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Understanding The Do’s and Don’ts For Transitioning to a New Dev Team

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Transitioning a development team can be a complex process, but with the right approach and attention to detail, it can be smooth and successful for both the client and the project team involved. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your new dev team is equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed and hit the ground running.

  1. DO work with the incoming team to create a transition timeline and knowledge transfer plan ahead of the new team’s arrival on the project.

    The current dev team knows what the important topics are that need to be covered during knowledge transfer and will be able to provide input on how long they think they will need to transition. Build in time to account for any extra knowledge transfer (KT) sessions the incoming team may request as they uncover more knowledge gaps during the transition. However long you think you’ll need for transition, allow at least one additional sprint, if not more.
  1. DO schedule a formal introduction for the existing team and incoming team.

    It sounds obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget to formally introduce your incoming team and your outgoing team. Many teams just try to dive into the knowledge transfer and transition activities before actually introducing themselves. Make sure to create time for the teams to meet each other, understand who their points of contact should be, and align on expectations for the transition. This gives the outgoing team an understanding of the incoming team’s experience with the technology and how to tailor their KT sessions. During this kickoff, have the outgoing team give a high-level overview of the current solution that the incoming team will be taking over. Review the transition plan with both teams and invite feedback from the incoming team. Make any adjustments needed and ensure both teams are aligned on the plan.
  1. DON’T plan for full dev velocity during the transition

    Knowledge transfer takes time, and usually more than you’d expect. Make sure the existing team has planned capacity to onboard the new team and adjust any sprint plans accordingly. If you try to plan too much delivery work, either the team will not be able to help onboard the new team as effectively, or the quality of the committed deliverables will suffer.
  1. DO take this opportunity to improve the project documentation.

    Good documentation is key to a successful project handoff. The better shape your project documentation is going into the transition, the smoother the transition will be. This is the perfect opportunity to finally address those items that the team has been meaning to document but hasn’t had time. Having the current team review the set of documentation will also make it easier to explain to the incoming team, as it will be fresh in their mind. Additionally, have the new team assist with updating existing documentation new or creating new docs when necessary. On any project, there will be pieces of information that a team will discover which become common knowledge but may not get added to any official documentation. The new team’s fresh set of eyes can help uncover these holes in the documentation and having the team update or write new documentation will help them retain the information better.
  2. DON’T wait around for the incoming team to ask questions

    Schedule regular (at least multiple times a week if not daily) checkpoints with the outgoing and incoming teams, and make a point to review the established transition plan. Confirm the planned topics have been covered, that the incoming team understands them, and that any questions they had were answered. Don’t just ask how things are going and move on if the team says fine. You need to be intentional about having purposeful check-ins where you ask specific questions about progress, otherwise things will fall through the cracks.

    Furthermore, be sure to schedule regular check-ins with the outgoing team, similarly being intentional about getting their view of the progress being made. Don’t let them check out, as outgoing teams can tend to do, as their departure gets closer. Keep them engaged, hold them accountable, and help enable them to deliver their very best work right up until the end.
  3. DO Immediately address any issues that are uncovered, regardless of how small they seem.

    You could get the feeling that the incoming team isn’t getting up to speed as quickly as they should be, or maybe it’s something more obvious like the team not having the machines they need. Regardless of the issue, if there is any hint of a potential problem, don’t ignore it or hope it works itself out. If you think the transition timeline needs to be extended, do everything you can so that the incoming team can be set up for success as best as possible. It is always worth it to take the time to address problems while the old team is still around to provide support. Taking more time to transition will have costs, but those costs will be much lower than if your new dev team is left to take full ownership of a project without being equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to succeed.

Successfully transitioning a development team requires a proactive approach. This includes best practices like creating a clear timeline and knowledge transfer plan, having a formal introduction for both teams, not overloading the team during the transition, updating project documentation, having regular check-ins with both teams, and quickly addressing any issues that arise. By following these guidelines, you can ensure a smooth transition that benefits both the client and the project team.


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