The conventional way to look at digital handover is at the conclusion of a project. However, that gives a picture that is not entirely accurate.

While the digital handover does indeed mark the symbolic transfer of a project from main contractor to owner, the handover itself has a much longer lifespan, both before and after the project is complete.

For an efficient digital handover to be delivered, it should be treated as an incremental process from day one. Project transfer no longer has to involve a frantic scramble for paper-based documentation. By incorporating all stakeholders in the process from the beginning, and establishing the correct procedures for documentation, digital handover can be a seamless transition.  

When do you first begin thinking about handover in a construction project?

A successful digital handover is a proactive information-gathering exercise based on solid planning. A bad handover, by contrast, is a retrospective hunt for missing documentation, typically on paper. Therefore, work on the digital handover should start from the design phase of construction, long before any ground has been broken.

This then sets the template for all information collection in subsequent phases. As subcontractors come and go, the digital handover template will indicate to them what documentation needs to be submitted, in what format, and by what deadline.

As documentation accumulates, the main contractor can maintain constant visibility over the quality and thoroughness of the digital document trail and take necessary action to ensure that everything is in place by the agreed deadline.  

What documentation needs to be shared during a digital handover?

If, as recommended, collaboration on the digital handover begins from the very beginning of the project, documentation will start with design drawings, models and specifications.

As subcontractors join the project, the handover will grow to accommodate a timeline of site logs, material inventories and data sheets (and warranties), compliance and safety documentation, and inspection certificates.

While some of these documents confirm one-time delivery or approval of an item or process, many others (such as licences, warranties and insurance) each have their own cycle of renewal and expiry. The beauty of storing all documentation in a single digital package is that alerts are easy to set up for when certain action needs to be taken post-handover.

The content of the documentation that goes into a handover might not have changed significantly in the digital era, but the ease of transfer and access are unrecognisable from the paper age. Contractors and end-users now have a transparent, easy-to-consult repository of information that can be updated in real time.

What happens after the digital handover has taken place?

Even once the project has been transferred to the owner, the handover is not yet ready to archive for posterity. Generally, a two- to three-month buffer period should be factored in. This allows for post-handover testing and commissioning to take place, and action to be taken should any issues arise once the construction site goes ‘live’.

Nowadays, it is not uncommon for one floor of a building to be delivered as ready for occupation while another floor higher up is still at the fitting stage. Digital handover allows feedback and learning from the first phase to inform and improve subsequent phases.

As long as information sharing is dynamic and collaborative, both construction manager and owner benefit.

The worst possible scenario, which digital handover has rendered obsolete, is when the entire batch of documentation for a project is delivered months after handover takes place.

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