The project management lifecycle comes in five stages. Planning and delivering a project can initially seem overwhelming, but a veteran project manager knows the best approach to working on a project is to break tasks down into five stages and complete them in logical order.
1. Project initiation stage
The project management lifecycle begins with the first stage, project initiation.
This is the point at which you’ll consider the proposed project’s business value, and determine how feasible it will be to complete.
It’s vital to measure the project’s feasibility and value in this initial phase in order for your final decisions to carry as much meaningful weight as possible.
A project manager might need to recommend that the team amends, scales down or shelves a project that has been proven to be non-viable. That might be due to its delivery or profitability. It’s a tough decision to make, but one that’s best made before time, money and resource has gone into it.
Evaluation tools for project initiation:
Business case document – this is documentation that lays out the need and value of the project. It will include estimates of any financial benefits the project can bring to the business.
Feasibility study – this is a study to evaluate a project’s goals, proposed budget and timeline. As a project manager, you can decide if a project should go ahead based on the results of this study. Your feasibility study will see how effectively any project requirements balance against the resources you have to hand.
If a proposed project passes initial examination and studies, it’s ready to go to the next stage – project planning.
2. Project planning stage
Has the proposed project passed the project initiation phase? Fantastic – you’re ready to move onto project planning.
What is project planning? It’s the process of writing a project plan that steers the team, keeping the project in line with deadlines and budget.
What are the requirements for a solid project plan?
- It offers guidance for acquiring budget, resources and materials
- It provides direction for delivering a high-quality result
- It gives guidance on handling any risks involved in the project and prepares the delivery team for potential challenges ahead
- It outlines benefits to e.g. suppliers and stakeholders in a realistic and persuasive manner
- It creates an overview of a project’s scope, timeline and cost.
3. Project execution stage
The third phase of the cycle, project execution, is where you’re really going to come into your own as a project manager.
The project has been given the green light and it has been planned to within an inch of its life – now it’s time to begin the delivery process. As you’re the project manager, people are going to look to you as their guiding light.
The smooth executive of a project really depends on the depth and efficacy of the planning stage. Your well-written project plan will ensure that the team know exactly what to expect and prepare for, and they will fully understand their goals, deadlines, costs and delivery requirements.
During the project execution phase, your role as project manager is to get the ball rolling and keep your team active in handling their assigned tasks. Your role will be to keep folks focused, allocating resources as required.
This leads us onto the fourth stage of the project management cycle, which is often consecutive with the execution stage. Now that the project is underway, it’s time to keep things on track with project monitoring and control.
4. Project monitoring and control stage
As a project manager you’ll know that it’s vital to monitor the progress of a project once it’s underway in order to guarantee delivery to a satisfactory level. No-one is enamoured of scope creep.
Keep the following activities in mind as you monitor the team’s progress:
- Monitor tasks
- Calculate key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Track any deviations from the timeline or costs laid out in the project planning stage
5. Project closure
When can you say that a project is closed? When the team delivers the final product/service to the customer and communicates the project’s completion to any stakeholders.
It is generally expected that a project is truly closed when customers and stakeholders express satisfaction with the final results.
If improvements or changes need to be made to the ‘final’ result, the team will still have its time and resources tied up in delivering a final, product or service that satisfies.
Once this has been achieved, and business resources can allocate resources to other projects, project closure is complete.
Project completion – what happens next?
Once you and your team have achieved project closure, it’s the ideal time to evaluate the project. Did it hit proposed costs and deadlines? Did it bring sufficient value to customers, stakeholders and the business? What went well in the project management and delivery process, and what could be improved?
Once you are familiar with the 5 stages of project management, you can make smart use of your time to manage even the most complex of projects.