Four phases of project management life cycle
May 16, 2019

What Are The 4 Phases Of The Project Management Life Cycle?

By Brian McHale

In this day and age, everything we do at work requires thorough planning.

As a project manager (or someone who’s found themselves in that position), you know it takes some amount of focused effort to reach the ultimate goal: project completion.

However, if you’ve never received project management education, you may find that there is needless friction in some parts of your work. It may be team members who don’t like cooperating, or just the fact that monitoring your performance seems hard.

Fortunately, project management can be a lot easier. The first thing you have to understand is the project life cycle.


What Is a Project Management Life Cycle?

The project management life cycle describes the parts of a project: the beginning where we gather the necessary information to embark on the project journey, the middle where we complete tasks that move us towards the end, and the end itself.


How Does the Project Life Cycle Affect the Whole Project?

Just like any other part of a project, you have to manage the life cycle, as well.

One of the most important metrics is actually life cycle length. Understanding how long it takes for your team to finish a project can help you estimate quotes and understand your strengths (as well as weaknesses).

It’s all about making sure you’re not among the 57% of projects that fail due to communication breakdown.

It’s impossible to optimize if you can’t measure so by understanding your project life cycle, you are actually gaining insight about:

  • Your team
  • The stakeholders
  • Your productivity
  • Your tools.

When you view the project as a whole, it can seem overwhelming to monitor and analyze everything. This leads to a lot of data you could be using to improve and yet, because it’s buried under the pile that is the project itself, you can’t.

It’s similar to how you break down projects into tasks to make them more achievable.

You’re making it more manageable and as such, it’s much easier to understand what you’re doing right and what you could be doing even better. For example, if you monitor different project life cycle phases, you can see if there’s a problem in a particular phase.

Maybe you haven’t received enough information in the initiation phase, which led to having to backtrack at a later date. Or maybe you’re just using the wrong tools that aren’t giving you enough information.

While project managers love talking about life cycle phases and definitions, the reason why you, as someone who’s managing projects on the daily, actually need project life cycle management is improvement.

It’s as simple as that.

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What Are the Project Life Cycle Phases?

There are 4 project life cycle phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure.

And if you monitor each, you can systematize them and understand where there’s room for improvement. Especially if you review them separately, instead of just treating all the phases as one big project.


4 stages of project life cycle

1. Initiation in the Project Life Cycle

In the project initiation phase, you’re setting the foundations for later success.

No other aspect of communication means as much as the communication you’ll experience at the very beginning.

Again, your goal here is to systematize how you process the initial information and make sure you’re always getting the information you need.

The first step is defining the project through:

  • Identifying a need or a problem that the project will solve
  • Identifying opportunities you can use to solve the problem
  • Understanding whether the project is feasible and will solve the problem
  • Defining the scope of the project and the deliverables
  • Identifying the stakeholders and defining the necessary resources

After fulfilling these requirements, you’ll be able to create a project charter containing all the information on purposes, objectives, resources and other aspects.

The analysis you conduct in this phase of the project life cycle will help you understand how your project will be progressing in the future, as well as organize and assemble all the necessary people and resources.


2. Project Planning

In this part of the project management life cycle, you:

  • Set a budget and estimate a timeframe
  • Establish milestones
  • Perform a risk analysis
  • Define tasks and responsibilities
  • Create a workflow.

You should look at this phase both strategically and practically.

Try to understand how each task leads to the ultimate goal of solving the problem, and keep in mind that the tasks should be practical and easy to accomplish.

The most important part of project planning as a stage is definitely a risk analysis which can help you identify any potential roadblocks.


3. Project Management Life Cycle: Execution

Now that you’ve set everything up correctly, it’s time to bring the team on board and get to work!

The execution phase is the one where communication can really make or break a project.

During this phase, you should communicate both with your team to make sure they are advancing as predicted, and the stakeholders to keep them updated.

You should also establish key performance metrics for project tracking. This way, you’ll be able to see how everything’s going and adjust if needed.

How to Monitor Project Performance?

If you’re already using Office 365, you can just get an upgrade to project management with Project Central.

Your standard tool becomes more comprehensive, without becoming complicated.

With Project Central, you’ll be able to:

  • Visually manage your project
  • Monitor the project status
  • Track all the metrics you care about
  • Keep everyone on the same page.

In addition to communication, you’ll also have one big c to think of – coordination. You should monitor the workflow and the budget.


4. (It’s Time for) Closure!

Finally, when the project is done, it’s time to evaluate the success of it, the performance of your team, and write a report.

You can use this stage to say “thank God it’s over,” or you can use it to understand how you can be even better in the future.

Ideally, you want to look at both how satisfied the clients are, and how satisfied your team members are.

You shouldn’t just guess and try to remember if a team member met their goals in time.

Not when you can use a tool like Project Central and make sure you’re getting all the information you need.

And when you can measure it, you can also improve it.

Get Started With Project Central

Sign up for Project Central's FREE 14-day trial & try out project management for teams using Office 365.
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