Completing the project
Completing the project

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Completing the project

1.2 What is handed over, and when?

Not all handovers are at the completion of a project. In some projects there might be several different types of handover, which happen at different stages. For example, the Tate Modern was built within the shell of a disused power station, and an early handover point was when the building was purchased and became the property of the Tate Trustees. Such a handover is significant when a building may present long-term problems (in this case, contamination from its previous uses).

Example 1: Risk assessment in handover

When the Tate negotiated with the original owners of the Bankside Power Station, Nuclear Electric, they insisted on Nuclear Electric handing over a decontaminated building, one that was safe for the construction team to work in. Essentially that meant asbestos-free, since the major contaminant of the old building was the asbestos that had been used throughout to insulate various items of plant, ducts, pipes and internal walls. It's only comparatively recently – in the last twenty years or so – that the hazards of asbestos have become apparent. Old construction hands tell stories of workers sitting on beams covered with asbestos dust while eating their sandwiches. Now it's accepted that even a single fibre of certain types of asbestos can initiate a cancer if it lodges in some bodily tissues.

The Tate's agreement with Nuclear Electric required compensation to be paid if any asbestos was later discovered once the building was handed over, since such a discovery was bound to delay the works. The deplanting team sent air samples off on a daily basis and received reassuring answers, but unfortunately there was asbestos that no one suspected lurking like a time bomb behind columns, in corners of the chimney and high in the roof.

(Sabbagh, 2000, p. 76)

If the project involves preparation and handover of a physical object, there may be a number of contributing components and, possibly, subcontracted elements. The project plan should have identified the various elements and the details of handover arrangements for each stage, if there is a sequence of tasks. The schedule will have identified the sequence in which tasks need to be completed. Hopefully, the risk register will have identified the risks associated with each handover and a contingency plan will have been made for each major risk. Handovers should be identified as key stages on the Gantt chart.

Acceptance criteria for ‘hard’ projects, where the output is highly specific, may be fairly straightforward. These arrangements can be quite similar to common routine arrangements for confirming receipt of items by matching delivery notes with order forms. For example, the delivery and instalment of a new computer system should have been tested under normal conditions, as evidenced by signed-off documentation.

Acceptance criteria for ‘soft’ projects may be more problematic. To illustrate this, let us take a voluntary organisation setting up an initiative in secondary schools to do preventive work on bullying. The project plans to run a series of events intended to develop awareness and to establish a new procedure for dealing with bullying. The handover phase in projects of this kind may include activities and processes that enable the project's sponsor to take over responsibility on a long-term basis. A definition of completion for this type of project might be ‘achieving the active, successful management of the activity by the project's owners, users or stakeholders and withdrawal of the project team’.

Any support that will be required as part of the project completion should be planned, and the person responsible for providing it should be identified. In some projects (for example, many IT projects) there may be an integration or configuration period, in which the client gradually takes over the long-term maintenance of the project outcomes. Again, it is important to have clear agreement about how the project itself will be concluded and handed over, even if there is a separate agreement about future support or training related to the outcome.

Once a handover process has been agreed, a meeting of the project team to prepare for the handover should be arranged. This is the time to make sure you haven't forgotten anything that might lead your sponsor to withhold acceptance. It is helpful to draw up a list of outstanding tasks, and to make sure that someone is responsible for doing each of them within a specified time-scale. These might include minor tasks from early stages of the project which were not critical to progress and have been left on one side.

Example 2: Cracks in the walls

The gallery walls in the Tate Modern had been designed to be very smooth and white, so that they would provide an unobtrusive background on which to display the art. However, as curators were hanging paintings in the galleries, they became concerned about the number of cracks that were appearing in the walls. ‘…with such a short run-up to opening, we can't really hang major paintings and then un-hang them to Polyfilla gaps behind them. Obviously, whenever you hang a gallery you need to go in afterwards and paint out the art handlers’ finger marks and tidy up and all that stuff, but you want to keep it a kind of clean cleaning, not a dirty cleaning. We certainly can't do building work. And my concern is that there seem to be a number of different problems, none of which come within the remit of one single person. Most of the teams here are actually working on the building, not on the display, and it's that transitional moment where suddenly our deadlines kick in, and if we don't have the building, then we won't have a display.’

(adapted from Sabbagh, 2000, p. 315)

The significance of stakeholders is well recognised and there are many ways of analysing the impact of their influence and needs. Either of two simple approaches will probably suffice in order that the project manager can recognise the implications of stakeholder influence during the handover period:

  • (a) draw a ‘star chart’ showing the stakeholders around the project:

Figure 1
Figure 1 Stakeholder analysis and the power/interest – star chart

The arrows can be two-way as well as one-way and the expectations can be marked on the arrows, which can be of different thickness. Amend the chart as necessary in order to depict clearly the influences on the particular project.

  • or (b) draw a matrix and locate stakeholders in it.

Figure 2
Figure 2 Stakeholder analysis and the power/interest – matrix

As we have seen, a communications matrix is a way of noting who needs to be consulted and at what stage. It can also be useful at the handover stage. It can be a formal chart or rough notes, but its purpose is to help minimise the problems that arise when people feel they have not been consulted. The table below shows an example.

A communications matrix

Stages Operations Director Area Manager Site Manager Marketing Director Equipment Suppliers Fittings Suppliers
Initial plan
After first site meeting
Operation of unit agreed
On-site work nearing end
Start operations

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