what is project handover

Handover Without a Headache: How to Complete a Project Handoff and Survive

How to Ensure a Successful IT Project Handover?

Every software development company might feel the need to change contractors at some point. In such situations, having the flexibility to switch, for example, between back-end and full-stack developers, as well as specialized Java and C# developers, becomes crucial. The reasons may vary. Sometimes, developers make their rates too high for the quality of services provided. In other cases, they fail to meet the deadline, despite it being critically important for your project.

Whatever the reason is, the quality of developers’ performance may not meet your expectations. At the end of the day, you simply might not believe that contractors understand your idea or explain it to the vendor’s team properly.

The list of pain points could go on and on, but what is more relevant at this stage is to have the wisdom to learn from your previous mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future. For your new endeavor, choosing a professional outsource team is just half the battle. The other part of the deal relies on thorough preparation of your project transition plan.

Keep Wise Development Principles in Mind

Ideally, advance preparation for a possible handover would significantly ease your life. By applying practical advice to smart product development, you can get a product similar to a constructor which you can disintegrate and integrate anew without any additional effort from your side.

Wise Development Principle

Wise development principles look like this:

  1. Keep the product components simple and avoid over-structured architecture. Try to break your project into smaller components. It will make it much easier for you to manage the project while scaling it up.
  2. Make developers document their every move. Do not expect the new team to be able to read the minds of each other.
  3. Implement efficient workflow management to spot any emerging issues and deal with them in a timely manner. Good management systems should be based on your project roadmap, with all its peculiarities, strengths, and weaknesses kept in mind.
  4. Use the separation of concerns (SOC) principle enabling you to split your product into separate units, working both individually and together as a single app. This way no major product crisis is even possible as the system core would be decentralized and easily amendable.
  5. Automate processes to increase the project’s analysis potential and avoid errors caused by human factors.

If you guide your project by the above principles, the transition will be a piece of cake. If not, you’d better do some homework to prepare for the switch of a vendor.

Start It All Over With a New T&M Contract

Start with the basics of IT service transition. To find a better technological partner, you and your potential contractor should be on the same page about your plans and expectations. Whatever way you call it – be it a strategic plan or a change of course – you should define all project milestones and core functionality in a Time and Materials contract.

Make sure the developer’s sphere of expertise exactly matches your niche. To do so, you’ll need to spend some time on due diligence of an offshore development company. Try to find a team which has created a product similar to yours in terms of business objectives; this will give your new partners a certain edge and cut the integration period.

Sometimes choosing developers with a narrow specialization is the best solution. They have deeper expertise in your field of interest and usually dig into more detail, ensuring superior product quality.

Pay attention to the negotiating process: how many product questions the team asks and which technical aspects are considered.

The attention to detail shown during the negotiations stage indirectly indicates the thoroughness of the services to be rendered. Confirm whether your financial positions coincide and fix it in a contract body. Establish effective communication channels regarding time zone differences, language, communication tools, and a responsible contact person.

Growing security concerns in the software market necessitate advanced levels of data protection for modern IT products. Your new contractors should be able to deal with possible threats and provide you with a description of security measures they’re about to incorporate. The availability of technical certificates would also be a nice advantage over other possible candidates.

It’s always good to have your potential contractors tested on-live; you can implement the following 4-step approach:

  • Ask them to review your existing code. This way you can learn something new about the code quality of your product and see how specific and grounded their evaluation is. If they pay attention to the security level and test coverage, consider yourself a lucky talent hunter.
  • Let them create a project transition plan. The purpose is not for you to switch your job to the new hires but to check what points they consider critical, essential and relative. Besides, you will definitely find points you failed to include in your plan.
  • Raise questions. Ask if the continuation of your current problem is ok for them, or they’d prefer to re-write the code from scratch. Most developers would go for the second option, but if you deal with professionals, they will primarily consider your main objectives, schedules, and other constraints and only then come up with an answer.
  • Listen to the questions they have. Ideally, they should focus on the way you wish your product to work rather than how it works now. The same applies to technical aspects; professionals are guided by your business objectives rather than current performance.

