The Project Management Life Cycle is typically broken down into four large phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, and Closure. Each phase has a number of tasks, large and small, that complete it. While the format of this article may make the Project Life Cycle look linear, it is actually a cyclical process that constantly rotates as more projects are fed into it. Think of this cycle as a constantly moving wheel that takes projects from Initiation to Closure. Each project can be fed into this gear to help businesses drive innovation and create a larger market share for its new products. Here are the four phases in detail:
- Initiation. This phase begins with a Business Case. A Business Case is the justification of a new project. It identifies a business problem and its solution. It argues for a particular direction a new project should go to solve the business problem and make the business more money. The next part of Initiation is to draw up a Feasibility Study. This documents all potential solutions to a business problem. The next steps are to develop a clear structure for the project with the Project Charter, appoint a Project Team, and set up the Project Office—the best place to work on the project. Once your project is clear on its objectives and personnel, perform a Phase Review.
- Planning. This extensive phase is all-important because it sets the groundwork for the whole project. This phase requires workers to create a Project Plan, an overview of the project and all the tasks that must be completed. The next plan is the Resource Plan, a list of the raw materials and funding the project needs to be successful. This is closely tied to the Finance Plan, which describes all the expenditures required to complete the project. Next is the Quality Plan, which schedules all of the tasks and provides quality standards that need to be met. The Risk Plan assesses all of the potential pitfalls of the project, the Acceptance Plan describes how you plan to achieve customer acceptance, the Communications Plan is designed to keep everyone on the same page, and finally the Procurement Plan describes which suppliers need to be contracted to complete the project.
- Execution. Now that all of the extensive planning is done, it’s time to execute. This is the phase in which the deliverables are built, each one an add-on to the original design. As the work progresses, the leaders must manage the project. Time Management, Cost Management, Quality Management, Change Management—meant to control change effectively, Risk Management, Issue Management as issues between workers come up during this intense phase, Procurement Management as the needs of the project change, Acceptance Management, and Communication Management are all aspects of this phase. Essentially, this phase is where the leaders of the project ensure that all contingencies are taken into account.
- Closure. When the project work is nearly done, the project leaders produce a Project Closure Report, which describes how they intend to close the project. It confirms that the objectives of the project have been met, and the deliverables are in the customers’ hands. Each project manager completes a Project Closure Report. The project managers then draft a Post Project Review, which determines if the goals of the project were met, and what lessons for future projects can be gleaned from the success or failure of various aspects of the project. This document is the key to ensuring that the same mistakes aren’t made again in future projects, and that the aspects that worked well are repeated when the project life cycle begins again.