The Project Life Cycle
Project planning will not be possible if there is no project life cycle to speak of. This refers to the series of activities that must be performed or accomplished in order to achieve the project goals. Granted, projects differ in size, focus and complexity. Still, they all follow the same life cycle.
The project life cycle includes five phases. This is also often referred to as traditional project management which has five major process steps.
This involves the determination of the nature and scope of the project. In order to do that, there is a need to look into the business environment and understand how it works. Some of the key activities in this stage are:
- Analysis of business requirements
- Evaluation of historical and current data on the business’ operations, including financial reports and budgets
- Identification of stakeholders and analysis of their roles and impact
- Identification of the stakeholder needs
- Identification of project objectives
It is during this phase that feasibility studies are often conducted. These are excellent tools in figuring out possible options that can address the issues at hand and help achieve the project objective.
It is also often during this phase that the project manager is chosen and installed, as well as the members of the project team and the other participating work groups.
We move on to the more detailed phase of the project. A project plan or a flowchart is prepared to plan the timing, schedule, costs and allocation of resources to perform the activities in the project. This involves taking into account the cost of associated risks during implementation of the activities of the project. It is also during this stage that the project team will gain the final approval to proceed with the project. Activities performed in the planning stage include:
- Putting the planning team together
- Identifying the deliverables of the project, including quality targets and control measures (these may be your baseline)
- Identifying the activities that must be performed
- Developing a work breakdown structure and mapping their interconnections
- Obtaining cost estimates for materials, equipment, labor, and other costs
- Preparation of project budget
- Developing a schedule for carrying out the activities in the work breakdown
- Identification of potential threats, problems or risks and formulation of appropriate responses should these threats, problems or risks crop up in the course of the project implementation
There is no fixed number of activities to be performed in a project. Some projects may have only a handful of tasks, while other projects consist of a long list of activities. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you keep your eye on the objective.
3. Executing or Implementing
This is the implementation phase, where the key activities of the project are performed or executed in order to obtain the project deliverables previously identified. In other words, the project plan is now set into motion.
Here, the following activities are undertaken:
- Allocation of resources to the appropriate activities or project phases
- Coordination with key stakeholders
- Carrying out the tasks listed in the plan
- Reporting the project progress in regular meetings
4. Monitoring and Controlling
Every step of the project, there is a need to track its progress. This is helpful, so problems can be identified and addressed in order to minimize risks. Feedback plays a major role in this stage. There may be variances from the baseline or target previously set. If they cannot be corrected to bring things back to the original plan, they should be documented as variances.
This phase calls for:
- Measurement of activities as they take place
- Keeping an eye on the project variables and continuously comparing them with the plan
- Taking the appropriate actions to correct problems and address issues
- Regular reporting to stakeholders
- Documentation of progress and updating of the plan, if any
- Review of project deliverables in accordance with the baseline or targets
5. Closing or Completion
At this stage, the project is formally declared to be completed. This will only take place when the stakeholders have accepted and were satisfied with the final output or deliverable.
- Releasing or delivering the final deliverables
- Documentation and archiving of the project files and other pertinent documents used and generated throughout the project
- Conduct of post-implementation review, where lessons learned are talked about, in view of being applied in future, upcoming projects
There is also a need to formally communicate the closure of the project to all the stakeholders.
The Project Manager
In every project, there are several players at work, and the lead character is the Project Manager. You may have assembled a team of highly talented and skilled individuals, with specialized skills needed to get the project done. But you will still need a focal point – that one person who will manage the whole project, all aspects of it, from start to finish.
The Project Manager is the one handed the overall responsibility for the different processes involved in project management, from initiation to the closing of the project. He is the one who is responsible for achieving the objectives of the project.
Listed below are the key functions or responsibilities expected of a project manager:
- Creating effective project plans and project management plans
- Setting project objectives
- Identifying the requirements or needs of the project
- Overseeing all aspects of the project, including cost and time
- Creating reports about the status of the project, and corresponding metrics
- Communicating with top management or program managers about the project progress
- Liaising with other departments and projects within the organization
- Coordinating with external parties and other outside stakeholders