Project handover can be very simple or extremely complicated. It all depends on the organization of the Project Manager.
Projects can be short and can last up a few days or can be complex projects with a lifecycle that can even reach several years.
It is precisely for the duration of some projects that some project managers may find themselves in the situation of having to “handover” a project to a new project manager.
A retirement, a new job challenge for the outgoing project manager and other situations can be the reason that leads to the handover.
The most important thing is that those who take over is in the best conditions to continue the work.
Obviously, project handover requires much more than the transfer of office keys and software access information.
Hence, there are six steps below that can help to successfully complete a project handover:
1. Setting handover objectives
Outgoing and incoming project managers should hold a meeting and set goals that must be met during the transition.
This allows both parties to review and evaluate the status of the project in relation to the project’s basic planning, timing and budget.
Project team members should also, for obvious reasons, be involved in this meeting.
2. Keeping the customer up to date
Project team members, the workers and the customer must understand how the existing project manager intends to make the handover to the successor.
In some cases, the project manager could explain why knowledge transfer is underway and what could change in the future.
Clarity is always a winning element.
3. Having short daily meetings
During the transition between the existing project manager and the new one, all team members should meet each other to evaluate and review the status of responsibilities and activities.
It is an extremely important phase because it allows the incoming PM to evaluate the state of things and the capabilities of the individual elements of the Team.
4. Showing project benefits and utility for the upcoming project manager
Some projects revolve around the development or use of resources or products.
When specific products are involved, the project manager in charge should help the new project manager to understand how this product or service works.
The outgoing project manager should also show and motivate the new PM the benefits of the project and its strategic importance for the company.
5. Meeting the stakeholders
The existing project manager and the new one should meet project stakeholders together.
This will allow interested parties to ask questions, expose any doubts and discuss. This is what usually happens in a Kick off Meeting.
6. Being available to ask support
Sometimes, incoming project manager may not be sure of some project’s aspects.
For example, the new project manager could not understand the organization management processes.
When this happens, the incoming project manager must be available to (follow the good practice to) ask support from the existing project manager, the project team, and top management.
This will allow both project managers to work together to achieve common handover targets.
Checklists are always very useful for summarizing actions and timeline of events that otherwise would be complicated to explain.
Here are two checklists that can further support project handover between project managers.
Outgoing project manager should:
- Obtain and deliver the project status – if one exists – or collect the project start-up documentation (for this reason it is important to always keep it in order);
- Collect the documents involved in the initial offer, make sure to clearly indicate what the signed copy is (important to understand the expectations);
- Collect all change requests (amount, description and times for each instance);
- Write down the roles client-side (who is the sponsor, who will check the quality of the final results, etc.);
- List all important contacts for the project, writing the frequency of communication with each contact and which topics to discuss;
- Present the new project manager to the client;
- Present the new project manager to the team;
- Suggest the next steps to the new project manager.
Here, instead, there is a checklist of practical things to be managed during the handover:
- List the people who are working on the project, or who have worked on it, along with their skills, competences and roles;
- Give information on the work environment (password, keys, key card, …)
- Give information on technical or practical dependencies, for example: if the X system should fail, this could cause project A to fail; the Z project depends on the Y service, etc.
- Explain how long handover will take;
- Notifying customers and stakeholders with much frequency of contact, that they may be less reactive during the transfer;
- Explain to company leaders what you are concretely “transfer” to the new project manager;
- Keep track of project delivery time.
In all these steps it is easy to understand how document management plays an essential role.
To support this transition phase, we have provided in TWproject a simple and flexible document management system.
In opposition to the complex management of documents that could be found in other software, document management is deliberately essential in TWproject.
With some powerful and simple techniques you can meet most business needs, for example reliability and usability.
Testing Twproject you will discover an intelligent system to manage and archive project documents and always have them at your fingertips.
One last observation must be made: each project manager has his own style.
For this reason, the incoming project manager does not necessarily have to follow everything that his predecessor has done, even imitating his working style.
Some people, especially younger managers, will probably feel obliged to do so, but our advice is to follow their own style and personality, without forcing themselves.
“ He who loses his individuality loses all.”
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a project handover process?
Have you ever had to make a handover?
Were you the outgoing or incoming PM?
Leave us your experience.