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The Hidden Flaws in Handoffs (and What to Do About Them)

The Hidden Flaws in Handoffs (and What to Do About Them)

Are you 100% happy with your construction project handoff process? If you’ve ever experienced process bottlenecks, production delays and miscommunication between your teams as projects are transferred, it may be time for a change. In this article, we’ll explore common handoff process flaws—and practical fixes— as you transition construction projects from one team to another.

What is a handoff?

A handoff refers to letting go of the project activities by assessing and closing them out. It may also involve one team giving another team leeway to pick up from where they left off. When a construction project comes close to being complete, these are some of the steps followed by the involved parties.

Testing and commissioning – Carrying out up-to-date testing is vital during a handover. It also involves commissioning data, where the owner obtains the necessary construction certificates, inspects the documents, and approves them. The operations and maintenance manuals are also checked based on the required inspections.

Defect management – Defects may arise at any stage of the construction, whether noticeable or not. Before the handoff, a discussion and agreement on the defects reporting process should be made. 

During the time in the project that the handover procedure has to be done, access and insurance arrangements are made for the contractor to remedy the arising defects. The handoff can be acceptable when all the procedures are done well. Owners are specific in detecting defects as it affects repair prices by inflating the earlier set budget.

Compliance reporting – To identify any design risks, the involved design manager goes through the project, checks the design performance, and checks it against the project specs and functional design brief. 

Actual project handover – For this to happen, the contractor must confirm that the work as defined in the scope and contract is complete. Items like documentation, keys, and other items are handed over to the owner or receiving team after the final inspection.

FLAW #1: Your Teams are Disconnected

If you’ve ever watched a relay race, you understand the true meaning of “getting up to speed”: in order to have a chance at winning, both runners have to be in motion before the handoff takes place. The same is true of your preconstruction and site teams; if your project managers, superintendents and foremen aren’t onboarded early in the construction process (with the help of estimators, project coordinators and preconstruction managers), problems can arise, delays can occur and profitability can suffer. Through collaboration and coordination—and access to project information throughout the project lifecycle—every team shares the same scenario, and has the information needed to execute next steps without delay.

FIX: Onboard Stakeholders Early
Make sure your preconstruction team keeps site workers in the loop and actively soliciting feedback before, during and after construction work begins.

FLAW # 2: You Make Decisions on the Fly

With so many moving parts to monitor and manage, it’s easy to see why some project decisions are put on the back burner, only to be made at the last minute. The issue, as any contractor can tell you, is that construction is a dynamic process, subject to changes in requirements, needs, budgets and timelines. The problem? The more developed a project becomes, the more difficult—and expensive—it is to modify; a decision you make early on is more easily implemented than one made later, with a corresponding savings of time and money. Having a reliable road map that everyone in your organization can share early in the construction process will help keep projects running smoothly.

FIX: Agree on a Plan
Encourage collaboration among teams to agree on key decisions during the preconstruction process rather than waiting until site work begins.

FLAW # 3: Your Data Is Unavailable

Action requires information, and if your teams don’t have the data they need to perform the work at hand, you’re creating process bottlenecks that will inevitability cost you time and money. That’s especially true as projects are transitioned from the estimating and preconstruction team to site workers team to another. If your subcontractors, trade partners suppliers aren’t up-to-speed on key project details, your job is likely to lose momentum as information is gathered and shared. The better way? Maintain a central location for project data that can be accessed by everyone early in the process.

FIX: Facilitate Data Sharing
Keep all stakeholders fully informed and up-to-date by providing unlimited access to project information that’s accurate and complete.


A handoff should be seamless and involves the whole construction team. However, certain factors lead to it being hard to process. Handoffs can cause severe disputes between the owners, contractors, and project managers, leading to liabilities.

For better project testing, having relevant compliance documents helps the owners see the arising bottlenecks as they conduct inspections.  Involving the project’s stakeholders ensures that disputes are minimized, as well as keeping records.

Documentation is critical in the handover process. The scope of work and construction contract agreement is checked to assess if the work done by the contractor is as stipulated within the contract.

In the case of any design and compliance defaults, the handoff process can get stalled. It can bring about the insurance agreement where the contractor and owner revise their agreement on who takes care of what.

Handoff times are often estimated in the project schedule. They help the team to know when the project will come to an end. According to some contracts, if the handoff is done earlier than expected or within the schedule, there is the assurance of a bonus during compensation. When the hand-off delays occur, it may affect the contractor’s compensation, for which a discussion should happen to agree on a common ground.