What is Project Life Cycle and What Are its Phases

What is Project Life Cycle and its PhasesWhat do you think of leadership and management? 

As project managers and even as team members of a project, we all know that leadership and management is a field on its own, even referred to as a scientific field. 

Now wouldn’t it be correct to say that every project manager and every member of a team working on a particular project have the same goal, and that's to carry out their tasks successfully and deliver expected results? But while many people think they are fit to be leaders of large groups, there are things they need to be educated about first if they intend to be successful managers.

It takes more than an authoritative and charismatic person to lead a large project successfully, and there are many things you need to be educated about in order to become a great project manager. 

With this being said, we will be covering one of the important fields of management. You've probably heard about the project life cycle, and here we'll be taking a closer look at this topic. 

What is Project Life Cycle

The project life cycle, also known as project management life cycle, refers to all the phases and the list of actions necessary to successfully fulfill all of the project's goals and demands.

The principal we're talking about here refers to projects of all sizes, and it's a series of actions that should be defined if you want to approach your work as a professional. 

Right from smaller investments to multi-million dollar projects, it requires specific and strict plans that everyone in the team should stick to. 

How important it is to see the Project Life Cycle with respect to financial records. It is estimated that for every $1 billion invested in projects in the US, $122 million was wasted due to poor project performance. This is exactly why you need to define everything in the first place if you're thinking about accomplishing the goals you’ve in mind. 

Now, talks of the project life cycle are not that simple and require more in-depth research and definitions. If you've read articles or literature about management science, there's a high chance you came across topics referring to project life cycle models and project life cycle phases. It can all roughly be presented with a project life cycle diagram that you can find below (we'll get into all the details in a second).

Further down this guide, we'll see how to tackle these particular topics and explain each of the phases and steps. Bear in mind that these principles are applied to any project of any professional field today. 

What Are the Project Life Cycle Phases

As you can see in the graph shown above, every project has its roughly defined phases. As a project manager, it's up to you to decide when each of the phases gets initiated and what actions should be taken in every given moment. 

You can clearly see that there are four defined phases in every project – initiation phase, planning phase, implementation (or execution) phase, and closing phase. Let's cover one by one and see what they're all about. 

Project Life Cycle Phases

Initiation Phase

In the initiation phase, all the basic goals and rules are set. As a team, you're supposed to be aware of the need for such a project in the first place. This need can either be product, service, or a certain problem you need to tackle. 

In the initiation phase, you'll be coming up with different ways to fulfill these needs and to set out rules on how to solve all the potential problems in meeting the desired goals. 

So it will be up to you as the leader of the project to "sell" these ideas by presenting them to your superiors or investors. This requires thorough research and studies, identifying scope, and developing a business case. 

Steps you need to take during the project initiation phase:

  • Undertaking a feasibility study: Zero in on the primary problem and check out whether your project can solve it or not.
  • Identifying scope: Determine project’s depth and breadth
  • Identifying deliverables: Define what project deliverables you need to deliver 
  • Identifying project stakeholders: Identify stakeholders concerned about project progress
  • Developing a business case: Develop a business case to compare potential costs and benefits if you move forward with the project
  • Developing a statement of work: Jot down the project’s objectives, deliverables, and scope that you need to accomplish during the development process 

Planning Phase

When the whole project-related picture is clear to you, moving forward gets instrumental. During this phase of the project management life cycle, you dissect project into smaller and smaller tasks until you know what each member of the team will be responsible for and when they'll need to meet their deadlines. You'll also need to define the right structure and hierarchy.

Steps you need to take during the project planning phase:

  • Create a project plan: When the project is approved and initiated, it's time for the next phase, which involves all the planning. Here's where you're defining all the steps and operations to your project executives. 
  • Create workflow diagrams: A well-defined workflow diagram is extremely important, as every team member fully understands their role in this phase, and you should also help them if they have any questions about it. 
  • Estimate budget to create a financial plan: This is where you'll need to sort out the budget and define all the potential costs. You must have a clear idea about your funds to create an appropriate financial plan. 
  • Gathering resources: To make your project development journey awesome, you must bring indispensable resources at your disposal so that each team member can complete their tasks swiftly and aptly.
  • Anticipate risks to wipe-out quality roadblocks: Strive to find out potential issues in your project to mitigate them for timely deliverables.
  • Conduct a kickoff meeting: Have a kickoff meeting with your team members and discuss all the rules, explain prioritized tasks, and assign job responsibilities in the most suitable manner.

