Understanding the main phases of a project’s lifecycle can help you navigate any project with greater confidence, organization, and ease. You can use these phases as a guide to keep you and your team on track from start to finish, regardless of the project you are leading.
So, what are the phases of the project lifecycle? We cover them below to help you tackle complex projects effectively.
Project Lifecycle Phases
Phase #1: Conceptualization
Conceptualization, or initiation, is the first phase of the project lifecycle. Here you determine if the ultimate goal of a project can be achieved. And you work on getting approval from stakeholders.
In this phase, start by focusing on the problem that needs to be solved and how to solve it. Find out if you have the proper resources to do the work necessary to solve the problem. Once you know the project can be pursued, there are tools you can use to move forward. Some examples include a project initiation document (PID), a statement of work, a business contract, or a business case. In the world of PMI, these documents are part of the Project Charter. Signed by the project sponsor, the Project Charter is the document use to formally start the project.
Here are some of the main steps taken during this phase of the project lifecycle:
- Meet with your clients to learn about their objectives and expectations. Ask a lot of questions and go over all the necessary details to be sure you really understand what’s required of you.
- Put a business case together so you can recommend solutions.
- Conduct a feasibility study. Figure out if you can, and should, do the project. Determine which solution is best.
- Write your project scope and statement of work.
Phase #2: Planning
The planning phase of the project lifecycle is when you set the goals and define the deliverables. You also take the time to figure out the what responsibilities your team will need to fulfill. It is during the project planning phase that you identify what the completed project will look like. Often this is called the project product.
Essentially, you identify what must be done, including the steps to take and their deadlines. It also includes the resources that will be used along the way. For example, you can set S.M.A.R.T. goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Or, you can set C.L.E.A.R. goals, which are collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, and refinable.
This phase, focused on the project’s purpose, also includes risk management. You set a schedule and performance measures. Then you estimate costs and set a budget. You also assign tasks, and sort out all of the requirements that need to be met.
Various documents are put together during this phase, such as:
- Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS)
- Communication Plan
- Gantt Chart
- The Risk Management Plan
- Network Diagrams
- And others.
Phase #3: Execution
After the plans are complete, it’s time to set them in motion in the execution, or implementation phase of the project lifecycle. Along the way, you’ll measure your team’s success. Make big changes or minor modifications where necessary. This will help you stay on track towards achieving the goals you set. PMI breaks this phase into two knowledge areas, “Execution” and “Monitoring and Controlling”. Here you separate the tasks of doing the work to complete the project and make sure the project is progressing according to the project plan.
During this phase, ensure all deadlines are being met, resources are being used appropriately, and that your team is working within budget. It’s also wise to hold meetings regularly. This way you and your team can check-in. You can report on progress and performance while managing and resolving any problems that arise.
Your deliverables are developed and completed as you move through the execution phase. During this phase, carefully monitor progress and quality to make adjustments as needed. After all, things don’t always go according to plan.
Phase #4: Termination
You’ve finally reached the final phase of the project lifecycle! Also known as the completion phase or project closure, this one is all about delivering everything your team accomplished.
You do things like end contracts with suppliers and submit deliverables to clients. Let your stakeholders know that the project is finished. At this stage, you release resources and allow tools and team members to be reassigned to other tasks.
Take this time to evaluate the overall project to see what worked and where your team needed to refine the original plan. It’s a great idea to hold what’s known as a post-mortem meeting to share this information with your team. Look at project performance (were the goals of the project met?), and your team’s performance (how well did they meet their goals?). This step can really help you work much more effectively in the future.
Ultimately, be sure your project is complete and ready to release during this phase. Create a final report, and then get ready to move on to your next project.
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Project Management Professional (PMP)®, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®, and PMI® are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.