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Project Life Cycle - What Steps a Project Manager Must Take

Project Management 5 min read

To the outside viewer, projects are simple and straightforward. You discuss what the client wants, agree upon a list of goals and deadlines, gather a team, and push them to deliver the product under the deadline. However, in reality the process is really complex and requires extensive effort and shrewd management from your end.

Aspiring project managers must understand what processes are essential as well as the sequence of operations throughout the entire project. In this article, we will discuss various phases of the project lifecycle and highlight why they are important for a project’s success.

What Is A Project Lifecycle?

The project life cycle is a sequence of phases that a project follows from its inception to its conclusion. The project manager and higher management are responsible for the timeline and order of events.

What Are the Main Phases of the Project Lifecycle?

All phases in the project lifecycle have a start end, and control point and they must be managed inside a timeline. You can define and modify the project lifecycle according to your organizational needs.

Photographer: Jo Szczepanska | Source: Unsplash

Despite having defined phases, the deliverables, activities, and goals can vary widely due to differences in the nature of projects and varying organizational structures. The lifecycle is the foundation of every project and remains the same almost entirely, regardless of the industry.

That said, there are two basic forms of project life cycles, ranging from plan-driven to predictive approaches. In an adaptive life cycle, we develop the product over several iterations defines a detailed scope only for the ongoing iteration.

On the other hand, a predictive lifecycle is more typical and we define everything at the start of the project and make changes to the scope as we progress.

The Conceptualization Phase

In a typical project iteration, the initiation phase is meant to define and authorize the project. The project manager must create the project charter with the help of the available information. The Project Charter contains the basic requirements for the project and is used to authorize the project.

Also known as the ‘Initiation Phase’, it is the starting point of the project and determines its strategic direction.  As a project manager, you must ask yourself the following questions during this phase:

· What is the problem?

· What are the specific goals of the project?

· Will the final solution solve the problem at hand?

· Do we have ample resources for creating and supporting the project?

The conceptualization phase is responsible for the Statement of Work (SoW). Additionally, the management must present the business case and subsequently write down the business contract.

The Planning Phase

The second phase is known for planning during project management. Once the management gives ok to launch a project, it’s time to make a more formal set of plans where we can easily outline major goals and establish them.

You must ask the following questions during Planning:

· What is the mission, vision, or purpose of my project?

· Do I have success criteria or measurable objectives?

· Do I have requirements and risks or a high-level description related to the project?

· Do I have the time and resources to schedule and budget high-level milestones effectively?

Normally, during this phase, the project manager must ensure that all expected resources are available at the given time. They must also create a project budget and start allocating resources for certain tasks.

The Execution Phase

We call the third phase of the execution phase because it is when where we do the actual work. This is easily the longest phase of the entire project. We must gather the required resources, tools, and materials and use them to reach project goals. The project manager must put the initial plan in motion, maintain control and communicate updates between the entire team.

Team members will report progress to the manager during regular team meetings. As the project manager, you can always compare progress reports to the project plan to ensure that you are constantly on the right track.

I work in a software company designed and structured an app for field staff. That day we made a tour of our flow and could not miss a shot of our work :)
Photographer: Alvaro Reyes | Source: Unsplash

It’s important to monitor progress in detail and make appropriate changes. However, you must record where you have diverged from the original and why.  During this entire process, the project sponsors should always be in the loop and informed about changes in the proposed project plans. In many cases, these changes are made with the approval of the sponsor.

You will give the project sponsors status reports related to the project. The status reports must contain key factors such as estimated project completion in terms of cost, quality of deliverables, and timeline and schedule of deliverables.

The project manager must also review every deliverable in terms of quality and measurement against acceptance criteria. After we complete all deliverables and the customer (and other relevant project stakeholders) approves them, you ca conclude the project.

Remember to ask the following questions during the execution phase:

· Am I tracking all the resources?

· Is the project on time and on budget?

· Can I optimize resource planning?

· Am I facing roadblocks that require change management?

The Termination Phase

In the final phase of the project, the project manager must release final deliverables to the customer. During this, it’s important to transfer the documentation you have accumulated and hand it over to the business. At the same time, you must release project resources, terminate supplier contracts, and communicate closure to all stakeholders.

In the final step, you go back to major events during the project and reexamine the entire flow of the project. Here, you will understand the mistakes you’ve made during your project venture and learn what you should do differently next time, as well as what must be avoided.

Before you are done with your work, you must consider the following questions:

· Did we meet the project criteria effectively?

· Do I need to complete a project closure report?

· Has my team collected and archived all relevant project documents?

· Do I need to organize a project post-mortem?

A project goes through various phases during its lifecycle. To manage everything effectively, managers must pay close attention to every phase and apply project management principles effectively.

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