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The 4 Phases of an Effective Project Management Life Cycle

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Effective work habits beget effective projects. Accordingly, the former find implementation in what we call ‘project life cycle.’ What is it? In few bullet points, the main questions that come to mind when thinking project life cycle are:

  • What objective(s) do we seek to achieve (goals)?
  • What results/outputs/deliverables do we expect to produce (results)?
  • What time frame do we have to do it (schedule)?
  • Who is going to do it (team)?
  • How and who is going to control it (managers)?
  • What kind of resources will it require (costs)?

Understanding project life cycle is especially important in Project Management, where a PM has to deal with multiple contributors in highly technical or specialized fields in order to create a single, coherent product. A professional-quality project’s lifecycle can usually be divided into four phases:

The picture below depicts the key phases of the project life cycle as described in this article.

Phase 1: Discovery

This phase is the first because it is the most important. It is here that the project manager sits down with the client for an in-depth discussion on where they want to go, why, and what they are willing to do to get there.

And let me be blunt: this can be the hardest part of the process. This is where the ability to negotiate comes to the fore. Clients rarely know their exact requirements, and it’s up to the project manager to dig it up and polish it for presentation to the team. This document, called the Scope of Work, should be reviewed thoroughly by both parties and signed.

Phase 2: Planning

Once the PM and client have nailed down a (hopefully) firm idea of the project’s objective and scope, the PM then has to make a plan of action. Depending on the company or team’s work process, this could either mean conducting a pre-project planning meeting or involve the PM drawing up a work plan by himself. Ideally, the PM will have enough foresight and experience to anticipate any problems, and pad his estimates accordingly.

Phase 3: Development

If the first two phases went right, then the problems in this phase should be pretty minimal. Of course, there are always hiccups. Underperforming team members and persistent bugs are a nasty thorn in the side, but the real test of a PM’s patience is the client. The development cycle is, by nature, the longest phase of the project. And the client will have plenty of time to rethink their requirements and come up with “something better” that the PM could “squeeze in”.

This, my friends, is where the Scope of Work comes into play. Make sure the client knows that changes outside the SoW come at a price–both in money and time.

Along with phase 2, this phase is the most complex and dynamic and requires a lot of personal dedication and physical strain from the management. This is why it is more than sound to have an aid in the form of a project management software tool. It not only allows you to organize your work better but offers unlimited analytical and reporting capabilities that save you a lot of time and money. Automatic project health and critical path calculation, timesheet tracking, interactive Gantt charts, all these are just a figment of what today’s project management tools can do. And the best part is that most of them are web-based thus giving you a chance to enjoy access to your projects from anywhere in the world.

Phase 4: Testing & Launch

Testing and launch are lumped together because, really, these two go hand in hand. Even if the development phase included testing and QA, it’s always wise to run through things just one more time before launch. Just to make sure.

Staying organized helps both the team and the client figure out where they are, what needs to be done, and where the project is going to go. Most importantly, it keeps people focused and reassures the client that you and your team are professionals.

The above phases and issues are much easier managed with a project management solution, e.g. Birdview PSA. The hassle-free option of SaaS allows you, for a reasonable monthly or yearly fee, to get all you need to carry your projects out effectively and strictly according to plan. There being cloud-based means exceptional security and 24/7 access for everybody involved. Add to that customer support that will help you with the most complex issues any time of day or night, and you will glimpse a bag of benefits that simply cannot be gainsaid.


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