Every project comprises several tasks that need to be performed by multiple stakeholders within restrictions of time and resources. Every project also follows a clearly defined path. Managers who attempt to run a project without properly understanding these details and their sequence will become overwhelmed and ineffective.
Looking for Project Management Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the best Project Management Software solutions.
The only real way to manage projects—whether short-term or ongoing—is by having a clearly defined path. This is why project management is essential to the success of any project.
Project management establishes a clear lifecycle for a project regardless of size. By following the project lifecycle in project management, a project manager can run the project seamlessly from start to finish. Statistics show 61% of project managers apply the defined project methodology for each project. To help you understand these 5 phases of project management, we will discuss them in detail.
But before we understand the project lifecycle definition and the stages of the project lifecycle, let us explore the project management definition and importance.
Project Management Overview
The Project Management process is the method of planning and executing a project from end to end. It involves organizing resources like people, time, intellectual property, and money to satisfactorily meet a client’s needs. Industries like Information Technology, Construction, Engineering, Healthcare, Entertainment, and Consulting extensively use Project Management.
Projects have specific goals meant to solve a problem for a client. They also have a clearly defined scope and resource restrictions. A project manager’s job is to work with their team within the defined scope and restrictions to complete the project goals on time to the client’s satisfaction. They also implement quality checks and ensure smooth communication between various parties.
The Project Manager is responsible for bringing the project to life and completing it. They can choose a methodology best suited to the project and the industry, like Waterfall Project Management, Agile Project Management, or Lean Project Management. They also decide which Project Management Software is most useful based on the type and objective of the project to ensure high project performance.
A project is a complex process involving numerous challenges, many minute details and multiple stakeholders. Project Management ensures that all these aspects are managed seamlessly and the project moves smoothly from start to finish.
What Is Project Management Lifecycle?
Project Management Lifecycle is a systematic roadmap for managers to start, execute, and complete a project. The project lifecycle definition involves a step-by-step compilation of the best practices in each of the five phases of project management.
The purpose of the project management lifecycle is to equip project managers with tools and structure for the end-to-end management of a project. It breaks down the process into multiple project management phases that project managers can tackle one by one.
There are several project lifecycle examples like BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) projects for infrastructure, software development, and implementation, construction of housing projects, etc, where the 5 phases of project management can be seen.
The importance of project lifecycle phases is that they mention every detail that a project manager could need to implement the project. Each phase guides a project manager through the necessary activities in an organized way. Following the project development lifecycle model can help a project manager give a high-quality output and avoid the wastage of resources.
Also read: Effective methods to manage a project
Importance of Phases of Project Management
Every organization, regardless of size, manages projects throughout these five phases. So the phases are highly important for every organization to ensure the projects are managed successfully and desired goals are achieved. Below are some aspects that will help you in understanding the importance of project management phases.
- It makes the teams associated with the project more focused.
- As every activity is pre-determined during the planning stage, it leads to the effective utilization of resources.
- With effective planning of the phases, the project management life cycle gets streamlined, and desired results can be gained during project closure.
- With project management phases, organizations can ensure that the result of each phase brings the organization closer to achieving its goals.
- With the successful operation of each phase, the organization ensures that the teams are ready to move on to the next phase until the closure.
- Stages of project management allow the organization to conduct a structured approach, making the project life cycle more effective.
- With pre-determined job roles and responsibilities, organizations can provide a crisp roadmap to teams that they need to follow to gain success.
- The operational framework gets effective and easy to comprehend by all the team members as everything is pre-defined.
- Processes and communication can be streamlined as the responsibilities and activities are pre-determined, which will reduce errors.
- Working by phases allows businesses to track and link the phases with which they can evaluate the direction in which the project is going and make it successful.
- It enhances the involvement of everyone in the organization towards the project regardless of the designation.
- Another importance of phases is that the project’s success is certain to a great extent.
Hence, if an organization conducts projects in consonance with these five phases, everything will be streamlined, and the project life cycle will be more efficient.
Five Phases of Project Management
There are five phases of project management, as you can see in the project lifecycle diagram below:
Below is a pictorial representation of the key activities in each of the 5 phases of project management. This project lifecycle diagram will give you an idea of the complexity and importance of project lifecycle phases.
Let us look at these project phases in project management in detail.
The project initiation phase of the project management lifecycle is the first step toward turning an idea into a concrete project. In this step, the broad or macro aspects of the project are brought to life.
The project initiation phase is a critical step in the project development lifecycle. This is the step where you determine the project, its goals, scope, stakeholders, and other fundamental aspects. However, this step is more about clearly defining the conceptual portions of the project. Therefore, it does not include technical details.
