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Tips for a Virtual Global Go-Live During a Pandemic

By September 15, 2021

By: Nicole Hedges, Principal Customer Success Architect,; Marquetta Drakes, Principal Functional Consultant,

It’s 2021. Most of us in the industry have been through a system implementation or two — or twenty — by now. We may have even executed part of it — or all of it — remotely in this digital age. That being said, we are still learning a lot about how to make virtual go-lives more successful every day.

This post will take a deep dive into a customer use case that broke the typical virtual go-live mold. This conversation with Nicole Hedges, principal customer success architect at, and Marquetta Drakes, a principal functional consultant at, covers the many insights and tips the Professional Services team learned as they implemented a customer twice on the other side of the world during a global pandemic.

Team of employees meeting virtually
The Professional Services team offer tips from a recent virtual global customer go-live during a global pandemic.

Pre-Covid, what were customer expectations for go-live support?

Marquetta Drakes (MD): International eight-day in-person visits during go-live for each location. With the radical changes this implementation would have introduced to the end users in 14 different countries, there was no single go-live — the goal was a phased approach where the lessons learned in the first roll out would inform improvements for each subsequent go-live.

Nicole Hedges (NH): This wasn’t just your migrate-over-the-weekend-go-live-on-monday type of scenario. It had to be a pace and approach that took into account multiple vendors, roles, departments, time zones, etc. The timeline consisted of two weeks of training, a one-week go-live period, and two weeks of post-go-live support. In addition, the approach needed to be repeated approximately every six weeks until all 14 sites were live.

Virtual go-lives aren’t a new concept, why wasn’t this the plan from the start?

MD: Not only were we introducing a new system to replace their legacy application, they were standardizing their business processes across the three pilot offices on the other side of the world.

NH: This was not a rinse-and-repeat type of implementation. The team built a customized product that had never been implemented before. The on-site support was also indicated because of the significant time zone difference between project team and end users.

Was there anything else particularly unique about this go-live?

MD: Yes, it happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was actually packed to head to the airport for our on-site kickoff when we got the word that all travel was on hold for the foreseeable future. The end users and subject matter experts were not located together.

NH: This project kicked off just as COVID-19 caught on fire in the U.S. We had no benefit of seeing how others handled this. We were blazing our own trail on how remote go-lives under these circumstances work. This is the first time I’ve handled a go-live in/for a developing country, which made infrastructure a real barrier. Strategies had to be low-tech, low-budget. Bandwidth that we take for granted here in the states was not a given where we were deploying.

When working out logistics for a virtual go-live, what were the biggest concerns from the customer that you had to consider when coming up with a formal plan?

MD: For a successful virtual go-live, we had to:

  • Identify the tools and apps required to support the plan
  • Identify and mitigate any additional infrastructure issues that would impact go-live. For example, internet reliability and hardware were pre-COVID concerns. But once we had to go all virtual, we also needed to contend with no Zoom setup in the pilot locations
  • Acknowledge that overall timeframe would need to be extended in order to get feedback from testers and end users
  • Modify office hours of the teams with the timezone of the groups they were working with

NH: The Octane score needed to be run from the machines of end users from home, as it is specific to your hardware and internet connection.

When working out logistics for virtual go-live, what concerns did you have about the team delivering under this new structure?

MD: Correct, and I credit that to the customer performing thorough user acceptance testing. That’s not to say there weren’t any hiccups. But we had a clear understanding of what bugs were show-stoppers and what could be resolved a few hours later when the next set of resources came online.

NH: Making sure there was a backup for each team member was key. To mitigate burnout, we divided and conquered as a team — our support plan included a dedicated resource that was up with the trainers and end-users, the rest of the team was considered to be “on call”. If memory serves me correctly, we never had to bring an “on call” resource in while they were supposed to be sleeping.

What were the different channels, mediums, and levels of training and go-live support? What was the final plan and how did you execute it?

MD: As far as tools:

  • Slack for communication between our team and the client project team
  • Zoom for training and testing sessions
  • Application for logging user stories and bugs
  • Learning management system for asynchronous training, etc…
  • Level 1 support was supplied by local resources who could hold office hours in the end users’ time zone

NH: And to speak to the personnel needed Customer project team, including trainers, Customer end users, Salesforce project team, Offshore testing and support: outsourced user story testing, which made them subject matter experts on how the system operated. They became a great resource to provide Tier 1 support to the field offices and more closely aligned with their time zones.

Even with the new plan proceeding well, what were the wildcard factors that came up to keep in mind in the future?

NH: Of all the planning and re-planning that was done, we still didn’t account for the fact that we had critical team members getting vaccinated at the same time and feeling some side effects from that. While this may seem like a wildcard we may never get again, I think the last 18 months tells us it could be a real on-going consideration in the future. Think about it in the same way you would coordinate PTO between team members.

Learn more about the Service Cloud-based digital transformation project referenced in this blog post.

About the Authors

Marquetta Drakes, Principal Functional Consultant at
Marquetta Drakes
Principal Functional Consultant at
Marquetta Drakes is a principal functional consultant working to bring the power of cloud computing to enterprises with a clear process for moving a project from conception to completion. She has more than 20 years’ experience working with, and for, nonprofit clients across various sectors.
Nicole Hedges, Principal Customer Success Architect at
Nicole Hedges
Principal Customer Success Architect at
Nicole Hedges is a principal customer success architect advising nonprofits on how to solve humanitarian issues across their enterprise through the power of the Salesforce platform. She has almost 20 years experience working by, with, and for nonprofit organizations across various sectors.