What Are the 4 Phases of the Project Management Lifecycle?
The four stages of the project management lifecycle are initiation, planning, execution, and termination. The project management lifecycle is the predictable series of stages it takes to complete a project. This lifecycle acts as a high-level checklist for project managers, helping to detail which steps are necessary to successfully initiate, execute, and close a project.
Since each company and each project is different, the different steps in each stage of the project lifecycle vary based on scope and resources. However, the 4 stages remain the same. Some systems will break the execution stage into two separate stages—execution/launch and monitoring/controlling—creating five stages of the project lifecycle.
What is the Project Management Lifecycle? 4 Steps:
Project managers should view each stage of the project management lifecycle as a high-level marker in the project management process. Each stage in the cycle supports the next and the completion of all stages supports improved project fulfillment in the future.
Here are details regarding each stage’s importance and questions that project managers should ask before they move on.
The estimate stage of the project lifecycle is the stage where project scope is understood and defined. It includes defining the objective, vision, and goals of the project. This part of the project is often completed by someone besides the project manager, such as a salesperson or account manager. In this case, it can be helpful to make sure there is an effective method of project scope tracking and communication that connects this process with the other stages of the project lifecycle.
- What is the primary objective of the project?
- What are the project goals?
- Which KPIs will be used to measure project success?
- What is the vision for the project?
- What is the project description?
- What guidelines will need to be followed?
- What are the expected deliverables?
- What is the projected budget?
Determining project scope means creating a project that clients want and teams can deliver, informing success in each of the stages that follow.
The planning phase of the project lifecycle is the stage in which the details of who, what, and when regarding the project are detailed and planned. This is when resource management plays its biggest role. In order to plan successfully during this stage of the project management lifecycle, you need to determine which resources you need, in what quantities, and at what times.
- Who will be working on this project?
- What are each team members’ tasks?
- What resources will team members need to complete their tasks?
- What is the fiduciary budget?
- What is the labor budget (hours)?
- When will each team member start his or her role in this project?
- What is the anticipated profit margin?
- Are there any anticipated risks?
- Where and when will communication take place?
- Which suppliers will be used (if any)?
- How will progress be tracked?
- What milestones must be met and when?
- What is the timeline (deliverables, task completion, budget spend) for this project?
- Who is/are the main project lead(s) for this project?
- What project management process/software will be used to track progress?
Understanding the details of a project makes for better preparation, more effective management, and stronger margins.
The deliver phase is when the steps of the project are acted upon all the way through project completion. Some project managers break this stage into two separate stages: deliver phase and monitoring & controlling phase, making the project management lifecycle five stages instead of four. In the four-stage project lifecycle, the execution phase includes not only initiating tasks to complete the project, but also the process of checking in with team members, completing mid-project approval, and other points of contact that ensure the project timeline is on track.
- Initiate new hires or project agreements with contractors.
- Provide resources needed for each team member to complete his or her tasks.
- Complete interval check-ins to ensure timeline—labor, KPIs, budget—are on track with projected timeline.
- Make adjustments to timeline/resources as needed.
- Complete approvals as needed.
- Monitor any changes to project scope and adapt project contracts (if any) and timelines accordingly.
- Manage communication as agreed upon.
Effective actions taken during this phase means not only completing a project as agreed upon, but making critical adjustments for the greatest success possible.
4. Analyze and Optimize
The termination phase of the four-stage project management lifecycle is when the project is wrapped up and a postmortem analysis is completed. This helps close the project, move team members on to new projects (if applicable), analyze post-project performance, and file any parts of the project that may be used for future projects.
- Do team members have directives for what to do after the project is complete?
- Have all the deliverables been sent and approved?
- Are all the final invoices paid?
- Has communication been wrapped up?
- Are there any excess resources? If so, what will be done with them?
- Was the project completed on time and on budget?
- What was the final cost (financial, labor, etc.) for the project?
- What was the final profit margin for the project?
- What changes to bidding might be made in the future?
- What changes to project scope or management might be made in the future?
- Did team members feel they were sufficiently supported through the process?
- Did the project inform any unseen risks that might be applied to future projects?
- Are there any parts of the project—code, resource management templates, wireframes—that might be used for future projects? If so, where can they be archived and recorded for future use?
Taking note of the positives and negatives of each project gives tangible evidence for future improvements.
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