Actions in Project Initiation
Here are some actions you would undertake as part of the Project Initiation stage of the project management lifecycle.
- Feasibility Study – A Feasibility Study investigates whether the project is viable. Its goal is to identify the problem the project is meant to solve and examine if it can actually solve that problem.
- Defining Scope – You would define the depth and breadth of the project. This step is necessary to identify other aspects of the project, like goals, resources, budget, etc.
- Creating a Project Charter – A Project Charter includes the most important broad details. For example, it includes the project’s objective, goals, constraints, challenges, budget, estimated timeline, project team size, project management software roles, etc.
- Defining Stakeholders – You would identify the stakeholders who will work with you on the project, their roles, and how the project affects them. You can use a RACI chart, Stakeholder Register, or Responsibility Assignment Matrix to allocate roles and responsibilities among your team members.
- Building a Business Case – Building a business case involves developing a business proposal after careful analysis. You can do a cost-benefit analysis, SWOT analysis, or any other appropriate analysis for your project. The Project Proposal outlines the key aspects of the project to get the concerned people to greenlight it.
- Preparing a Statement of Work – A Statement of Work is a formal document that contains the information discussed in the previous steps. It acts as an agreement between the project owner and the team executing it.
After completing all these actions, you would move on to the remaining project lifecycle phases.
The project planning stage of the project development lifecycle lays out the detailed roadmap for the entire project. As every single detail of the project has to be planned thoroughly, this stage can take up even 50% of the total scheduled project duration.
Project planning stages include creating a detailed project timeline and specifying technical details and requirements. It also includes defining goals, mapping plans to meet them, and setting up communication flows and channels. A project manager also identifies risks and contingencies at this stage and plans how to deal with them.
Actions in Project Planning
Here are some actions you would undertake as part of the Project Planning phase of the project management lifecycle.
- Project Plan – You would typically start by creating a Project Plan. The plan would include every minute detail of the various phases of the project. In the Project Plan, you would incorporate the project’s detailed timeline, milestones, tasks involved, possible constraints, and plans to overcome them.
- Defining Workflows – Workflow process refer to the steps that any work moves through from start to completion. Clearly defined workflows using diagrams can help your team better understand their responsibilities, role scope, and interactions.
- Financial Plan – It is critical to draw up a detailed and realistic budget and financial plan in this phase. To do so, you can use available data and estimates to project expenses and return on investment.
- Setting up Goals – You can use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) or CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, and Refinable) models to set up goals during this project planning phase.
- Assembling Resources – Before you start the actual work on the other stages of the project lifecycle, you need to have your team in place. You would also need technical, IT, financial, and other resources to be ready.
- Change Management – As the goals and scope of a project can change due to the project’s dynamic nature, you need to have a change management process. Change processes can help keep the project on track and avoid scope creep.
- Communication Mapping – This action involves establishing a communication plan, designing a communication schedule, mapping communication channels and flows, and procuring resources needed for smooth stakeholder communication.
- Legal Documentation – Establishing formal and legally valid documentation like Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs), Requests for Proposal (RFP), etc., are also part of the planning stage of the project development lifecycle.
- Risk Management – A very important part of the planning step is identifying potential risks and developing a strategy to minimize them. You can use a risk register to do this smoothly. A Risk Register mentions the potential risks, their probability, possible impact, mitigation plans, etc.
Once you create a detailed plan of what you will do in all the other project lifecycle phases, you can start the implementation.
3. Project Execution
The actual work takes place in the project execution phase of the project management lifecycle. Your team implements the plans to meet the goals and milestones within the pre-defined timelines and resource allocations.
This is the stage in the project lifecycle phases where the “action” occurs. Without proper execution, plans are of no use. Therefore, a project manager must be on their toes during the project execution phase. They need to keep the project on track, ensure the availability of resources, and see to it that the project proceeds according to plan.
Actions in Project Execution
Here are some actions you would undertake as part of the Project Execution stage of the project management lifecycle.
- Task Management – Task Management involves creating task flows down to minute levels, explaining the tasks to those responsible, and equipping them to complete them.
- Collaboration – You must ensure smooth and consistent collaboration between all parties involved to keep the project moving per plan. You can use project collaboration tools and software to make this process easier and more efficient.
- Incorporate Changes – As changes in scope, goals, or deadlines are possible, you can use Change Requests to propose and make necessary changes.
- Respond to Risks – When risks pop up, you can use the defined mitigation plans to tackle them. Risks can arise in all stages of a project lifecycle and must be minimized or removed to keep the project going.
