Project Life Cycle:
Importance, Phases, Models, and Benefits
There is a specific project life cycle for every program, project, or product, which is a sequence of different phases. These phases go through the initiation of the project until its end, though every project has a definite start and end, defined objectives, and deliverables. The project life cycle structures the basic foundation of the actions that need performing irrespective of any specific work involved.
You can modify it as per the requirements and aspects of the organization. The number and sequence of the project life cycle are determined by the organizational needs of the project, including the project's nature and its area of application.
Project Life Cycle
The range of project life cycle ranges from predictive or plan-driven to adaptive or change-driven approaches. In the predictive life cycle, specifics are clearly defined at the start of the project, and any alterations to scope are addressed. Whereas, in the adaptive life cycle, the product is developed over multiple iterations. The detailed scope is defined as the iteration begins.
It is the standard process through which a company touches the mark of success. Leaders in project management have conducted various researches to find out the best means to run a project. They found out that following a project life cycle is a critical process for any service organization. The standard project life cycle model comprises of distinct project phases with a deliberate start and end.
Importance of the Project Life Cycle
In project management, the project life cycle plays a significant role. A few key points are required, such as Monitoring, Controlling, and Implementation. It helps you ensure proper planning and execution of all the phases. Therefore, you must know the importance of the project life cycle. Here are some key points:
The project life cycle sets a structured approach for project delivery. It clearly defines the activities and output of each project. Also, it allows everyone to check the processing of the project.
Through the project life cycle, project managers can control and link the project progress to each phase and determine the completion of each phase.
The framework provided by the project life cycle is easily understandable by team members working on the project. It also helps in enhancing communication and defining roles within the project organization.
With the help of the project life cycle, project managers can plan the completion of the report to support the reviews. It also enables team members to plan their attendance for the project's progress.
Phases of the project life cycle
The project life cycle consists of four crucial phases that play a lead role in helping the project manager and his team achieve goals that are set in the project. These four phases consist of conception/start, planning, execution/ implementation, and closure, which mark the life of the project. These four phases are the main phases of the project life cycle. However, there are further sub-divisions in these main phases, including the basic, detailed, and necessary information about the development of the project.
For each phase defined in the project, the project manager must have two clear things in his mind:
The main objective of the phase depending upon the company constraints ranging from quality to timing and costs
Products or deliverables
The initiation phase
It is the first phase where we identify the objective or the need for the project.
The initiation phase, for example, deals with the resolution of a business problem or the analysis and creation of a concrete opportunity.
Then an appropriate response to the need with the particularly recommended solution option is documented in the business case. After the documentation of the solution options, you conduct a feasibility study to verify if each option is in line with the objective of the project. Then a final solution is brought in. The feasibility study means asking the questions regarding the feasibility of the project like, "can we do the project? If yes, then do we have the resources to do it?".
In the later stages, a justification study phase of the project is carried out, for example, answering the questions mentioned above, "is the project necessary for this objective?". After analyzing the feasibility of the project and considering all the necessary conditions of the project, the project officially starts. If in case it is not identified, a project manager is appointed. Then a project team is planned and identified and starts to take shape. Now, we are ready to move further to the detailed planning phase.
The planning phase
It is the phase where you work on the objective of the project, and work for more development in detail as possible.
Start planning the steps required to reach the final destination. Here you identify the individual tasks, resources required for the project, and the strategy to follow. Then a project plan is created which illustrates the activities, tasks, and timelines.
Now, the project manager plans the budget of the project, which includes cost estimates for labor, equipment, and materials. The project manager uses this budget to monitor and control the expenses incurred during the entire project phase. After the project manager completes the identification of the work, preparation of the strategy, the performance, and estimated costs, basic components of the planning process come to an end. Then comes the part of the risk management, where the project manager identifies factors that may pose a threat to the success of the project and address it.
Here, you can set target goals, such as SMART goals and CLEAR Goals.
What are they? Let's see
S.M.A.R.T. goals' is the approach where you can get all the repercussions of the activities/processes with a clear view.
Specific indicates setting up precise /specific/ particular areas.
Measurable indicates to the measurability of the goal achievements.
It indicates the identification of the objectives.
Realistic indicates the willingness towards the goals.
Timely means the timeframe.
'C.L.E.A.R. goals' is the approach where you can define the goals.
