For us (and maybe you, too) the final phase of a project is exciting! The product vision is coming to life, work is wrapping up, and it’s almost time for us to hand off the project to you (the client) so your team can take things over internally. The goal is to give you everything you need to successfully own and operate the project without us.
Truth be told, a handoff can truly make or break the success of an entire engagement. The last thing you want is to be left with a random batch of documents you can’t understand, technology you’re not prepared to support in house, or code that no one on your team really knows what to do with — and the last thing we as a consultancy want is to be pulled back into a project when problems arise due to incorrect assumptions. In a perfect world, moving the development back in-house is a seamless process, leaving your team the documents, know-how, and confidence to manage, maintain, and evolve the product going forward.
The thing is, it doesn’t happen overnight, and even though handoff occurs at the end of a project, everyone needs to plan for it way back at the beginning, and take steps to prepare along the way. Plus, like any other part of a project when you’re working with a remote consultancy, handoff takes a collaborative effort from both teams to ensure a smooth transition.
We’ve found that sometimes clients just don’t know what’s supposed to happen during handoff or what to expect, so we want to share some best practices that we think make this process easier for everyone involved. Our goal is simple: Ensure a handoff without any headaches when your engagement comes to a close.
Important Handoff Items to Consider:
• Time - You’ll want to establish a clear date to complete the handoff so your partner can account for the time needed for an effective transition period in the initial project plan, and so your team has enough time to adjust their work so they take on the new project.
• Team - Along those lines, in order for your team to be prepared to take on the project, you need to designate those individuals and their roles early on. Ideally, they’ll be on board from the beginning so they can work closely with the partner team throughout the project and have at least a high-level understanding of the system going into handoff.
• Training - Depending on your project and your needs, there are different options when it comes to prepping your team to effectively take on the project in house. Like we said, by the time the official handoff process begins your team should hopefully already know a lot about the product and how it works just from working closely with the partner team during the engagement. Regardless, they might still need some training to get fully up to speed, and your partner may provide some knowledge sharing/Q&A sessions to walk through the work, or record screen-share videos explaining the code and design files. You might also consider additional support such as pairing with the partner team — virtual or on-site — over the last few weeks. Just make sure to discuss your transfer scenario and make a plan that meets your particular needs up front.
• Technical Documentation - When it comes to the technical documentation, your partner should deliver a complete, up-to-date Readme file that contains all the relevant information for setting up and using your product. This file should include things like steps to set up the project, the app/code structure, information on architecture and design, API documentation, and information on how to run the project locally and deploy on production. We recommend making a checklist so you make sure all of the critical info is there. You should also get access to any project history files so you have the context for how the application evolved and where a feature was implemented. If your partner doesn’t include it, just ask them to export the information you need.
The main takeaway here is that handoff is a process that deserves adequate time and total transparency. The best way to make sure of those things is to go into a project with the end in mind: Discuss and define the elements mentioned here during the early stages of the engagement so your partner can consider your specific transfer needs, so you’re clear on what’s expected from you and from them, and so everyone is ready when the time for transition comes.
Want more advice on working with a remote consultancy? Sign up for the DockYard newsletter to get info straight to your inbox! And if you’re ready to get to work on your next project, contact DockYard today. We’ll help you plan ahead, so handoff happens without a hitch.
DockYard is a digital product consultancy specializing in production-ready apps that scale wonderfully as companies grow. We offer a range of consulting services with capabilities in product planning, design, user experience (UX), full-stack engineering, and QA. Over the last decade, DockYard has solved complex product challenges for visionary companies like Netflix, Apple, Nasdaq, and Harvard. We’re also dedicated to advancing open-source web development technologies, such as libraries and tooling built around the Elixir programming language. From idea to impact, DockYard empowers ambitious teams to build for the future. Visit us at www.dockyard.com.