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The 5 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 the ‘project life cycle.’ What is it? In a 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)?

What Is the Project Life Cycle?

Knowing the project life cycle is crucial in Project Management, especially when a Project Manager works with various experts in technical or specialized areas to develop a unified product. The life cycle of a high-quality project typically consists of five phases.

The 5 Project Life Cycle Phases

The project life cycle serves as the backbone of project management, offering a structured approach to guide projects from initiation to completion. Comprising distinct phases, each with its unique characteristics and deliverables, the project life cycle provides a roadmap for successful project execution.

1. Project Initiation Phase: The Genesis of Project Success

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.

The initiation phase is like the start of a project’s journey, where the groundwork for success is laid. In this phase, project stakeholders outline the project’s purpose, scope, goals, and what needs to be achieved. Important tasks include studying if the project is feasible, identifying risks, and forming the project team. By the end of initiation, everyone involved should have a clear idea of whether the project is doable and its potential value.

Project Intake and Prioritization Process

When a new project request is received, the  Project management office (PMO) and/or Project Managers review it against all current and planned projects. Both potential client and internal initiatives are prioritized and ranked based on a set of specific evaluation criteria. The Project Manager prepares a preliminary project plan that includes an estimated budget and timeline by using a template from a similar opportunity in the past. The plan will contain soft scheduling and resource allocation estimates.

The project intake process can be fully automated by utilizing custom forms, built-in templates, or integrating project management software like Birdview PSA with CRM.

2. Project Planning Phase: Crafting the Blueprint for Success

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.

Project Plan (WBS), Resource Schedule and Budget Baseline

The Project Manager creates a detailed project work breakdown structure (WBS) either from scratch or with a template. Resource selection is finalized, then tasks are assigned and scheduled. The baseline of the project schedule and budget is captured to enable actual versus planned analysis in the future.

The outcome is a comprehensive project plan that guides the project from start to finish. Successful planning ensures efficient use of resources and helps manage potential risks.

3. Project Execution Phase: Bringing Plans to Life

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. The client will have plenty of time to rethink their requirements and come up with “something better” that the Project Manager could “squeeze in”.

This, my friends, is where the Scope of Work comes into play. Make sure the client knows that changes outside the A statement of work (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.

4. Project Monitoring and Controlling Phase: Ensuring Progress and Quality

Monitoring, Controlling, and launching are lumped together because 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.

As the project advances, the Project Manager actively oversees compliance with the timeline and budget, utilizing various built-in indicators, tools, and alerts. The PMO and executive team routinely assess a dynamic overview of financials, productivity, and team performance KPIs through dashboards and reports, enabling informed and prompt decision-making.

The above steps and problems are much easier to solve with the help of a project management solution, for example, 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. 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.

 

5. Project Closing Phase:  Portfolio Optimization, Project KPIs, Lessons Learned, and Celebration of Success.

The closing phase is the end of the project life cycle. In this phase, project managers check that all project deliverables are done, stakeholders approve the outcomes, and the project achieves its goals. A thorough project review happens to see what went well, find ways to improve, and learn lessons for future projects. Closing activities involve releasing project resources, creating final reports, and celebrating team successes.

After completing the project, the Project Manager and/or PMO conduct a post-mortem, document lessons learned, and share them with the Sales and Executive Teams. This information is valuable for future project assessments, planning, and portfolio optimization.

Conclusion: Successfully Moving Through the Project Life Cycle

In going through the 5 project life cycle phases, project managers and teams go through planning, doing the work, and looking back. Every phase is crucial for achieving project success, and managing the project life cycle well ensures things are efficient, of high quality, and that stakeholders are happy. Knowing the details of each phase helps project professionals handle challenges well and achieve meaningful results.

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