What is project life cycle in project management? The project life cycle and the project management life cycle is an integral part of project management. A project has a life cycle quite similar to that of a human being. For this reason, a project’s life cycle and a project management must be treated accordingly with regards to the stage or phase the project finds itself. Either way, the objective of each project is the same; reach the project’s end-goal successfully.
Every project is born, develops and eventually dies like that of our own life cycle. In this article, you will learn about the project life cycle definition, the project life cycle stages and the project management life cycle.
What is Project Life Cycle?
The project life cycle refers to the certain activities that need to be carried out in order to complete a project and reach project objectives and goals. Projects differ widely across scale and complexity, but no matter how different a project, its life cycle can generally be explained in four stages.
Most project managers follow the four project life cycle stages and make decisions based majorly on the phase they’re in. The life cycle acts as a framework for managing any type of project. It describes the standard process that every project goes through in order to reach success and is critical to understand for every team and/or organisation.
According to the Project Management Institute, the project life cycle is an essential part of delivering success t a project. What are the stages of project life cycle models?
Phase 1 – The Conceptualization Phase: This is sometimes called the ‘Initiation phase’ and basically describes the project’s beginning or ‘conception’. A need for the project must be recognised for a project to be born. A common question to ask at this stage would be ‘Will the development of a project solve that problem?’, for example.
Phase 2 – The Planning Phase: Once the need for a project is recognised and essentially the project is born, a team and its project manager can move onto actually planning out the project. This includes the outlining of goals and objectives, the vision, adequate schedule etc. of project. In this stage resource availability is also determined. A common question to be asked when at this stage is ‘Are there measurable objectives or success criteria?’, for example.
Phase 3 – The Execution Phase: At this stage of a project’s life cycle, the actual work of the project is performed. All efforts are drawn towards reaching the project’s goals. During this phase performance is constantly measured to help ensure that the project reaches a successful closure, which is the project life cycle’s final stage. Throughout the various stages of project life cycle execution Sinnaps, the project management planning app, includes continuous evaluation and resource tracking tools.
Phase 4 – The Closure Phase: This phase describes the project’s end. It is hoped that every project closes with a successful result. It usually comes with the disbandment of the project team and resources being release to parent organisations, if any. A common question to ask during this phase is ‘Are the project’s completion criteria met?’, for example.
Project Management Life Cycle
There is a slight difference noted between the project life cycle definition and that of a project management’s life cycle. This difference is defined by an extra step in the project management life cycle. This is because it refers to the development and certain steps that must be followed throughout the management of a project, whereas the project life cycle describes the project’s development itself.
Project Management Cycle Phases
According to PMI, “project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project.” Five phases are followed by project managers, similar to that of the phases of a project when setting out to accomplish the goal of any project. The project life cycle phases in project management are the following:
- Conception and Initiation:
As described the project’s life cycle, the initiation phase or conception phase is when the project is born. The need for a project is recognised. The project is defined at a broad level and it is decided if a project would be feasible and can be undertaken. Feasibility testing can be carried out in order to determine the project’s feasibility or lack thereof.
Stakeholders can play a part in this phase as well in deciding whether to give a potential project the ‘go ahead’. If all works out in favour of the project being pursued, a project manager would have to develop a document called a Project Initiation Document (PID). This document outlines the purpose and requirements of the project and essentially is its birth certificate.
- Definition and Planning:
Within project phases and the project life cycle, this phase is key to successful project management and focuses on developing a roadmap that everyone will follow. This phase typically begins with setting goals. Two of the more popular methods for setting goals are S.M.A.R.T. and CLEAR which will be explained in detail later.
During this phase, the cost, quality, resources and timetable are defined and a project plan is developed. Performance measures are also established and defined and are essential to the project in terms of keeping it on track. These measures are easily found and used with Sinnaps project management tool and help teams and project managers to make sure that the project is sticking to the designed plan.
With Sinnaps, projects can be efficiently and effectively managed using an updated version of a Gantt chart: the Gantt-flow. The visual timeline that allows clearly defines the project’s critical path will serve project teams as an effective method to plan projects before their execution. Team members roles and responsibilities are defined and documents easily shared and stored in this cloud based app.
