The project management life cycle is essentially a guide for the project managers and their team members. It consists of five phases of the project, starting with the project initiation phase and ending in project closure - in which a project manager supplies the client with finished deliverables. This article explains each project phase in detail, touching upon essential tasks each phase consists of.
What is the Project Life Cycle?
According to the Sixth Edition of PMBOK® Guide, a project life cycle is the series of phases that a project passes through from its start to its completion.
A project phase is a grouping of logically related project activities that culminate in the completion of one or more deliverables. The phases might be sequential, iterative, and overlapping and their titles, number, and duration. Project management life cycle phases are decided by the management and control requirements of the organisation(s) involved in the project, as well as the nature of the project and its intended use.
All project phases have a start and end date, as well as a control point. The control point's purpose is to re-evaluate the project charter and business documentation in light of the present situation. At that point, the performance of a project is compared to the project management plan to evaluate whether the project should be amended, terminated, or proceed as planned.
This is being done because, while every project has a beginning and a finish, the specific deliverables and work that is done vary greatly from project to project. An impact on the project life cycle can be caused by various elements such as those inside the organisation itself, the industry, technology used or the development approach.
Regardless of the exact activity performed, the life cycle offers the basic structure for project management. Despite all project differences, its size and complexity, a typical project life cycle has five phases.
One of the benefits of a project management life cycle is its role as a guide. The phases are used to make the process clear for the project manager and project team.
This way they always know what the next step is and how to move projects from initiation to closure. The project management life cycle consists of five phases of the project:
1. Project Initiation Phase
The first phase in the project management life cycle is the initiation phase. This phase is the starting point for all projects when we need to make a positive decision about the objectives we need to achieve.
It consists of a few steps. Firstly, you need to identify the primary problem that the project will fix and then identify the project scope and finally, identify the stakeholders. After that step, we can start developing a business case and a statement of work.
A business case is used to determine if the project will be moving forward. It compares the potential costs and benefits of the project. The other important document, the statement of work, contains information about the project's objectives, deliverables and other project scope details.
During the project initiation, we need to be very clearly focused on the goal so we can share it with other project team members. It is a proven fact that people who set themselves stretching goals are the highest achievers who seem to be least affected by negative stress.
2. Project Planning Phase
This phase of the project is essentially the plan that tells you where you are supposed to be in the first place. Without a plan, you have no idea if you are doing okay or not. If you have no plan, you have no control. You need to know – How long will it take? – How much will it cost? – What must be done?
In Project Management, project planning means breaking large tasks down into smaller, more easily managed chunks which can produce a more realistic schedule, thus removing the danger of “ground rush”, which is a term used in parachuting when in the last stages of a jump the ground rushes to hit you when you are unprepared.
This is when limbs are broken because all the energy is crammed into the last few seconds, and panic ensues, so we forget our basic training. This can happen when we haven’t set ourselves the correct priorities in the project plan. Planning is a necessity. Usually, the planning process contains the following steps:
The first step of the planning phase is to identify the project timeline and divide it into phases that will contain specific tasks that need to be performed within those phases.
The next step is to estimate the budget and determine how much to spend on the project to get the maximum return on investment. You also need to gather the resources and start building the team.
During this stage, you should be paying attention to potential risks and quality roadblocks. Identify issues and start planning to mitigate those risks to maintain the project’s quality and timeline.
Make a risk assessment that allows you to quantify and qualify any predictable problems in a project, and it is acknowledged that by taking a proactive stance, we can better cope with problems if they do arise in our work or social lives.
We can develop contingency plans to give us planned alternatives if problems occur in our lives or our work, instead of having to react to unplanned emergencies.
You can use techniques, which ensure we only concern ourselves with the really important issues and confront these first before becoming bogged down or sidetracked by irrelevances. It is often referred to as the 80:20 rule.
3. Project Execution Phase
In the execution phase, work begins on implementing the project plan. This means putting it into action as soon as possible. The famous quote “Procrastination is the thief of time” holds very true for project execution.
Of course, it is not always possible to do it on your own. Achieving something, just as in managing projects, requires teamwork.
Remember, as, in our private lives, where those with good friends have more stimulating lives, it is crucial that people learn to rely on the support of others by consciously delegating and thus sharing the load.
The delegation also shows that you respect and trust the team, which will build personal loyalty and strong personal relationships and in turn will encourage people to take ownership of specific tasks and feel part of the big picture.
There are a few things project managers should pay attention to during the project's execution phase. Tasks should be assigned to appropriate team members and they should be provided with the necessary guidance and explanation on how the task should be completed.
Communication with team members, clients and stakeholders is necessary as everyone who is involved with a project should be updated on the progress during the project execution.
4. Project Control Phase
In the previous, execution phase, the process had started and now in this project management life cycle phase, the focus is on monitoring the processes as the work is performed. Typically, control is the day-to-day effort of project managers to keep project works on track.
Tracking and assessing project performance is the most effective technique to assure progress and development. A project manager should make sure team members are meeting the time and quality goals of their assigned tasks.
Another key thing to manage is the cost. Monitoring the budget and resources keeps the project on track. You should also monitor your change management documents, spending records, and QA checklists. You can track where your efforts and resources flow throughout the project life cycle and double-check your planning this way. This way you can spot bottlenecks and start important conversations about project management process improvements.
By setting very clear milestones to review our progress in life or a project, we are in a better position to take corrective action if things are not going as planned. Alternatively, we can give ourselves a positive reward if we have achieved a significant milestone ahead of schedule.
Control also requires you to give regular feedback to all stakeholders on how well you are progressing. If more preparation, time, or resources are required, you must notify all relevant project stakeholders before it is too late. For this, you should have data and results backing up your requests. This way, you have a better chance of justifying your requests and maintaining their trust.
5. Project Close Out Phase
Project closure is defined as the learning stage of a project. In this phase of a project, we collect and store data on our successes and shortcomings. This ensures that we do not continue to find ourselves following the same predictable path to failure.
Often in life, we don’t learn from our experiences and find ourselves in unproductive relationships or situations, which create a downward spiral into negative self-criticism.
You will be prepared to take all you have learned and apply it to your next project if you stay on task even after the project's work is over. Make sure all project aspects are completed and there are no loose ends remaining.
The closing process involves handing over the deliverables to the client and documentation to the owners, cancelling supplier contracts and releasing staff and equipment. You should also provide a report to key stakeholders and allocate the remaining resources for future budgets.
But above all, the essential benefit closure phase has for the project completion is emphasising the importance of formal project management and bringing in the knowledge that will benefit the business in the future.
Project closure begins with a candid evaluation of the project's performance, followed by the identification of best practices and lessons learned. The project assessment report is used to keep this valuable information on hand for future initiatives. It serves as a reservoir for knowledge gained through trial and error, as well as a medium for communicating that knowledge throughout the organisation.
In your current organisation, you will find increasingly that much of your work will be done in a project format. Remember, a project is a problem/need scheduled for a solution and as Roy Keane said:“If you fail to plan – you plan to fail.”