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Project Handover Checklist: Guide for our Clients

Przemysław Urbaniak-Project Manager

Outsourcing digital projects to external companies or partners is becoming even more popular among businesses. As a client, you might have worked with an external vendor to complete your digital project. However, completing a project is not the end of your journey. It is just the beginning.

As a client, you should ensure the project handover process is smooth and well-organized to guarantee a successful outcome.

To help you with this, we have developed a project handover checklist to guide you through the essential steps of an efficient handover process. This project transition checklist is based on our years of experience handling successful project handovers for our clients.

What’s a Project Handover?

A project handover transfers the responsibility of a completed project from the development team to the client. When a project is handed over, the client assumes ownership and control of all project assets. Codebase, documentation, credentials, and accounts are among the assets that are deliverables in a project handover.

For instance, if you have outsourced the development of a SAAS application, your development partner must hand over the completed codebase, hosting information, API endpoints, and documentation to you as the client. Other project assets, such as admin accounts and third-party tools licenses, must also be transferred to the client.

The goal of a project handover is to ensure a seamless transition from project completion to independent management by the client.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Proper Project Handover

Projects that are not adequately handed over can result in chaos and confusion. Without proper handover, the client may face many issues, such as:

1. Difficulty understanding project architecture and design
2. Delayed deployment due to lack of information and access
3. Inability to manage and maintain the project independently
4. Loss of time and resources trying to familiarize oneself with the project
5. Miscommunication between stakeholders leads to conflicts
6. Potential damage to the project's reputation and credibility

Ignoring a proper handover process risks jeopardizing your project's success and wasting valuable time and resources. A well-planned handover process can prevent these issues and ensure a smooth transition to project ownership.

8 Steps of Project Handover Checklist (Experience-Based)

To guarantee a successful handover process, we recommend following these 8 steps:

Step 1: Identify project handover stakeholders

The first step in a project handover is identifying and involving all the necessary stakeholders. These include project team members from clients and development teams involved in the project's development. 

Each team member's role in the handover process client should be clarified to avoid any confusion or overlap of responsibilities. The stakeholders should also include key representatives from both sides who can make decisions and resolve any issues that may arise during the handover process.

Additional stakeholders, such as third-party vendors or consultants, may be necessary for a more complex project scope.

Step 2: Establish project handover deadline

Setting a definitive completion date for the handover process can help keep everyone on track and ensure the timely delivery of all project assets. To avoid delays and miscommunication, all parties involved should be informed about the handover deadline. The client and the project management team should agree and document this deadline.

Step 3: Create a communication flow

More often than not, handover involves multiple stakeholders, and communication can become confusing if not managed effectively. Assigning responsibilities for the communication plan during each phase of the handover process helps streamline the flow of information.

If meetings are required with specific stakeholders, it's best to segment the handover into manageable stages and involve only the necessary individuals. This ensures that all parties receive relevant information and can provide their input efficiently.

Step 4: Update the README file with essential information, including:

A README file is vital for any new project as it contains all the necessary information for managing and maintaining the project. Before project closure, update the README file with essential information such as:

1. A brief description of the project's purpose, goals, and scope
2. Step-by-step guide on how to set up the project locally
3. Instructions for deploying the project on a local environment
4. API connectivity details for external systems or services used in the project
5. Procedures for deploying the project to staging and production environments
6. Architectural and design insights, including diagrams or flowcharts for better understanding
7. Contact details for the client's team and development team to report any issues or ask questions
8. Configuration and installation guidance for third-party tools used in the project
9. License information for third-party tools and libraries used in the project

Updating the README file with all the necessary information ensures the client has everything they need to manage and maintain the project successfully.

Step 5: Transfer account ownership and credentials

Transfer account credentials and credentials for any third-party tools or services used in the project. Migrating these accounts and credentials to the client ensures they have complete control and access over all aspects of the project. It also prevents potential security breaches or unauthorized project system access.

Step 6: Transfer administrative and demo accounts

To ensure a smooth transition, transfer all administrative and demo accounts to the client. This includes providing credentials for each environment (e.g., staging, production) and sharing a demo account for the application.

Provide a user manual outlining the application's features post-login to help the client familiarize themselves with the project. Remove sensitive personal data from the user accounts before handing them to the client. This ensures compliance with data privacy laws and protects both parties from potential legal issues. 

Step 7: Deliver documentation and feature requirements

Provide the client access to all necessary project documentation, including design documents, technical specifications, user manuals, and other relevant materials. The project handover document helps the client better understand the project and is a reference for future updates or modifications. If there are any specific feature requirements, communicate those clearly to the client.

Step 8: Issue handover email

Finally, send a comprehensive email announcement containing all essential links and a concise overview of the information organization. This serves as a reference for the client and helps them navigate through all the necessary documents and details easily. Additionally, it provides a formal record of the handover process and can be referenced in case of any future disputes or misunderstandings.