In the execution phase, the deliverables of the project are developed and completed. A lot tends to happen at this time such as status reports, meetings, updates, performance reports etc. A ‘kick-off’ meeting is usually held at the beginning of this phase and marks the start of project execution.
The team is developed, resources are assigned finally, plans are executed, tracking systems are put to work and referred to, modifications are made and teams members begin to carry out their responsibilities. A cloud-based project management software such as Sinnaps allows for increased efficiency in this loaded phase as task status can be updated in real-time allowing for the correct tracking of project progress.
- Performance and Control:
This phase is the key differentiator between the project life cycle and the project management life cycle. It occurs simultaneously with the execution phase. Project progress is measured as well as performance to ensure that everything is aligned with the project management plan. KPI’s or Key Performance Indicators are used by project managers in Sinnaps to help determine whether the project is on track or not. Typically, two to five KPI’s are picked to tracked the project.
Another measuring tool included in Sinnaps is a resource tracker which helps to determine the use and allocation of resources and highlights any potential modifications that should be made to PMs before they begin to cause a real threat. This is generally known as effort and cost tracking to see if the budget is on track. Based on current performance, it will inform project teams if a project will meet its completion date.
The identification of bottlenecks in a project is Sinnaps’ way of managing the risk of each project and allowing PMs time to modify certain aspects of a project before any real harm is done. Test-mode allows for the efficient addition of any changes or modification needed and helps the project along its way of reaching its objectives.
- Project Close:
The project is completed fully in this phase. Team members are recognised for their efforts and any outsourced services are terminated. It is common for work events to be organised to celebrate a successful project’s completion as a form of recognition. A ‘post-mortem’ meeting is often held to evaluate the project as a whole and to gain and give any feedback. It is useful to look back on the project and to identify any failures or particular successes to learn from them for future project and to increase a team’s effectiveness.
At the end of a project, PMs typically are required to create documents such as a punch list, which identifies any tasks that were not completed, a final project budget and a final project report. It is advisable that all project documents and deliverables are collected and stored in one place something for which Sinnaps cloud-based software is extremely useful. Different project life cycle models include different names for each of these phases, but essentially they are all referring to the same idea.
Project Planning Phases
From all the project life cycle stages, project planning is arguably one of the most important phases. The planning phase is tightly linked to project design, which, in turn, essentially determines the success or failure of a project. Project plans and their defined goals must be S.M.A.R.T and C.L.E.A.R.
The S.M.A.R.T method describes the criteria for goals. It provides a clear understanding for teams and project managers of what goals should encompass in themselves and states that goals should be:
Specific: Each goal to a project should clearly and individually answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why and how? Goals should not be general and should have an evidently defined purpose.
Measurable: Through the creation of criteria, the success or failure of each goal can be measured.
Attainable: Before setting out to complete a goal, teams and project managers should identify what it will take to achieve them and if they are possible.
Realistic: Goals should be realistic in the sense that your team will want to work towards reaching them and capable of doing so.
Timely: Every goal should have a timeframe within which it should be achieved, otherwise it could simply be pushed aside and forgotten about. Sinnaps project planning tool allows for the clear identification of each activity and goal’s timeframe that is clearly visible on the scheduler.
C.L.E.A.R. Goals describes a more contemporary method that takes into consideration our fast-paced and constantly changing business environment. It states that goals should be:
Collaborative: Goals should encourage team members to work together and utilising their shared expertise and abilities to support each other in completing goals to their full potential.
Limited: The goals should be limited in scope and time in order to keep the manageable and from getting out of control.
Emotional: Goals should evoke a passion from team members. The should serve as something with which they can form an emotional connection and in turn, increase motivation which will optimise the quality of work.
Appreciable: Larger goals or activities can and should be broken up into smaller. More attainable tasks which can be achieved in a less complex and quicker manner.
