any other parameter affecting the system operation and performance.

Any problems that may appear or interventions that seem to be necessary during pilot operation must be handled appropriately by the Contractor before the start of the productive operation period.

For the system productive operation to commence, the Steering Committee must have finally accepted the system. Furthermore, all the actions included in the Checklist below must be completed:

Checklist 6-8: Actions that must be completed until the start of productive operation of an Integrated Information System

All existing hand - written or/ and electronic data have been collected or/ and migrated into the database of the new system
The operation manuals have been completed and approved
The installation sites have been configured properly for the effective operation of the system (room for the Main Frame, space for printers, PCs etc) as well as front office posts (if applicable)
All the adjustments in the procedures have been made so that they are in absolute agreement with the specifications based on which the information system was developed
All of the printed materials and forms that will be used for the output of e.g., decisions, letters, statements, invoices etc. depending on the scope of work of the Organisation that will utilise the system have been supplied
All the awareness actions for the acceptance of the system and management of change have been implemented
All the employees have been trained in the system operation
The public has been informed about the development and use of the information system and the changes that this will bring about in their transactions with the Organisation
A support system on site has been organised for the users during the first days of productive operation of the system
A Help Desk has been organised and staffed with trained personnel, which apart from providing support shall also record the questions and then process them to issue a list with the most frequently asked questions (FAQ)

It is noted that while the Contracting Authority has a certain information system available which will be replaced by the information system under supply or development, it may apply a parallel operation for a specific period (e.g., in the order of two months) of the two systems. Parallel operation ensures the Contracting Authority with respect to the fact that even if there are problems or omissions with the new system, the data from the transactions arent lost and furthermore its work does not stop but it is operating normally. In addition, there is facilitation in the control and identification of problems (troubleshooting) since the two system streams must come to the same results. However, it must be noted that operating two systems in parallel requires commitment and use of more resources at a cost that shall be borne by the Contracting Authority.

In cases where the Integrated Information System involves an Organisation with a broad range of activities and thus quite complex in nature (consists of several subsystems and applications characterised by stand-alone operation) its commissioning into productive operation may be performed gradually. For example, in case of the e-procurement system the first application that could be installed is the one for the publication of the Prior Information Notice, Periodic Indicative Notice (N.11(I)/2006), notice of the existence of the qualification system (N.11(I)/ 2006) and contract notice. In a second stage the application for the publication of the tender documents and provision of clarifications and supplementary information on the tender documents could be commissioned into productive operation. In a third stage, the application for receiving the expression of interest and tenders from the interested economic operators could be commissioned into productive operation and in a fourth stage the application for the award of the contract and informing the economic operators about the results.

The step-by-step commissioning of the Integrated Information System into productive operation (illustrated in the diagram below) gives the Project Owner the possibility to gradually migrate from the existing to the new status while it further helps the users with better assimilation of the training and their gradual familiarisation with the system operations.

Figure 6-2: Step-by-step commissioning of information system into productive operation

The gradual introduction of the Information System presumes the design and drafting of a detailed Migration Plan. The Migration Plan is usually drafted by the Contractor and agreed upon with the Contracting Authority. Its contents must include:

Table 620: Contents of Migration Plan

Action Plan and implementation schedule for the organisational and functional changes required each time a new functionality is inserted
Plan and program for the users training
Action Plan and schedule for data loading and migration of data required for the operation of the new applications
Plan for the parallel operation of hand - written and electronic processes (provided that at any given moment some procedures shall be executed manually and some others electronically)

In cases where the Project Owner has also a peripheral structure (branches) which are physically planned in different locations the Integrated Information System is usually commissioned into productive operation initially at a central location and then it is rolled out to the branches. Characteristic examples of such Organisations are the Tax Services, Police Stations, Hospitals, Social Security Operators and Banks.

Figure 63: Information system roll out to the branches of an Organisation

The main advantage of the Information System Roll out is that it allows the gain of experience from the previous facilities and thus provides the possibility for continuous improvement of the procedures required.

The basic characteristics of a System roll out are as follows:

At any given moment a branch of the Organisation/ Agency/ Authority operates with the Information System while another does not. Given that usually the branches of an Organisation communicate and cooperate between them, a detailed study of the communication and data exchange method is required.
At any given moment and while the Project is still in progress two administration structures coexist. One involves the management of the contract, which is in progress and implemented by the Steering Committee, Project Manager and Project Team, while the other structure is related with the Organisational Structure of the Organisation/ Agency/ Authority that has taken over the responsibility to operate the system (e.g., Informatics Directorate). These two structures must cooperate very well between one another and exchange information to optimise the roll out and identify errors or problems which may subsequently be avoided.

In order for the roll out of an Information System to be conducted smoothly the Contractor must draft a detailed Roll Out Plan and agree upon it with the Project Manager and the Steering Committee. Given, though, that the Roll out Plan affects the operations of the Project Owner, it must be approved by it.

The Roll out Plan must anticipate and specify the actions required to prepare each branch in order to start the system operation, the time schedule within which these must be executed, as well as the critical factors to its success. More specifically, the Roll out Plan must include provisions for the following actions:

Table 621: Indicative Contents of Roll Out Plan

Equipment installation
Software and applications installation
Network installation and operation to enable the communication of the branch with the central server
Data collection and migration
Configuration of the branch areas for installing PC terminals and ensuring ergonomics
Training for branch Managers, directors and staff
Management of pending issues before the commencement of system operation 
Informing the transacting public that the branch may be out of service for certain days in order to prepare it for the new operation mode
Publicity and information of the interested parties
On site support for the first few days of productive operation (e.g., two weeks)

The roll out as a methodology for the application of a new operational mode in an Organisation/ Agency/ Authority with branches in different geographical areas may be utilised also in a case where the contract scope refers to the design and application of a new organisational and operational structure.

The requirements in this case are:

Preliminary Actions which include:
oAdjustment of procedures
oPreparation of training
oEstablishment of a new mechanism to monitor the results of the application of the new organisation and operation method.
Preparative actions to integrate the branches, which include:
oSelection of the order of integration of the branches in the new operational mode and informing them
oAdjusting the organisation plan of the branch to the new operational mode and correspondence of the staff to the new work positions.
oDetailed training in the new operating mode
oPreparation/ Configuration of physical planning and installation of equipment/ hardware
oManaging pending issues
Actions for the on site application of the new operating mode, which include:
oOn site support of the branches during the application of the new operating mode
oCollection of data from the operation of the branches at the integration phase with regard to the effort made and the degree of observance of the interventions, as well as to the final result itself.

© 2007 Republic of Cyprus, Treasury of the Republic, Public Procurement Directorate
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