Project transition is the activities done towards the end of the project to hand over the project output (a new product, process, policy etc) to the end-user so that they can start using it. It is only when the end-user uses the output that we can achieve the expected results and benefits from having done the project.

The challenge faced by a lot of projects is that it is often not enough to just hand the output over to the user and expect them to start using it correctly right away. Often additional activities such as training, follow up and reinforcement and potentially extensive change management are needed. Those transition activities are key to ensuring the business gets value from having done the project and they are typically the project manager’s responsibility (unless otherwise is specifically stated, for example, if the project is part of a programme).

So, how can we make sure project transition is a success? Here are a few tips:

1) First thing’s first… ensure there is a valid business case for the project

The business case is the organisation’s first line of defence to ensure investments are sound and that only projects that bring value and are worth attempting, are started.

The business case should make clear what the business will get out of doing the project, and clarify why that is of value. If the business case is weak or the process to approve it is flawed it can mean that projects that do not bring real value to the business are delivered. And here is the thing: if the output you are trying to transition isn’t right, or of value to the business, you can do all the transition activities in the world and you still will not see a successful transaction. So do yourself a favour and check that business case before you do anything else!

2) Plan for transition

Do not fall into the trap of planning your project expertly, delivering the project exactly to plan and then coming to the transition stage and then thinking “what do I do now?!”. If you have nearly completed the project and used up the agreed bonus there is usually no time or resources left to do necessary transition activities and they, therefore, get compromised and fail to deliver the required results. By leaving it to the last minute to plan your transition there is also a risk that the activities you do are sub-optimal.

Therefore; transition activities should be factored into your overall project management plan, and any activities should be reflected in your schedule and resources should be reflected in your budget.

The exact details of how to do the transition (i.e exactly what training etc) might have to be ironed out later in the project when you have a clearer idea of what the output is, but at the very least you should have an outline of a handover and transition plan as part of your project management plan.

3) Give the end-user the necessary skills to use the output

Consider what your end-user needs to Know and Be Able to Do in order to use your output. What actions do you need to take to ensure they gain that knowledge and ability?

Actions can include:

  • Briefings, webinars, emails, and announcements to raise awareness and increase knowledge
  • Training, demonstrations and workshops to create the ability

Also, consider how knowledge and ability can be supported and reinforced or how the end-user can find information for themselves. For example, can you create manuals, videos or e-learning they can watch again and again?

4) Ensure someone in BAU is responsible for reinforcement

Anytime we have to do something new or different (use a new tool, process or policy) it involves changing a behaviour. Humans do not like changing behaviour, it is uncomfortable, can feel like hard work and it can be a bit scary. Therefore, even if we are not aware we are doing it, we tend to fall back into our own habits if the opportunity is given.  This can be detrimental to the success of the project and mean that the organisation gets no value (benefits) from having done the project.

Therefore it might be a good idea to plan some reinforcement activities. Things that can be done to ensure people are reminded about the new product/process/policy and that they are motivated to keep using it.

Consider things like:

  • Posters, flyers or online messages with simple messages and prompts in places where people interact with your product/process or policy
  • Shout outs in town halls
  • Recognition and celebration of success stories and compliance

5) Ensure someone in BAU is responsible for benefits realisation (i.e appoint a benefits owner!)

Benefits realisation – i.e achieving the desired impact and results from having the output – is the end goal of all the work we do in the project, including transition. A challenge for many businesses is that benefits realisation cannot happen until the output has been transitioned from the project to BAU – which usually means the project will close. That means the project manager and the project team cannot be responsible for benefits realisation activities – simply because by the time benefits can be realised there is no more project manager or project team.

It is therefore vital that a suitable person in BAU takes over ownership of ensuring benefits are realised.

Make sure you hand over the responsibility of owning, measuring and following up those results to someone in BAU who is equipped to do all the necessary tasks, and if they realise that results are not being achieved, have the authority to take further or alternative action.

6) Remove the old alternative

Once your output has been transitioned to BAU and you see signs that it is working (i.e bugs have been fixed, data has been transferred, the necessary people know how to use the process etc) make sure you remove any old alternatives.

If there is no old process to use people have no option but to use the one you have created!

(Note: it is very possible that it will not be possible to remove the old alternative for some time after transition and project end, so you may need to assign ownership of removing the old alternative to someone in BAU).

7) Make a big deal about transition

There is nothing like a bit of positive reinforcement to get people to do the right thing. Turn your formal handover into a party! Get the Sponsor to make a speech where he thanks the team – and the people in BAU who will now take over.

Shout from the rooftop that success is now in BAU’s hands and name the individuals who will now own the output and benefits realisation. This celebration becomes both a carrot and a stick in that a bit of recognition does a lot to help motivate people to put the effort in, but it also ensures people will know that they dropped the ball if they do not put the effort in.

The PMO Perspective

From a PMO perspective, it is imperative that Project Delivery teams are supported with ownership of ongoing activities that need to happen. 

Not just from a technical or benefits viewpoint, but also from a people perspective. The PMO can play a key role in continuing the conversation post projects, supporting the ongoing change management activities, as well as facilitating knowledge and benefits management can ensure that the PMO is seen as a value-adding partner both during and after projects. 

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Monthly Newsletter

By: Karin Maule

Karin Maule

Published: 30 May 2022

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