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The Project Management Life Cycle

May 23 2010

Any project you are preparing will proceed more smoothly and with greater effect by understanding and utilizing the Project Management Life Cycle.  It will assist you in narrowing the focus, keeping objectives in order, and of course bring the project to completion on time and under budget.

The life cycle of a project progresses though five steps, which are Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring/Control and Closure.  There isn’t a single step that is more important that any other, and each step is critical to the successful completion of the project.

The first step is Initiation.  It provides the over-view of the project and how it will be successfully achieved.  The most common tools or methodologies used are Project Review, Plan, Overview and Schedule Reviews.  The new project starts by defining its objectives, scope, purpose and list of deliverables to be produced.  During this initial phase the project manager will be appointed, and he will select his team members according to their experience and skills.

Planning is the second step in the project management life cycle.  The plan must include certain elements, such as a breakdown that is detailed into tasks and the assignment of each task to members of the project team, from start to finish.  There must also be set criteria for defining successful completion of each task.  Typically a risk assessment is included in the Planning step as well.

This phase involves creating of a set of plans to help guide your team through the execution and closure of the project.  The plans created will help manage time, cost, quality, change orders or variation, risk factors and other issues. They will also help you to manage key personnel and external vendors/suppliers, to ensure that you deliver the project on time and within budget.

Execution and Control are the third and fourth steps in the project management life cycle.  These phases tend to be grouped together because each step of execution is measured against the control standard of the project.  The solution for the project’s purpose (usually solving an existing problem) is implemented.  As these steps progress, stakeholders become more involved in the planning for the final step.

The Project Execution is usually the longest phase in the project life cycle and it typically consumes the most energy and the most resources.  The most important issue in this part is to ensure activities are properly executed and controlled. You will need to implement a range of management processes during this phase. These processes help you to manage procurement, client approvals and communications.

The most common tools or methodologies used in the execution phase are an update of Risk Analysis Review, in addition to Project/Business Plan. The planned solution is implemented/incorporated to solve the problem specified in the business requirements.

Closure is the natural end to any cycle, and the project management cycle is no different.  A formal written project review report is developed, containing these elements: the formal acceptance by the client of the result of the project; a comparison of the initial requirements against the delivered product; lessons learned; project resources; and the formal project closure notification to higher management.