It indicates the encouragement between the employees and the work
It directly indicates the employee's passion
It is the scope limit
It is the approach where you can minimize your work by distributing it into other teams. It creates team spirit, and you can easily breakdown the more significant objectives into minor
It means flexibility and scalability
The execution phase
After the planning phase, comes the execution phase. It is the implementation part where you put the plans of the project into motion, and concrete work is performed based on the steps planned in the planning phase. The most critical and fundamental part of this phase is to maintain and control the communication flow during the whole phase. The project needs continuous monitoring, and the appropriate changes are made based on the requirement. At this stage, the project manager is deeply involved as the team members perform their given tasks. The progress information s exchanged through regular team meetings called progress status meetings.
During this stage, the project sponsors and all other stakeholders are informed regularly about the project's progress, and each project result is analyzed and accepted. The main strategy at this phase is always to bring back the project to its original committed state. If this is not possible, then you must record the changes from the original plan, and then formalize the modified plan.
In the execution phase, you also need to monitor the performance. The project manager can do so by breaking down the measurement KPI and monitoring them, such as:
It refers to the size of a project along with budget and schedule. The project manager is responsible for achieving the objectives.
It refers directly to quality. It specifies/points out the client's deliverables.
Effort and Cost Tracking
:The project manager has to take care of all the costs and efforts as every task already comes with a budget constraint. Therefore, the project manager needs to monitor/track each activity.
The major part of the project lifecycle is project performance tracking.
The closing phase
It is the last phase where you give special emphasis to the final results, delivery of project documentation, termination of supplier contracts, the release of project resources, and communicating to all stakeholders about the closure of the project.
The last step is to analyze the actions about what went well and what did not. The closure phase also serves to analyze this, to avoid making the same mistakes in the future and not adequately assessing certain risks.
Key project management steps for the closing phase
Project Performance Analysis
It provides an overall look at how well you have managed the project, and whether the initial cost estimates and benefits were accurate or not. It also provides a clear view of other aspects/questions as well, such as If there were any unforeseen risks? What were the issues, and how did you deal with them? If the project plan was changed, then how?
Did each team member perform the task they were assigned to do? Were they motivated enough? Was the communication/interaction between the team constructive?
All the documents required to bring the project to an official end, which includes closing supplier agreements, signing off contracts, etc.
Here, you will have to write a formal analysis of the failures and successes and, ultimately, what lessons you have learned and suggestions for the near future.
Which life cycle will serve a desirable result for your project? Its a crucial decision-making issue as one wrong step or decision could hurt you and your organization.
The wrong choice of the development life cycle can generate circumstances such as project overruns, unsatisfied customers, canceled projects, and delayed distributions. Hence before deciding the best life cycle for your project, you should consider all the factors that matter to your organization. Instead of depending upon your gut feelings, you should analyze all the elements which can affect your project and then choose a suitable life cycle. In the period of late 1980s and early 1990s, the trending life cycle for project delivery was the Waterfall model.
With the growth & development in technology and widespread application of the Internet, many companies started to move towards more flexible life cycles option such as Spiral, Incremental, Agile, etc. These new life cycle options support modern technology and fast-paced growth and give companies the desired edge in the market. In the current time, there are numerous life cycle methods available for companies. Each one has its uses and limitations.
The most popular life cycle methods are:
This traditional life cycle method has shown its ability to deliver for a very long time and has been around for decades. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Defence published Standard 2167A, actively supporting the use of this technique for all its projects. The waterfall method is a sequential advancement model with precisely specified deliverables for every stage. Before moving to the next stage, many industry experts conduct an audit inspection to ensure that the project has accomplished all input standards.
The main aim of the Iterative development lifecycle is to build the project incrementally. Experts who build the entire system, develop and attach more features to the existing core system. It offers flexibility in meeting new demands or alterations as compared to other life cycles. It always provides space for betterment in future iterations based on lessons learned from past iterations.
This approach is developed with the need to create software technologies to support the fast-paced growth of the Internet. In many ways, it is an alternative to the iterative life cycle where deliverables are submitted. The major difference is in the delivery timing. Companies operating with this life cycle deliver software applications or improvements in a few weeks. It also includes the growth notions of collaboration and documentation, other than the delivery life cycle.
There are many project life cycle approaches, such as RUP, Cleanroom, Test-driven development, etc. But some of the life cycles are sequential with clear and strict cut off between stages. Others are repetitive with adjustable cut off rules and can term as iterative or Agile.
Factors to consider before choosing
the project life cycle method
There are some factors you need to know before
deciding on which life cycle method to choose:
- Stability of the project requirements
- Influence of end-users on the project
- Aggressive or Conservative Timeline
- Size of the project
- Location of project teams
- Critical resources
Benefits of the project life cycle