At some point during the course of a project, a transition must occur. Ideally this doesn’t occur until the end of the project when you are transitioning from the implementation phase to the support phase. Unfortunately there are times when transitions need to occur during the implementation phase. Regardless of the scenario, I have found that there are a few things the Project Manager/Organization can do to make this transition go more smoothly.
- Establish a process for project artifacts (specific documents and central storage) – While each project may have slight variances to a set process, the more aligned the project documentation is, the easier it will be for a new team member to come up to speed. At a minimum I think this should include standard templates for project status including decisions, action items, upcoming goals and most immediately resolved items; project plans; statement of work & change orders; and support documentation that provides the technical details as well as business rules that impact the implementation (what will the support team need to know to manage the day to day operations of the implementation?). The central repository for project documentation makes it easy for anyone to step in. They know exactly what has been transmitted and can see the progression of the project over time. Without these, time is wasted on finding the components rather than really digging in figuring out the state.
- Establish a process for team hand off – Once the new team has had a chance to review the project artifacts, it is important to bring all technical resources together. When you work on a long term project and try to document all the nuts and bolts of what you did to implement, sometimes there are intuitive pieces you fail to document. These are components that are so obvious to you that they have become insignificant. However, new resources won’t know and won’t necessarily know to ask, unless they have faced that situation before. In the process of talking through the implementation to educate the new team, these details surface and can be captured.
- Communicate! – The need to communicate only becomes larger during times of transition. The project manager needs to be fully engaged with all team members and stakeholders. Being open and honest about the transition state yields a bit of flexibility among the project team and stakeholders. Make sure to leverage this time to ask the basic questions you don’t know the answer to you and level set expectations.
Project transitions are inevitable, but don’t have to be a horrible experience. Having the proper project documentation, a central project document repository, team hand-offs and very open communication will significantly reduce the risk and improve the success.