Explore the similarities and differences between project management and service delivery management and get first-hand advice on how to ensure a smooth hand-off between development and support teams.
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The lifecycle of a digital project doesn’t stop with the launch of the platform – be it a new CMS, website, intranet or any other business system. When the platform is put on production, the continuity of the project will be, most of the time, provided by a support team. It means that the project is moving from its "build" phase to the "run" phase and that, as of now, the focus is to continuously monitor and maintain its availability and performance. This also means that the project will move from the hands of the project manager to those of a service manager.
Project manager vs service delivery manager
Though project management and service management may sound similar, they represent two distinct roles in the organization. The project manager is focused on implementing the final product with a deadline in mind. After implementation, the service delivery manager kicks-in to ensure quality day-to-day IT services to the business stakeholders. The service manager is responsible for ensuring consistent high standards for all support services provided, which may include making sure new incidents are properly handled, assigned to the right persons, and resolved on time, in order to respect the SLAs and KPIs provided by each contract. The change requests, security updates, new releases estimation and planning also fall under the service management scope.
While project management is a temporary task, service management is a continuous process. However, even if the two roles are different, they share a similar objective: managing their team in order to have a happy customer. From the start date of the contract, the support team will have to be immediately effective. And without a minimum of preparation, things can quickly become stressful.
From the business stakeholder’s point of view, the transition from the project team to the support team is a process that can be somewhat confusing. New terms or concepts will be introduced: SLA's, KPI's, incidents, problems, change requests, release calendars, service availability or performance reports, etc.
A good handover
The handover is not a date, or a one-hour meeting planned in a calendar, it’s a transition process that can take some time and needs to be planned accordingly. Ideally, the role of the support team should start before the go live. On the other side, the project team should remain available in the first days or weeks of the run phase in order to give some extra support when this is needed.
As the project manager might be already focused on his next assignment, from the moment the project goes live the service manager must be ready to dive into and become fully involved with the brand-new application. Some difficulties can arise if the handover hasn’t been properly achieved.
How can the project and the support teams collaborate in order to ensure that smooth transition? Here are some tips for a successful project transition plan.
1. Keep the documentation up-to-date
During the build phase, the project team should always carefully update the documentation (software architecture, functional and technical documentation, backup-restore procedures, deployment instructions, etc.) so the support team is able troubleshoot issues faster.
In some cases, an issue which is raised as a bug could actually be considered as an expected behavior by another party. An up-to-date documentation can play the role of referee in case of disagreement between the parties.
2. Prepare effective knowledge transfer
When the first issues are forwarded to the support team, and for them to ensure a good intake, it´s important that they quickly understand the scope of the issue and where it occurs in the application.
Meetings should be organized between the project team and the support team in order to review the functional and technical analysis, review the code, etc. Involving support consultants during the build phase, for example in the last sprint, is an excellent way for them to get a good understanding of the application and speed up the handling of support.
The support team can also be introduced to the business stakeholders before the go live of the application to give them a head start to more quickly adapt to the different interests, priorities, concerns and ways of working.
After the go live, the project team should remain available to collaborate with the support team whenever any clarifications are needed.
3. Setup the monitoring tool in advance
In support mode, the application is continuously monitored. Availability and performance data are collected daily in order to prepare the future service reports. Alerts will have to be configured and sent if any downtime occurs. If the monitoring setup hasn’t been configured by the project team at the build phase, the service team takes over the task, and then is responsible for controlling and eventually adapting the monitoring tool if necessary.
4. Schedule/plan/share a release calendar
In support mode, new versions of the application will be deployed, or some module or framework will have to be periodically updated. When the go live is set, the support team will provide a release calendar to the business stakeholders. At AMPLEXOR, such a document contains the planned dates for the releases, but sometimes also has the planned dates for service meetings or service reports deliveries.
5. Provide onboard training on time
Sometimes, the project team is using technologies that are not known by the support team yet, and the necessary trainings have to be organized on time. At AMPLEXOR, we keep introducing innovative technologies in our projects, and the support team’s knowledge constantly has to be kept up-to-date, whether through regular team coaching, technology boot camps or classroom training.
6. Do not reinvent the wheel
An application can be built in different ways, using different techniques or frameworks in order to obtain the same result. Having rules in place that provide guidelines on successful techniques and best practices for both developers and support teams ensures they share similar ways of working, and that the support work will be easier.
At AMPLEXOR, we go above and beyond to ensure a successful transition between the project team and the support team. The previous list of tips is not exhaustive, so every action that can help a smooth handover is taken in order to help our customers in this process. The key remains communication, and often a simple phone call and a cordial conversation will go a long way to resolve situations that seem, at first glance, more complicated.
About the author
Cristophe Pepe is Service Manager at AMPLEXOR, based in Belgium. With over 15 years of experience in Java development, J2EE architecture and Alfresco ECM and BPM projects, Cristophe joined the team in 2011 as ECM consultant. Over the years, he got to expand his expertise to WCM and Drupal, and since April 2017, Cristophe is responsible for managing support services for the Drupal and Alfresco customers at AMPLEXOR Service Center.