- Team Motivation – It is important to keep your team motivated, especially when the project faces challenges or enters a phase where repetitive work is needed. Strong team building and motivation will keep your team on task.
- Communication – As the project manager, you would ensure clear communication between various stakeholders, including team members, clients, vendors, and all others who are invested in the project’s success.
At the end of this phase of the project management lifecycle, you will have your final deliverables and be ready to wind up the project.
4. Monitoring and Controlling
This stage is not a separate one that follows the Project Execution stage. Rather, the Execution and the Monitoring and Controlling project lifecycle phases work simultaneously, so the two are often presented as a single phase.
However, Project Monitoring and Controlling has a unique role in the project lifecycle phases, distinct from Project Execution. In this phase of the project development lifecycle, the project manager ensures that the actions taking place in the Execution phase are on track and in line with the plan.
Actions in Project Monitoring and Controlling
Here are some actions you would undertake as part of the Project Monitoring and Controlling stage of the project management lifecycle.
- Track Progress – The primary purpose of this phase of the project lifecycle is to ensure that things are running according to plan. You can ensure deadlines are met using tools like Gantt charts, burndown charts, Scrum boards, etc. Good project management software is also useful for tracking the project’s progress.
- Managing Resources – A critical aspect of the Project Monitoring and Controlling phase is managing resources. As a project manager, you would be responsible for recording costs, managing the budget, and getting your people to stay on task. So, you can use tools like Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure that your team is performing as expected.
- Deliverables – One of the primary roles of a project manager is to ensure that deliverables and goals are met on time. This step can be one-time, cyclical, or multi-point-based, depending on the nature of the project.
- Quality Control – You would ensure that the quality of the work remains per your plan, even while staying within projected timelines and resources. This is an important factor in customer satisfaction and in ensuring future projects.
- Contingency Resolution – As contingencies and challenges can and do arise during the execution phase, the project manager must tackle them.
As this phase of the project development lifecycle takes place alongside Project Execution, the next step is closing the project.
5. Project Closure
This phase is the last of the stages of the project management lifecycle. This phase is where the efforts of the previous four stages come together. In this phase, you wind up the project and decide whether it has been successful. This phase is also critical as a learning point for future projects.
This stage typically occurs after the final delivery to the client. At this point, all the steps taken throughout the project are reviewed, and all resources are released. Therefore, terminating the project can take substantial time and effort, especially if it is a long-term one.
Actions in Project Closure
Here are some actions you would undertake as part of the Project Closure stage of the project management lifecycle.
- Terminating Contracts – Sometimes, external resources are hired for specific projects. At the end of the project, their contracts need to be terminated. Likewise, contracts with suppliers, vendors, or other external stakeholders would also need to be terminated.
- Resource Reallocation – All permanent human or material resources would need to be reallocated at the end of the project. Sometimes this step can also include decisions regarding whether to absorb external contractual employees.
- Review and Reflection – This is probably the most significant step of this phase of the project development lifecycle. The team members evaluate their performance, critically examining what worked and didn’t. This step is essential for learning to do better in future projects.
- Project Closeout Report – You must create a Project Closeout Report that summarizes your project’s key accomplishments and learnings. This report is a reference for future projects and project managers.
- Formal Handover – Usually, at the end of a project, the project manager communicates its closure to all stakeholders. They also formally hand over the completed project to the new project owners.
- Impact Report – You would also prepare an Impact Report to show how your project made a difference. This step ties in with the first step of determining how the project can solve a specific problem.
With this phase, all the stages of project management for a particular project would be complete.
Managing a project is a long, complicated, and difficult journey. Without a systematic roadmap, a project manager can get lost and fail. Therefore, understanding the 5 project management phases is essential for success. If manual project management is not feasible for organizations, they can opt for project management software to ensure successful project management.
In this post, we have discussed the stages of the project lifecycle in detail, including steps that you can take and tools that you can use. This Guide to the stages of the project management lifecycle can help you manage your projects efficiently and productively.
Frequently Asked Questions
The stages of project management are interlinked, and each step of every phase is to be followed religiously to gain efficiency. If a project manager skips a phase, it will cause an operational gap, and the whole system might get messed up. There can be an adverse effect on the project life cycle. The management must have a contingency plan to cope with such inconsistencies
All the phases are equally important for an effective project life cycle. To master all 5 phases of project management is to understand the project's requirements on that basis, effective strategies can be framed, and all the phases can be successful.
Writa is a content writer, ghostwriter, and author of 3 novels. She chose her lifelong love for writing as a career after several years of corporate and educational soft skills training experience. She is also passionate about animal welfare.