Refinable: Goals should be adaptable to our constantly changing environment. New situations constantly arise and may call for the modification of goals, for which these should be ready. Sinnaps understand this likely phenomenon and has created Test-mode which allows PMs to try out and check certain changes to see their overall effect before permanently implementing them. This reduces error and greatly increases project flexibility.
Performance measures or baselines should also be established and defined in the project planning phase. These are essential to every project regarding its keeping it on track. Sinnaps allows project managers and team members to easily access these performance measure in the app, which are updated automatically so that PMs can track project progress in real-time. Understanding the different stages of a life cycle will allow PMs to identify the stage they are in and act in accordance and measure performance in accordance also.
Project Management Steps
When managing a project, there are several steps that are advisable to take along the route of the project life cycle. Project managers should take the following steps when preparing to and carrying out a project:
Step 1: Explain the project plan to key stakeholders and discuss its key components. This is a step that involves the presentation of the project plan, which then can be modified as needed to achieve the goal of the project in the most efficient way possible. The project timeline is also shown and discussed. Stakeholders and those who are affected by the project and the project’s end result must be shown the project plan before beginning the execution of the project itself. Stakeholders can generally be kept involved throughout the various project phases and project life cycle in general.
Step 2: Define roles and responsibilities. A project is comprised of numerous activities and follows a critical path along the way to its completion. Each task or activity should be clearly assigned to an individual or a group of people. Sinnaps allows project managers to assign people to each task and within each task describe what needs to be done and the responsibilities of the team member/s. Furthermore, live chat allows for team members to resolve any doubts or issues about any task which increases the project’s overall efficiency.
Project sponsors, business experts, auditors, risk analysts, team members, end users, managers and anyone else tied with the project and its end result should review and approve it.
Step 3: Hold a ‘kick-off’ meeting. As mentioned before, this meeting signifies the beginning of the project execution phase. It is an effective way to bring everyone together and make sure that everyone is on the same page one last time before project execution begins. Trust is built between team members and motivation instilled.
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Step 4: Develop a Scope Statement. A scope statement is an important document to a project plan. Essentially, it is a foundation to a project. Typically, it describes the project as a whole and gains agreement among stakeholders about the scope. The outcome of the project is defined as is the initial business problem, the benefits of completing the project, key milestones etc. Effectively it can be treated like a contract between a PM and a sponsor if one exists.
Step 5: Develop scope baseline. This effectively describes all the deliverables of a project and their decomposition. The work breakdown structure (WBS) will identify all work to be done and breaks down large deliverables.
Step 6: Develop the schedule and cost baselines. In this step, activities and tasks are identified, the resources for each task are identified, task timeframe estimation and cost estimation are carried out, resource constraints and potential bottlenecks are identified and task dependencies are identified and a critical path is developed, clearly visible on the Sinnaps app.
Step 7: Analyse project quality and risks. Project quality and risks are measured by several metrics that Sinnaps includes in its app. Quality is a management responsibility and must be performed throughout the project. A quality plan with standards and acceptance criteria is essential to gain a quality outcome. Risk management is also an important factor. Sinnaps helps you to identify your project risk and potential bottlenecks so that you can treat them before they cause any serious damage.
Step 9: Communicate! One of the most essential aspects to project management is communication. You cannot expect team members to know certain things without these things being clearly communicated to them. Clearly establish a line of report stating who reports to who, how often and in what format.
Sinnaps allows for eased communication that can be accessed in real time in each individual task. Furthermore, a project wall, like that of your Social Media, updates team members with any and every change or completion within the project. One important aspect of the project plan is the Communications Plan. No matter which of the project life cycle models you follow, always remember to communicate! For those who need help understanding the project life cycle, an agile project life cycle diagram can be drawn up and used as a visualisation of a project’s life path.
Overall it is clear that projects are quite similar to us humans in how the develop and evolve. This comparison allows us to fully understand the complexity of a project and that it must be treated differently in every individual stage of its own life cycle. The importance of project life cycle in project management cannot be ignored. The certain steps involved in project management, the clearly defined goals needed and communication are key throughout the phases of a project life cycle. Sinnaps is an online project management tool that will effectively and efficiently manage your project throughout its life cycle.
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