Managing a project is no easy feat; design phases and methods are required steps regardless of the size and scope of a project.
A lot can go wrong, from planning minor details to managing ever-changing customer demands to timely shipping results.
When you divide a project, whether complex or not, into more manageable phases, each with its own goals and results, it’s easier to control the quality of output and the success of a project.
- Start-up phase
- Definition and planning phase
- Execution phase
- Evaluation and closure phase
The 4 project phases
This is referred to as the project cycle because these phases are progressive, meaning that you cannot begin the next stage if the previous one has not been completed.
The PMC is not a static method but can be adapted to the needs of various contexts even if the cycle’s structure does not change.
1. Startup Phase
The purpose of this first phase is to identify and understand the project’s goals and then to transform an abstract idea into something more meaningful.
At this stage, you need to develop a business case and define the project at a general level, its functions, deadlines, tasks, and characteristics.
Also, if the project requires a feasibility study, now is the time to do it. This study allows you to see if the project is feasible by considering the economic, legal, operational, and technical aspects.
Identifying any critical issues will help analyze whether they can be resolved with appropriate solutions.
2. Definition and planning phase
The planning phase is where the project solution is further developed in as much detail as possible, and the steps necessary to achieve the project goal are planned.
This is where all the work to be done is identified with timelines and milestones.
In addition, a project budget is prepared, providing estimates of labor, equipment, and material costs.
Once the activities have been identified, the schedule has been prepared, and the costs have been estimated, the three basic components of the planning phase are completed.
This is an excellent time to identify and address anything that could threaten successful project completion, known as risk management.
In risk management, potential problems, according to varying degrees of threat, are identified along with the action that must be taken to reduce the likelihood of the issue occurring and reduce the negative impact on the project should it happen.
Finally, you will want to set quality goals, assurance, and control measures, along with an acceptable plan, listing the criteria that must be met to gain customer acceptance.
The planning phase of the project requires complete diligence as it defines the project schedule.
Unless you opt for a modern project management methodology such as Agile management, this second phase of the project cycle should take almost half of the entire project time frame.
3. Execution phase
During this third phase, the execution phase, the project plan is set in motion, and the work is done – in practice.
Another responsibility of the project manager during this stage is to maintain effective collaboration among project stakeholders consistently.
This ensures that everyone stays on the same page and that the project works and moves forward smoothly.
At this stage, using good project management software can largely help manage the activities and the project team, improving efficiency and increasing productivity.
The success of the execution phase of a project is closely dependent on how effectively the planning phase has been executed.
Project status reports should always emphasize the expected endpoint cost, schedule, and quality of results.
Each project deliverable produced should be reviewed and measured against the acceptance criteria established in the planning phase.
4. Evaluation and closure phase
With much time and effort invested in project planning, it is often forgotten that the final phase of the project life cycle is just as important.
Before the closing phase itself, an evaluation phase takes place, which can be more or less considered as part of the last step.
In this case, the quality of the output is assessed against the requirements initially established, and it is noted whether these have been met in full, in part, or the result has not been satisfactorily achieved.
During the actual closeout phase or completion phase, the emphasis is on releasing final results to the client, delivering project documentation to the company, terminating vendor contracts, releasing project resources, and communicating project closeout to all stakeholders.
The last remaining step is to analyze what went well and what didn’t and to identify best practices.
In this way, the wisdom of the experience is transferred to the organization and can help teams working on future projects.
It is important to note that the closure phase does not occur only when a project is completed successfully; it must also happen when a project has failed to understand why and avoid the same mistakes in the future.
A project commonly has the following characteristics:
- In the beginning, cost and staffing levels are low and peak when the work is in progress. When the project is reaching completion, these again begin to drop rapidly.
- The typical cost and staffing curve does not apply to all projects. Substantial expenditures secure essential resources at the beginning of the project.
- Risk and uncertainty are at their peak at the beginning of the project. These factors are reduced during the project life cycle and especially when the final results are accepted.
- The ability to influence the project’s final product without drastically affecting costs is most significant at the beginning and decreases as the project progresses toward completion. Clearly, the cost of making new changes and correcting errors increases as the project approaches completion.
These features are present in almost every type of project, albeit in different ways or degrees.
Bottom line, regardless of the type of project, it is essential to understand the cycle, design phases, and design methods.
This will allow you to manage your project more efficiently by correctly identifying problems, tasks, resources, and alternative solutions.