Such topical issues as IP ownership must also be discussed at the contract stage to avoid any possible arguments later. As a rule, the software products developed by third parties are considered work for hire, and thus, the intellectual property belongs solely to the product owner. However, this point should be explicitly specified in a contract.

As soon as these preliminaries are over, you can start to make preparations for your project handoff.

Go Step by Step to Make Transition Smooth

Transferring the product with unresolved bugs and excessive code pieces would complicate the project’s adoption by a new vendor, taking additional time. Hence, this is not an option. Despite any discord you might have with your current team, it would be their professional obligation to ensure sufficient quality of the transferred app; no old code or unresolved critical errors should remain.

Since this is clear, now is the time to go on with your project handover. To keep things visually perceptible, you can make a checklist of your transition components, allowing you to divide the transition process into executable parts which carefully address all aspects of the ongoing process.

project handover

Once the list is created, you can use popular project management mechanisms to organize the whole process, such as a Gantt chart or any other automated PM tools. Do not try to deal with the technological part yourself. Your new contractors can be helpful by indicating the documents, accesses, licenses, and certificates they need to embrace the project in a time-saving manner.

The most common points include the following knowledge base elements:

  • Project specification is relevant despite the current stage of your project as it gives your new contractors insight on background information. By providing its latest copy and any previous versions, you unveil the history of development in the form of how it should have been done versus how it has been done.
  • Outline of the app’s architecture (description of all modules and their correlations).
  • Development documents usually include the documented source code, description of key algorithms and database structure applied, specification of classes and app’s layers, deployment guidelines.
  • Design groundwork: mockups, graphics, marketing materials. Make sure the files’ formats meet the requirements of your new contractor.
  • All sorts of guidelines: deployment, system’s configuration and installation, operating instructions, troubleshooting, changelog, bug tracker data).
  • Requirements files (.txt, .json) covering the lists of packages to install before setting the environment.
  • Access credentials to the repository, task management, task tracking systems.

Establishing mutually acceptable workflow procedures influences the overall efficiency of your newly settled cooperation. Schedule a meeting dedicated specifically to management procedures and discuss the previously used PM methods and methodologies. Consider the team size and the project roles of its members, decide on the optimal task tracking and time management tools, choose the best communication channels for video conferencing and regular chats. Deliberate on possible handover-related risks and work out preventative measures.

Setting up an adequate release date is also vital. Certainly, there would be some changes or delays along the way but having a fixed term will give your developers something to proceed from.

The transition process would inevitably take some time. Try to be involved as much as possible; set up daily status calls, and watch the checklist progress. Once the transfer is over, test the product on-live and make sure it works the same way it has worked before.

Be Prepared for Unexpected Outcomes

A thought-out handover strategy is worth a hell of a lot, but even it cannot protect you from troubles caused by your previous contractor’s perfidy. Below are possible scenarios and tips that might be helpful for settling things with your ex-service provider:

  • Parting on good terms is, indeed, a rarity when it comes to moving the product away from its original creators. In case your ex-provider is unwilling to cooperate with your new contractors, you’ll need to play conciliator and serve as a linking chain in the process. It will take time, and you’ll have to do some technical learning on the way, but it might be your only option. You can also offer a financial reward for cooperation to cheer up your ex-contractors.
  • You can never be sure there are no copies of confidential information left on the computers of your ex-vendor employees. In this case, only detailed and robust NDA can serve as leverage for keeping your secrets safe.
  • Product disruption might be the result of the discouraged development team leaving insufficient development resources on a project after you’ve announced its transition. The only thing that can be done is to speed up the transition to minimize damage to the product. The financial reward for cooperation should help deal with this issue too.

Now, you’re loaded with wise tips and are ready to enter adulthood. Although you still can fall over some unforeseen problem, following our advice will make your transition a lot smoother.

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YouTeam Editorial Team

We love featuring verified solutions to outsourcing problems and coverage of remote work trends. We want our blog to be a source of inspiration for tech entrepreneurs and product people who are looking to build distributed development teams across continents.

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