Execution Phase

And here comes the juicy part – the execution. This is the longest and most important phase where all the work will be done. In addition, you need to keep in mind that everything before it must be defined in an appropriate manner. It is significant as you wouldn't like to deal with unnecessary and tiring meetings when there is too much work to do. 

What’s more, it will prevent confusion and chaos, which generally leads to the project's demise. 

Furthermore, check up on the current work progress to learn whether you are on the right track or not. 

You should also be there to notice that if anybody in your team is having a hard time while fulfilling their tasks and also analyze whether you have distributed resources aptly or not.

In the execution phase, you should organize the workflow, create tasks that come along the way, and give a brief to your team regarding the changes that might occur. 

All these tasks and responsibilities should always be done within the budget. Things will definitely happen along the way, and you'll be there to notice any potential problems before they get out of hand and jeopardize the entire project and its goals. There'll be a lot of tracking involved here, so you'll definitely want to have a reliable project management software at your disposal, like ProProfs.

Steps you need to take during the project execution phase:

  • Create subtasks to maintain the workflow: Breakdown complex tasks into small segments for uninterrupted workflow. 
  • Delegate tasks: There will be times when high-priority tasks want your undivided attention, so delegate them to the right project executives for proper handling.
  • Communicate to maintain transparency: Talk with your team members, clients, and higher-ups to give regular updates for crystal-clear transparency.
  • Run quality control process: Maintaining quality throughout the project development process is extremely important, so run the quality control process periodically to keep things in check.
  • Manage budget: Keep a close eye on your expenses to stay away from the consequences of budget overrun.

Closing Phase

Once you've completed all the desired tasks, attained goals, and resolved problems that occurred during the project development, it’s time for you to draw the line, sum things up, and determine the success rate of your big project. 

Some may think that the job here is done for good, but there are certain tasks to be done after the execution phase. 

Steps you need to take during the project closure phase:

  • Analyzing project performance: Analyze how well each task is done as your project's performance will determine the longevity of client relationships.
  • Evaluate team performance: Scrutinize how well your project team has performed by checking out met goals, quality of work, and timeliness.
  • Document everything you’ve learned: Make a  report that possesses all details about steps and tasks involved during the life cycle of the project. 
  • Allocate remaining resources: Finalize financial reports by taking all additional expenses into consideration. In case any resources are left, allocate them for the completion of future projects. 

Only after the closing phase, you can celebrate and relax. And don’t be careless during the closing phase, as the experience you’ve got during the project development is most likely to come handy in the future. 

Conclusion

Like we already said, knowing all the phases of the project life cycle is essential to become a successful manager and leader. Regardless of the field you're working in; rules stay the same.

If you're an inexperienced project manager, there's a lot of hard work, studying, and research ahead of you. But aside from getting pertinent information via online and offline mediums, it's also a great idea to speak with experienced colleagues about their work and how they deal with the challenges that came during their initial stage.


FAQ

Let’s answer some of the most popular questions regarding this topic now.

Q. What is the traditional project life cycle?

The traditional project life cycle refers to the life cycle we described above. It's a series of events occurring in every project. Peruse a set of rules defining all the phases of a project of any type. The project life cycle is divided into four project life cycle phases – initiation, planning, execution, and closure. 

Q. What are the key elements of project management?

Elements of project management include a variety of topics and disciplines. The key elements are planning, requirements, scope, costs, time, resources, communication, logistics, quality, procurement, integration, risk, change control, ethics, and governance. 

Q. What is the most important phase of the project management life cycle?

Each phase of a project life cycle should be respected with equal care. It's like a chain of events where the next one can't occur if the previous one wasn't done successfully and in time. However, some would argue that the execution is the most important one - since all of the actual work and most of the resources are spent during this phase. 

 

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About the author

David is a Project Management expert. He has been published in Jeffbullas.com, Hr.com, and eLearningIndustry. As a project planning and execution expert at ProProfs, he has offered a unique outlook on improving workflows and team efficiency.

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