Every ending is the beginning of something new. This may sound like a cliché but, on the other hand, it also describes exactly what happens whenever a development team hands a project over to the support and maintenance (Support & Maintenance) team. One group of processes is coming to an end while another one is just about to begin.
However, transferring a project to another team can be a pretty challenging and complex process, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first glance – that’s why we’ve prepared this ultimate checklist of best practices for you.
Best practices for transferring a project to the Support & Maintenance team
1. Knowledge transfer
- The Support & Maintenance team should present the development team with a very clear documentation outline, so they know what to deliver – point by point.
- Documentation should be as detailed and neat as possible in order to flawlessly introduce any new user to the project. Information must be complete and leave no room for any guesswork.
- Documentation also needs to be centralised since having just one source of knowledge helps to prevent chaos and confusion. Users cannot be distracted by having to look for answers in many different places as it just draws out the process, making it longer and more complicated.
The development team has a few technical things to take care of before the Support & Maintenance team can move and act freely within the software project. First and foremost, they have to:
- provide access to project resources,
- create accounts with the requested permission levels,
- set up local environments or create procedures for building one, so the new team is able to do this by themselves.
Before the support and maintenance team can move forward with their tasks, they have to confirm and verify everything that they have received from the developers – in close collaboration with the development team.
- All procedures should be checked and tested, including deployment processes, local setups, and crucial database procedures.
- It’s also very important to go through every aspect of the documentation, and double-check the status of shared knowledge, so that the Support & Maintenance team can be sure that they are ready to take over the project.
Communication is key to success – for every project, business and nonbusiness-related situation. It is no different in this case. However, the challenge here lies in maintaining the same level of communication and engagement on both teams – the one handing over the project and the one that will be taking over.
- The Support & Maintenance team should let the development team know exactly what they need from them: their requirements and expectations, how detailed the documentation should be and, of course, what they’re missing in a pinch.
- The development team, on the other hand, should be highly responsive during the knowledge transfer process as well as the early support stages. Every question from the Support & Maintenance team should be addressed, and each reported problem should be solved as quickly as possible.
Of course, feedback, questions, discussions and suggestions have to go through certain communication channels, according to the procedures that everyone has agreed upon. This makes it easier to maintain transparency and order.
3. Other tips
We have some additional good practices and tips for you that are not directly related to knowledge transfer or communication issues, but which can be critical to transferring a project between these two teams in the most efficient way possible. Here they are:
- Start the process early on.
In other words: the sooner, the better. This way, the members of the support and maintenance team can get enough time to learn all the technical and business aspects of the project. Don’t wait for the developers to finish their part of the job first – let the Support & Maintenance team jump into it as early as possible.
- Assign Transition Owners.
Each side of the transition should assign one Transition Owner. These people will be responsible for transferring the project within the areas belonging specifically to their teams. They are the leaders of the process.
- Organise Show & Tell meetings.
The development team should have a series of meetings with the Support & Maintenance team – so they can introduce them to all the details of the project, in both the business and technical domains. They have to make sure that teams share the same level of understanding and that everything is as clear as can be. It’s good to organise an in-person meeting, or if this is not an option a video conference will suffice.
- Break the project takeover process into smaller, time-boxed stages.
This way, the support and maintenance team will be able to gradually ease into the project, and have some time to master everything they need to take full control over the processes.
– Stage 1: the Support & Maintenance team should just watch and learn now – this usually takes about 1-2 weeks.
– Stage 2: the Support & Maintenance team can start working with someone from the development team – we call this “shadowing” and it takes place between the 2nd and the 4th week.
– Stage 3: the Support & Maintenance team is ready to work on their own – this usually happens after 4 weeks.
Please note: this is the average time for each stage which may differ for you, depending on the size and complexity of your project.
There are a lot of important details involved in transferring a project to the support and maintenance team. To sum up, we can draw some key takeaways from what we’ve already learnt:
- solid documentation is the key to success,
- the business domain of the project is just as important as the technical aspects,
- technical operations should be completed in a timely manner and all procedures should be tested,
- transparent communication should always go both ways,
- one cannot forget to properly structure and schedule the process and assign certain roles.
Bearing all this in mind, the transition phase becomes much easier to handle, no matter how complex the project may be.