Successful completion of a project is not an easy endeavor. It calls for a series of tasks to meet stakeholder and client requirements; a lot is involved in the process before the project reaches completion phase.
No matter what type of project you are working on, having comprehensive knowledge about project management life cycle is essential. It keeps your on-going projects more organized and more viable to execute from ideation to completion.
What Are Project Management Stages
A project management life cycle is a five-step framework planned to assist project managers in completing projects successfully.
The primary competency of a project manager is to gain a thorough understanding of project management stages. Knowledge and planning for the five project management steps will help you plan and organize your projects so that it goes off without any hitches.
It is simpler for a project manager to handle all the current details of the project when the project is broken down into various phases. Each phase of the cycle is goal-oriented having its own set of characteristics and contains product deliverables, which are reviewed at the end of the project management steps.
According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBoK), the project management life cycle should define the following aspects:
➣ What work needs to be achieved?
➣ What are the project deliverables?
➣ Who will be involved in the team?
➣ How to monitor the performance of each phase?
Let us take a look at the various project management stages and the purpose they serve.
1. Project Initiation
Project initiation is the phase where the project starts. It provides an overview of the project, along with the strategies required to attain desired results. It is the phase where the feasibility and business value of the project are determined.
The project manager kicks-off a meeting to understand the client and stakeholders requirements, goals, and objectives. It is essential to go into minute details to have a better understanding of the project. Upon taking a final decision to proceed, the project can move on to the next step: that is, assembling a project team.
“Project Charter” is an essential outcome of the initiation phase. The solutions to project-related issues, doubts, and concerns are covered here.
The Project Charter is considered to be the most important document of any project as it comprises:
- Business vision and mission
- Project goals and benefits
- List of stakeholders
- Project scope
- Project deliverables
- Project risks
- Project budget and resources
The project initiation phase comprises:
Let’s understand each phase in detail:
- Undertake a Feasibility Study
In the initial stage, it is essential to understand the feasibility of the project. See if the project is viable from the economic, legal, operational, and technical aspects. Identifying problems will help you analyze whether you can solve issues with appropriate solutions.
- Identify the Project Scope
Identifying the project scope involves defining the length, breadth, and depth of the project. On the other hand, it’s equally essential to outline functions, deadlines, tasks, features, and services.
- Identify the Project Deliverables
Upon identifying the project scope, the very next step is to outline the project deliverables. Project deliverables include defining the product or services needed.
- Identification of Project Stakeholders
A thorough identification of project stakeholders is essential. It is better to have meetings with team members and experts to identify project stakeholders. Documentation of relevant information on stakeholders and impact on them on successful completion of the project is required
- Develop a Business Case
Before developing a business case, check whether the essential pillars of the project such as feasibility, scope, and identification of stakeholders are in place. The very next step is to come up with a full-fledged business case.
Creation of a statement of work (SoW) and the formation of a team wrap up the project initiation phase.
2. Project Planning
A lot of planning related to the project takes place during this phase. On defining project objectives, it is time to develop a project plan for everyone to follow.
The planning phase frames a set of plans which helps to guide your team through the implementation phase and closing phase. The program created at this point will surely help you to manage cost, quality, risk, changes, and time.
The project plan developed should include all the essential details related to the project goals and objectives and should also detail how to achieve it. It is the most complex phase in which project managers take care of operational requirements, design limitations, and functional requirements.
The project planning phase includes the following components:
- Creating a Project Plan
A project plan is a blueprint of the entire project. A well-designed project plan should determine the list of activities, the time frame, dependencies, constraints involved, and potential risks. It assists the project manager to streamline operations to meet the end objective and track progress by taking appropriate decisions at the right time.
- Creating a Resource Plan
The resource plan provides information about various resource levels required to accomplish a project. A well-documented plan specifies the labor and materials to complete a project. Resources used should have relevant project management expertise. Experience in the concerned domain is a priority.
- Budget Estimation
Framing a financial plan helps you to set the budget and deliver project deliverables without exceeding it. The final budget plan lists expenses on material, labor, and equipment. Creating a budget plan will help the team and the project managers to monitor and control the costs throughout the project management life cycle.
- Gathering Resources
Gathering resources is an essential part of project planning as it helps to monitor the quality level of the project. It is not enough to assemble a well-balanced team from internal and external resources. Resources like equipment, money, software solutions, and workplace should be given to complete the assigned tasks.
