The Importance of the Project Hand-Off

So you’ve reached the end of the project.  The highlighted date on your calendar that you’ve been anticipating for the past year is finally here.  You’ve herded the cats into the last corral, you’ve wrestled with the scope and pinned it to the ground and you’ve managed to deliver exactly what was promised.  Congratulations!  So now what?  Plenty!

I am not going to mention the lessons learned that you’re supposed to document, but probably won’t.  Nor will I mention the mountain of paperwork you need to complete, file and store.  Instead, I want to focus on the one thing that, if done correctly, will leave the most positive memory in the minds of stakeholders and project teams…the transition from project to daily operations.

There are really three stages (and considerations) for a successful project hand-off:

  1. Project Execution
    • Make certain that all stakeholders are cognizant of the planned completion date so they can adequately prepare for hand-off activities
    • Develop clear and comprehensive documentation of the project deliverables, especially training and/or user manuals such as job aids, quick reference sheets, FAQs, etc.
    • Ensure that the end users of the deliverable(s) of your project actively participate in testing or mock-ups and provide continuous feedback
    • Request a special “hand-off” liaison from the sponsor’s team or the team that will be utilizing the project’s deliverable(s) to serve as a the main transition coordinator and provide input on transition planning
      • Ideally, this resource should be a member of the project team from inception
  2. Project Closure
    • Facilitate a Project Closure Review meeting with key stakeholders to demonstrate the deliverables against the scope and requirements of the project
    • Facilitate a formal Project Closure Sign-Off ceremony to publicly reinforce the transition from project activities to business operations
    • Communicate where the documentation will be located (physically and/or electronically) for future reference
    • Celebrate and recognize individual and team contributions!
    • Draft and distribute a Project Closure Report with all pertinent tracking information displayed as complete
  3. Project Warranty Period
    • Document the rules of engagement for making a warranty (support) claim
    • Make key project resources available for follow-up, Q&A and training as needed per the warranty agreement
    • Hold at least one post-project follow-up meeting with the key stakeholder team to gather comments, suggestions, resolution of punchlist items, etc.

Project Managers who excel at formally wrapping up a project will leave behind satisfied sponsors, confident stakeholders and resources who can look back and be proud to have been a part of the team and have a sense of closure for the effort.  Get this right, and you’ll be a Project Manager that is sought after, appreciated and considered a key member of the organization’s strategic execution team.


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