The foundations of Project Management must be very clear. That is why they are part of one of the first blocks of our online Master Premium Program. In this article we review the project life cycle, its phases and characteristics.
First, a professional must know how to distinguish a project from a programme or a portfolio.
- Project: this is an effort that we make over a period of time. It therefore has a beginning and an end. The aim of the project is to develop a unique product or service.
- Programme: this is a group of projects that will be carried out in a coordinated manner because they are related. This coordination optimizes the resources used by projects, reduces risk and increases profits.
- Portfolio: groups together programs and projects that are not necessarily related, simply together they help to achieve the objectives of the organization.
Project Life Cycle Phases
The project life cycle refers to the series of phases through which a project goes from its inception to its completion. Each of these stages is made up of activities, which on completion give rise to one or more deliverables.
Depending on the methodology used by the project manager, the stages will be sequential, iterative or overlapping. After each stage is completed, the progress of the project is reviewed against the planned plan to determine if the project is moving forward, if changes are needed, or even if the project should be concluded.
The life cycle of each project is defined by the phase model used. This is usually determined by the organisation, industry or even the technology used in the project. That is to say, there is not one life cycle that is valid for all projects in a generic way. However, in general, the life cycle is made up of the following stages:
- Starting the project, it is time to define the scope, select the team, share the vision with stakeholders to seek their commitment and support.
- Organizing and preparing, at this stage the project manager must establish the roadmap to achieve the objectives on time and within the planned parameters.
- Completion of the work, now it is time to complete the programmed activities. Good communication and monitoring of resource, budget and time consumption are essential for this.
- Closing the project, in this last stage the processes are developed and oriented to formally complete the project and the contractual obligations.
Depending on the complexity of the project there may be more or less phases.
The organizations and the different methodologies and industries have been defining more or less standard models of the project life cycle. This standardization coexists with the necessary adaptation that each team makes to each project.
Characteristics of the project life cycle
Bearing in mind that each project has its own life cycle, it is true that there are a number of characteristics that are fulfilled in many of them:
- Generally, fewer resources and staff are required at the beginning, but when they reach the execution stage they are usually increased. On the other hand, there are projects that require large investments of time and effort in their launch, which are then stabilized over time.
- Another common feature is that the level of risk is higher at the beginning. Many aspects are not yet defined and many decisions remain to be made. Naturally, there is greater uncertainty that will be reduced as the project matures.
- As the project life cycle progresses, risks become more difficult to manage. There will be fewer resources and less time available.