Post Project Handover

The project life cycle continues after the handover process; it's essential to have a post-handover project plan in place. This can include follow-up meetings to address any concerns or issues, training sessions for the client's team on how to use and maintain the project, and regular communication to ensure the project meets the client's expectations and needs. 

A proper post-project handover plan helps establish a solid client-developer relationship and ensures the project's success even after completion. The client can continue to rely on the development team for support and updates, leading to potential future collaborations and partnerships.

As for the development team, a successful handover reflects positively on their work ethic and professionalism, potentially leading to future project opportunities and referrals.

Why is a Proper Project Handover Important for you as a Client?

The clients' involvement in the project continues after its completion; they will continue to use and rely on the project for their business operations. A project handover plan allows clients to have:

Continuity: A smooth handover ensures no project progress or service delivery disruption. 

The handing-over process is often the last interaction between the development team and the client, and a smooth handover creates a positive, lasting impression. It also helps the client maintain consistent quality and service for their customers, avoiding any potential setbacks or delays. 

Understanding: A well-documented handover clarifies the project's objectives, features, and functionalities.

Thorough documentation helps clients understand the project's purpose, its scope, and how it aligns with their business goals. Project handover notes also serve as a reference for future updates or modifications, ensuring the client can make informed decisions about the project's development.  

Accountability: Clear delineation of responsibilities during the handover process ensures accountability for both the clients and the development team.

A proper handover process ensures that all parties understand their roles and responsibilities. This helps avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts in the future and fosters a professional working relationship between the client and the development team. For the client, it also ensures that they have a support system in place in case any issues arise with the project. 

Efficiency: A structured handover process streamlines the transfer of knowledge, resources, and assets from the development team.

By following a structured handover plan, clients can receive all necessary project assets and resources organizationally. This saves time and effort for both parties and ensures a seamless transfer of ownership. You can also address any specific questions or concerns during this process, ensuring the client can handle the project independently. 

Risk Mitigation: Proper documentation of project details, including architecture, design, and documentation, reduces the risk of errors or misunderstandings.

A detailed handover process provides clients with all essential project details and documentation. This ensures that they clearly understand the project's structure and functionalities, reducing the risk of future costly mistakes or misunderstandings. It also serves as evidence in any disputes or issues that may arise. 

To ensure a smooth handover and mitigate potential risks, clients should also communicate their expectations clearly to the development team during the handover process. 

Empowerment: A thorough handover equips the client with the knowledge and resources to manage and maintain the project independently. 

A successful handover process empowers clients to take ownership of their projects and make informed decisions about their future development. It also allows them to handle minor updates or modifications independently, reducing their dependence on external developers. This leads to cost savings for the client and establishes a sense of trust and confidence in the development team's work. 

Most Common Project Handover Challenges

Despite the benefits of a proper project handover, challenges may arise during the process. 

Communication gaps

Communication is critical to a successful handover, and any communication gaps can lead to misunderstandings or delays. This can be caused by miscommunication between the project manager and the client, unclear expectations from either party, or lack of documentation.

Both parties should establish clear communication channels to communicate effectively during a handover. The project manager should regularly update the client on the handover progress and promptly address any questions or concerns. A project handover template or checklist can also ensure all necessary information is shared and discussed.

Technical complexity

A significant challenge during a handover is transferring technical knowledge and resources. This can be incredibly challenging if the project involves complex technologies or has custom-built features.

To overcome this challenge, the development team should provide thorough training and documentation during the handover. This can include tutorials, user manuals, and other relevant resources to help the client understand and manage the project's technical aspects.

The development team should also be available to provide support and answer any technical questions.

Resource constraints

Another common challenge during a handover is resource constraints, such as limited time or budget. This can make it difficult for the development team to provide thorough training and support for the client.

To overcome this, both parties should prioritize key project assets and resources for the handover process. They can also explore alternative solutions, such as remote training sessions or providing access to online resources. Effective communication and collaboration can also optimize the use of available resources.

Resistance to change

Finally, some clients may resist change and need to embrace the handover process fully. This can be due to various reasons, such as being comfortable with their current processes or fearing disruption to their business.

To overcome this, the project manager should address any concerns and explain the benefits of the handover process. They can also involve the client in the planning and decision-making, making them feel more invested in the project's success.

Regular communication and support during the transition can also help ease resistance.

Make Sure You Leave Your Project in Safe Hands

A successful handover process requires both parties to work together and communicate effectively. However, it also requires choosing a reliable IT partner that you trust.

Before starting the handover process, thoroughly research potential IT partners and choose one with a proven track record of successful handovers. They should have industry experience and relevant technical expertise to handle your project.

A partner like iRonin IT, with over a decade of experience sourcing and developing software solutions, can ensure a smooth handover process. We prioritize communication and transparency, providing thorough documentation and resources to equip our clients with the knowledge and tools.

Choose your IT partner carefully, and leave your project in safe hands for a successful handover process.

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