As the end of the execution phase comes into sight a project teams’ thoughts turn to handover; that point when the solution so carefully developed is ready to be deployed to operations.
While the process generally consists of well defined readiness checklists, writing accurate documentation and providing solid training and education its execution often resembles the solution being lobbed over the invisible divider leaving operations to fend for themselves.
So is a handover really sufficient to confirm a project has successfully transitioned across to business as usual?
Some would say yes because that’s where a project stops and operations take over. Others however, myself included, would argue it’s nowhere near sufficient.
Projects are a catalyst for organisational change and change management must be an integral part of any project, therefore a project owner’s role and that of the project itself includes helping and supporting the organisation to transition and doing so right from project inception.
The point at which handover occurs is far too late in a projects lifecycle to address the operational challenges and conflicts that inevitably arise during deployment of the solution.
Even though a project by definition is a unique instance established for a specific timeframe to deliver the desired benefits as defined by the business, executing a project in isolation of the business causes:
- Undefined or late definition of many requirements
- Severe impact on engagement and motivation levels
- Difficult and disruptive transition
- At best a substandard operational uptake of any deployed solution
- The realised business benefits to be significantly less than expected
These only exacerbate existing gaps between operations and the project and will result in new ones.
Only when both a project and the associated operational organisation remain connected and stop thinking Handover and start thinking Transition will these gaps and many others begin to close.
This won’t be the first time you’ve read about the need for connection and alignment between these two areas yet the effort necessary to plan and achieve successful transition of all resources (People, Process and Technology) remains woefully lacking.
Is it any wonder then that receiving organisations continue to experience frustration and difficulty during project handovers?
Successful transitions do not happen by default. They aren’t the sole domain of projects nor are they only attributable to change management.
For transitions to be successful they must be approached intelligently. Intelligent transitions recognise the need to view projects and their role in organisational change as horizontal activities rather than vertical silos.
An intelligent transition ensures the receiving organisation is capable and ready for the deployed solution. It begins during the earliest stages of a project, if not before, and requires the Project Manager along with the Business Owner to look outside their immediate sphere of responsibility providing strong leadership and a business focus.
Transition planning is crucial to operational acceptance and uptake. It encompasses and guides all project activities and interactions between the project and receiving organisation, particularly:
- Initiation – Preparation of actions and interactions that will alter perceptions and mobilise activity for everyone to learn more about the change, its purpose, their involvement with it and where they can or cannot influence its impact.
- Execution – Consistency of behaviour and action during all activities and conversations so as to shift culture, people, processes and technology from the current operating model to the one required for tomorrow’s business.
- Deployment – Stabilising the solution within the transitioned operating model, behaviours and culture.
Challenging and removing the ingrained beliefs that projects are ‘special’ and therefore somehow separate from the business opens the way for the receiving organisation to fully engage, prepare and transition from today’s way of working to tomorrow’s business as usual.
Without this the current culture and operating model remains, difficulty and disruption continues, and a projects ability to deliver the desired business benefits or anticipated ROI will never be fully realized.
About Our Guest Contributor
Deanne Earle is a consultant and project fixer with over 20 years of IT project experience. She has a particular interest in Emotional Intelligence and recently authored a chapter on that topic for the upcoming Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. She has twice judged the IPMA Young Project Manager Award and her recent Whitepaper “Principles for Intelligent Transition” is continuing to gain widespread readership amongst the international leadership and project management community.
As a delivery specialist focusing at the intersection of a project and the operating state, she uses her ATI© Model to help clients around the world identify, implement and sustain order from chaos. Her career includes program/project, operational and change management roles encompassing ERP systems, bespoke solutioning, system integration, local and global deployments, transition, transformation and service management across industry sectors covering Telecommunications, FMCG, IT Services, and Food Manufacturing.
A New Zealander by birth Deanne now resides in Italy.