Project Life Cycle: Definition, Importance and 5 Phases
Last updated on March 25th, 2022
Whenever a project starts, it passes from various stages and processes until it gets completed. There are many stakeholders of a project in the arena of the business world. The project manager tries to incorporate all of the relevant and beneficial suggestions, steps, and methodologies to get the desired results. But how can the project be completed in a way as desired by its stakeholders? Is there a systematic method through which a project manager can accomplish his project’s milestones more effectively? The answer is the Project Life Cycle. A project’s life cycle is a process in which a project manager visualizes the whole project in the form of actionable steps and phases to achieve the desired results in a defined time period. What is its importance for businesses? What are some stages of the project life cycle? This article covers all the aspects that you need to know about the project life cycle.
What is the project life cycle?
The project life cycle is considered as a set of steps that are necessary to be followed by a project manager in order to manage and ultimately complete a project. It allows a project manager to further divide the processes and milestones of a project into smaller tasks so that their completion and management becomes easy. Having a sound knowledge of the project lifecycle may prove to be significant for business owners and project managers as it allows them to carefully plan, execute and complete their business projects in an efficient and timely manner.
What is the significance of the project life cycle?
There are some well-known stats that say 70% of the projects that are initiated and worked on by different global organizations fail ultimately, and 17% of IT projects go so badly, they threaten the existence of the company (source). There may be many reasons behind this shocking fact like inaccurate project inputs, ineffective project stakeholders and shifting project dynamics with improper planning, etc. To counter this unfortunate issue of project failure, the process of the project life cycle can greatly help the project managers and business owners.
The project life cycle helps in maintaining the momentum of the project by defining the exact and as the same place thorough steps that need to be followed throughout the project’s journey. It defines a proper strategy that can be followed by different teams linked with the project in order to facilitate a project manager. It helps in planning the outcomes of a project and further categorizes those outcomes for their effective accomplishment. It also plays a decisive role in the ultimate project management and completion. The project life cycle is further broken down into five stages which are given as follows.
Five stages of project life cycle
Just like any other business mechanism, the project life cycle is further divided into five phases/stages that are the stepping stones for achieving any project’s ultimate results. The phases of a project life cycle are sometimes known as project management phases.
1. Project initiation phase
In the beginning, you need to question yourself about why you are going to initiate a specific project. In this way, you will have a clear idea of what type of problems will be solved and what will be the core objective of your project. Different teams may brainstorm together to discuss what potential problems can be solved after the completion of the project. For example, a business owner is running an online store and he is not getting enough sales there. Now, at this stage, the project team will analyze different factors related to that problem and think of some ideas to tackle the concerning issue. At this stage, both the relevant business teams and project’ stakeholders can conduct several meetings to further decide what needs to be done and whatnot. This stage must not be confused with the term “scope of work” as it is only the measure of required steps that may or may not be taken by a project manager in order to proceed with the project. So the following questions can be asked at this stage to better understand the purpose of this crucial phase of the project life cycle.
- What is the issue being faced by the client and how can you resolve it?
- What will be the possible milestones, budget, and required time period related to the project?
- Do you have enough capability to run and complete the project with your business resources?
After you get approval from the client’s side to further proceed with the project mechanism, you will enter into the 2nd stage of the project life cycle.
2. The planning phase
Being one of the most important phases of the project life cycle, planning plays an important role in proper project completion. At this stage, various aspects and parameters are decided like the project’s time period, its deliverables, the involved processes, and so forth. At this stage, a project manager picks up the relevant team members for a specific project. He assigns specific duties to certain members of the team according to their expertise and job descriptions. At this stage, the project’s deliverables are also defined along with the steps to achieve them. Every single detail is discussed and shared with the whole team to remove any ambiguities and uncertainties. In order to evaluate the project’s progress, the metrics are also defined along with the ultimate timeline that needs to be followed during the project’s journey.
You need to ask yourself the following question for better planning of your project.
- What are the different tasks that are involved in the project’s timeline?
- Have these tasks been allocated to different team members?
- Is the project plan clear and easy to digest for everyone? Do all team members resonate with the project’s deliverables, deadlines, and consecutive processes?
- Does your team understand the expectations related to the project?
You can further discuss your plan with your team members and incorporate their feedback on it to make sure the plan is more realistic and actionable.
