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How to Hand Off a Project Successfully
By Ben Ferris

So, you made it to the end of the project at last. Hopefully you can look back with a lot of satisfaction at how you overcame a lot of obstacles and got your team to pull together even when they weren’t sure how it was all going to end up.

You aren’t going to ruin all the hard work at this late stage by not thinking through the hand off properly, are you?

Picture the End Product

How exactly do you see the future for your new process or system? You may have been immersed in it for so long that you have forgotten to view it in this way. It is important that you give this some thought, as the business stakeholders you will be handing it over to may have some last minute questions in this respect. Near the end of the project lifecycle you should start seeing things from the end user’s point of view if you haven’t been doing so already. This will help you spot if there is anything which you have missed or which might not be clear for them. Some trial runs or proving cycles could come in handy, to give you the final assurance that you are handing off something which is 100% right.

Make the Date Clear

The project you are about to unleash on the business could result in some major changes for them. This means that you need to be 100% clear around when it is going to be handed over. Even if the milestones have slipped you need to let people know when you now estimate getting everything completed. Handing off a project to the surprise of the stakeholders or not doing so when they expect it is one of the worst ways to end a project. If you are providing regular updates then this shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Documentation and Training

Training the staff who are affected by your work can be one of the most unexpectedly rewarding parts of the whole affair. When you first start off you might not think too much about this aspect of the work but it will soon make itself clear. In fact, much of the future success of your project depends upon the end users knowing how to use the process or the system you have been working on. The sooner you grasp the size of the training you need to do the better, as it is usually a far bigger task then it initially appears to be. You also need to leave them the full documentation to move things forward.

Get the Sign Off

You will want to complete some sort of end of project report when you are wrapping things up. In fact, you might actually have prepared this some time in advance if you have had the chance to do so. Here we will outline the achievements, what has been learned and anything which has been identified or left behind for a future project. Most importantly, you will want to get this whole document signed off by the stakeholders. This is the proof that everyone understands what has and hasn’t been done. Once this is signed off then they are basically agreeing that your work is done and that they are happy to accept what you have given them. In a lot of cases you will want to organize a meeting of all of the interested parties in order to go over everything in detail and ensure that there are no doubts from anyone about what has been done.

Let It Go

The project you are just ending has probably been a big part of your life for some time. This type of work can absorb more of our time and energy than just about any other type. What this often means is that it is difficult to let it go and pass the responsibility onto someone else, especially if are proud of what you have done and worried that the new owner might not take as much care of it as you would hope for. However, you have done your job and it is now a question of letting other people do theirs. Provided that you have followed the previous points then you can be happy that you are leaving a piece of work which has been done well and in which the hand off process has been completed as well as possible. It is now time to leave this project behind you and look forward to the next one.

Ben Ferris is the founder of Cobalt Project Manager, which offers an online project management that is easy-to-use and effective for managing teams. Ben has spent over 10 years managing IT projects with a background in integrated construction management systems implementations.

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