- Anticipating Risks and Potential Quality Roadblocks
The risk plan will help you identify risks and mitigate them. It will comprise all the potential risks, the order of severity, and preventive actions to track it. Once threats are under control, it is possible to deliver the project on time adhering to quality.
3. Project Execution
Project execution is the phase where project-related processes are implemented, tasks are assigned, and resources allocated. The method also involves building deliverables and satisfying customer requirements. Project managers or team leaders accomplish the task through resource allocation and by keeping the team members focused.
The team involved will start creating project deliverables and seek to achieve project goals and objectives as outlined in the project plan. This phase determines whether your project will succeed or not. The success of the project mainly depends on project execution phase. The final project, deliverable also takes shape during the project execution phase.
There are a lot of essential things that are taken care of during the execution phase. Listed below are a few among them:
- Reporting Progress of a Project
During the project execution phase, it is essential to get regular project updates as it provides the required information and even identifies the issues.
- Hold Regular Meetings
Before you kick-off a project meeting, be clear about the agenda and make team members aware of what the meeting is all about well in advance. If communication is timely and straight-forward, the productivity of on-going projects and those that are in the pipeline will not get affected.
- Manage Problems
Problems within the project are bound to occur. Issues such as time management, quality management, and weakening in the team’s morale can hinder the success of a project. So make sure all problems are solved in the beginning.
4. Project Monitoring and Control
The project monitoring and control phase is all about measuring the performance of the project and tracking progress. It is implemented during the execution phase. The main goal of this phase is to check whether everything aligns with the project management plan, especially concerning financial parameters and timelines.
It is the responsibility of the project manager to make necessary adjustments related to resource allocation and ensure that everything is on track. To aid this, a project manager may conduct review meetings and get regular performance reports.
Monitoring project activity after project execution phase will allow the project manager to take corrective actions. Meanwhile, considering the quality of work will also help to make the necessary improvements. Keeping an eye on the budget will help to avoid unnecessary expenses resources.
5. Project Closure
With much time and effort invested in the project planning phase, it is often forgotten that the final stage of the project is equally important.
Project closure phase represents the final phase of the project, which is also known as “follow-up” phase. Around this time, the final product is ready for delivery. Here the main focus of the project manager and the team should be on product release and product delivery. In this stage, all the activities related to the project are wrapped up. The closure phase is not necessarily after a successful completion phase alone. Sometimes a project may have to be closed due to project failure.
Upon project completion and timely delivery to clients, it is the role of the project manager to highlight strengths, list the takeaways of the project, identify the ambiguities and suggest how they could be rectified for future projects. Taking time to recognize the strengths and weaknesses will help to handle projects with more dedication; this, in turn, builds the project manager’s credibility.
Once the product is handed to the customers, the documentation is finalized, the project team is disbanded, and the project is closed.
Given below are the detailed steps covered during the closure phase of the project management life cycle:
- Analyzing Project Performance
This project management step deals with analyzing whether the project goals have been met. If the project is accomplished within the agreed budget and time and is capable of addressing the issue which it set out to resolve, then the project can be declared a success.
- Analyzing Teams Performance
The next project management step is to consider the performance of the team members. Performing quality check against parameters like quality of work and timelines will provide a clear picture of the team’s performance.
- Document Project Closure
This is the most vital of project management steps as it involves a systematic presentation of a project from the ideation stage to completion. A well- written project document without any loose ends is handed over to the clients/stakeholders at the closure phase.
- Conducting Post-Implementation Reviews
Soon after the closure phase, a final evaluation of the project provides meaningful insights into the entire process. These reviews will provide lessons learned for upcoming projects.
- Accounting for Used and Unused Budget
In the final phase of the project, specific resources and budget which are untouched may be redeployed for further projects. It helps to reduce resource wastage and costs as well.
Regrettably, this phase is often underestimated by many companies. The only thing that matters here is whether the project is a success or not, and many project managers deliver to the client, without further evaluation. However, it is pertinent to note that it is not enough to merely complete a project; it is more important to execute it in the way initially envisioned.
At times, handling a project despite its convoluted nature can be overwhelming. The solution is to break it down into five pieces and focus sharply on each component.
All the stages of project management do not take place in a step-wise manner explained above. They often overlap. The graph below depicts the same.
After the successful accomplishment of the project, there may be a few unexploited project resources, including the remnant budget, which can be used by the project later. These are recorded as surplus resources and budget to prevent wastage; this is the last of the project management steps before the conclusion of a project management life cycle.