3. The execution phase
The next stage is the project execution stage where you start working on already decided project milestones according to the set timelines. Now, you have a clear idea about who is responsible for every single task that is involved in the overall project. At this phase, you try to ensure that each task gets completed according to the planned strategy. Through task management, you can evaluate the performance of each and every team member involved in the project cycle. You make sure that each milestone gets accomplished according to desired expectations. You keep getting involved in all processes of the project so that no update and instruction gets missed by your execution team. At this stage, you can also leverage some special tools like Teamwork, Asana, Project BI, and Tableau to automatically track different processes and point out the loopholes during the project’s journey.
At this stage, you can effectively use these kinds of questions for your facilitation.
- Have all decided tasks been completed?
- Has the budget been the same as predicted?
- Were there any issues that were resolved before they became bottlenecks for the overall process?
Now you need to have a clear understanding of the project’s productivity and the decided budget and make a comparison between them. After doing so, you will be ready to enter into phase four of the project life cycle.
4. The control phase
No process gets effectively completed with proper control measures. As far as projects are concerned, a systematic evaluation and control of the various processes involved in the project’s journey are needed to achieve their objectives and end goals.
Project managers should be agile enough to track the resource utilization and task completion rates effectively. Proper measurements should be done in order to spend the resources according to the predefined budget of the project. For further clarification and transparency, you can share your project’s progress with your business’s stakeholders on a consistent basis. You can use a slide presentation to inform your clients and stakeholders about the progress of your project.
A slide presentation allows you to combine visual and textual data and information simultaneously so that you can communicate your ideas and results effectively. Using project management templates for PowerPoint or Google Slides can help project managers save a lot of valuable hours while preparing presentations and showing the steps of a project life cycle process. In no time, your very own professionally crafted PowerPoint slide presentation will be ready to mesmerize your audience.
At this stage, you can ask yourself the following questions.
- Is your team’s efficiency meeting the desired criteria?
- Is the budget in control?
- Are the project’s deliverables being monitored and accomplished on time?
After the proper controlling and evaluation phase, it’s time to officially deliver your project to the end stakeholder and complete the project.
5. The completion stage
As you have properly evaluated your project’s deliverables and accomplished your milestones, it is time to properly deliver your project and end the process. But the project completion stage is not all about delivering the project and getting paid for it. Being a project manager, while delivering the project to the final stakeholder, you need to ask for further feedback to improve the performance of your team members for future projects. Aspects like what impressed the client the most, what the team members missed, and which project areas need further improvement are very important for businesses.
You can ask yourself the following questions to better understand the purpose of this stage.
- Have you got feedback from your client about your project’s success?
- Has the feedback been delivered back to the relevant team members?
- Have you learned something innovative to further improve your project management practices?
In this way, the life cycle of a project gets properly completed.
Top Advantages of Using a Project Lifecycle
The project lifecycle involves many advantages for businesses that can not be ignored easily. Some of these lucrative advantages are given as follows.
1. You get a proper project delivery structure
One of the striking features of the project life cycle is that it provides a systematic roadmap for the project’s deliverables, milestones, timelines, and processes. Nothing is missed while planning and executing the project so that the desired outputs are achieved at every phase of the project’s cycle. You get a well-defined project delivery structure that allows you to achieve your set targets successfully.
2. Effective communication prevails among team members
The project life cycle allows you to properly allocate different tasks and responsibilities according to the qualifications and expertise of your team members. When everything gets cleared, all team members can communicate with each other effectively to collaborate and achieve the desired milestones of the project. The teamwork among the employees gets boosted and everyone performs to their fullest during the project’s progress.
3. Evaluation of the project’s progress gets facilitated
The proper evaluation of all project parameters and tasks is necessary to measure the productivity of your team members. You need to compare the set targets with the achieved milestones to visualize a clear picture of what has been accomplished so far. The project life cycle allows you to properly analyze your project’s progress and evaluate its success rate in real-time scenarios.
The project life cycle is the name of all steps that are involved in order to properly manage and complete a project.
A project manager should have the ability to properly plan, execute, control, and deliver the desired results related to a project. The project life cycle helps the businesses to properly accomplish all of their objectives and goals and satisfy their end stakeholders and clients.
The process starts with an initiation and planning stage where the real problem affecting the project’s stakeholders is located and a plan is developed to tackle this problem. After running through a proper execution and evaluation stage, the project gets ready to be delivered. The feedback of the client in response to the delivered project is very crucial to further improve the business mechanism and overall efficiency of team members involved in the project management.
One of the major purposes of the project life cycle is to streamline all the steps involved in a project mechanism and define actionable milestones with measurable steps to achieve the end results successfully.