This area is not, traditionally, a phase of the project life cycle, nor is it an SDLC phase. However, it is my belief that it should be a phase of both cycles. In reality, the follow-on maintenance and customer service functions occur here. However, the tendency is to treat these activities as separate from the original project. In one sense they are separate—the project of developing and delivering the product is complete. But in a very real sense the project is never over while the customer is using, and expecting good service from, the product. Thus, it is logical that we consider follow-on activities as part of our project responsibilities.
The customer service and maintenance functions do not fit the definition of a project. That is, they don't have a defined end date, unless there is one dictated by contract. But the work of the project—training materials, manuals, operating procedures, specifications, and so on—serves as the SOW (statement of work) for those who are responsible for maintaining the system and ensuring the customer is satisfied with how the product operates. This SOW should be transferred to the maintenance/customer service team by formally passing the responsibility from the project team to a service team.
A memorandum of understanding should be used to transfer the project responsibility, regardless of whether it is for an internal or external customer. Once the project is installed and tested to be operationally ready, the project team is essentially through with the project work, except for the remaining administrative details. But unless the system continues to function in a manner pleasing to the customer, the effort has been wasted. Therefore, it is crucial that a smooth transfer from the project team to the maintenance and customer service teams (usually these functions are separate) be made. It is best to have in place a formal transfer procedure that includes training on and about the system for those who will continue the customer interface. In addition, it is my recommendation that the project manager of the original project contact the customer two to three months after the product is installed to inquire about how well the system is functioning. This inquiry serves two purposes; first, it gives the customer time to operate the system and to determine whether it truly meets all the stated requirements. Second, it demonstrates to the customer that the provider is sincerely interested in providing quality products.
Every organization should prepare good customer survey plans. This subject is discussed more fully in Chapter 12. Surveying customers about products you have provided is the fastest way to determine whether your project management processes are adequate. Customer surveys, and occasional visits to the customer, are the best ways to follow up with the customer.
The sole objective of this phase of the project life cycle is to maintain the product and to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the work your organization has done in providing the IT product of her dreams.