Phases of A Project Life Cycle: A Brief Guide


A project life cycle philosophy has become widely popular due to a Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) research, according to which it is crucial to answer 4 questions for a proper project accomplishment:

  • what scope of works should be done;
  • what results should be achieved;
  • whom to involve;
  • how to accept and master each stage of a project.

A classical scheme of a project life cycle consists of four phases. From the beginning to it’s end a project is passing through different phases that logically follow one another. They are:

  • Initiation phase.
  • Planning phase.
  • Implementation phase.
  • Closure phase.

Initiation phase

A true beginning of a project happens way before any implementing actions are taken, and even earlier than project planning starts. It lies in comprehension of a necessity to achieve a particular result. A jumping-off point for a chain of logical assumptions that leads to this is a business case or an issue that needs to be solved. As soon as the necessity is outlined stakeholders identify the pros and cons of a future project. In case a project is worth the candle it is given a go-ahead by preparing a project initiation document (PID). PID adjusts a purpose of a project and its main requirements.

Planning phase

The whole mechanism of project implementation is defined on this stage, including a sequence of operation performance, a scope of work, risks analysis, tasks classification, reporting on the project progress and results evaluating criteria. As well the framing requirements are set, such as a budget, deadlines, a policy for monitoring and control. Planning Phase is the right time to determine the goals to be met. In this respect a useful technique for goal identification called S.M.A.R.T. may be applicable:

Specific – a goal should be perfectly clear and narrowly focused. In case it’s not, it should be split.

Measurable – your goals should be interpreted in terms of progress assessment, as you need to keep the team motivated.

Attainable – an unrealistic goal is doomed to failure. A no-go goal.

Relevant – does a goal matching the needs within the project?

Timely – it is essential to put a deadline for each goal.

Implementation phase

Success gained at the planning phase is indicated by a clear step-by-step scheme or a road map. However, experienced project managers wouldn’t worth their weight in gold if things were that simple. Day-to-day reality is rough, so there has to be someone in charge of all the internal and external changes that could affect a project’s progress. A human factor risk requires permanent team management. Leaving timing and budgeting off-hand is a very slippery slope towards implementation failure. Even if (fingers crossed) everything is going according to the plan, project coordination, regular checks of the KPI and risks management require PMs to roll up the sleeves.

Closure phase

Project closure implies the assessment of the results achieved. Result measuring activities should include a study of ups and downs of the project. Based on that quality deliverables should be presented to the stakeholders. An important part of this phase is team and resource readjustment.

There are two less common extra phases we would like to point out as well:

Controlling phase

Quite often this one is considered as a part of Implementation Phase, but the importance of monitoring and controlling measures are of the highest priority. That is why for some projects there is an independent phase for that.

Accounting phase

Essential for the providers of services. Takes place at the project’s closure and includes project’s return on investment calculation and invoicing.

To conclude, we must agree that every project must have a life cycle that requires certain sequential steps to be performed. Without that a project is unlikely to become a viable goal-reaching undertaking.

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