When a large life sciences company embarked on transitioning 500 applications across multiple areas of its business early this year, it could hardly have foreseen the disruption looming on the horizon.

Transitioning a major business to new systems and processes is always challenging. Changing established ways of working while minimizing disruption to services calls for meticulous planning and execution. But the impact of COVID-19 added a whole new dimension.

The project touched all aspects of the company’s operating model, including research and development, sales and marketing and human resources. The company’s IT function had to be restructured. And business process frameworks had to be redefined. And it all had to be done in just five months.

Yet, despite the pandemic, the transition was successfully achieved – on time. It was a significant achievement for the team from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in the face of some daunting challenges.

Locked down at a critical time

Traditionally, a team embarking on a transition will meet with the business and hold workshops in order to gather as much information as possible. But in this case, pandemic restrictions were imposed just as the knowledge gathering phase of the project was about to start. 

The whole world was entering a new and unfamiliar distributed world where face to face meetings were suddenly impossible. So how could the team gain a detailed understanding of the customer’s business processes and applications?

A serious risk was that key people with knowledge vital to the transition would simply leave the business. Even if they stayed in the company, how could their knowledge be effectively captured?  Without the deep involvement of domain experts and technical teams, planning the project would be impossible.

Communication gap

Mobile phones and email are no substitute for face to face meetings, posing a massive communications challenge for both sides. In this situation, the opportunities for misunderstanding are legion, risking serious delays as the project becomes bogged down in protracted issues which could be solved quickly if everyone was around the same table.

Working together effectively is about more than just sharing information – it’s about building personal relationships of trust and mutual understanding so that everyone on the project is bought in to what it is designed to achieve. Teams need to be aligned and everyone needs to be clear about what they need to deliver and when.

All successful projects have clear governance structures and transparent reporting. But this transition was taking place when the customer’s leadership team were unable to meet to review progress.

Real-time updates on progress, risks, and challenges are an essential component of a proactive, transparent and structured partnership. This transition was challenged at this most basic level.

To find out how TCS overcame these multiple challenges download the Whitepaper here.