The Project Life Cycle | The 5 Stages
What is the Project Life Cycle?
The project life cycle refers to the framework and process that a project goes through from start to end. There are various different models that are used but one of the most common is the 5 stages. These are:
- Initiation Stage
- Planning Stage
- Execution Stage
- Performance and Control Stage
- Project Close
Each of these stages should be explained further.
Before the project can begin, it needs to be assessed to determine if it would be able to bring enough benefits. This includes the profit that would be created. It would also be considered if the project could be carried out in the time frame, and whether it is realistic for the team. This stage is particularly useful to ensure that members of the team can understand how the process will be carried out and be sure on how to handle the situation if they have a problem.
Within the second stage of the project life cycle, many businesses will plan out who will conduct each task within the project. This is where the time frame will come in. The budget will also be planned in this stage. Gantt charts are often used as they can show on a visual level, how the project will be carried out. These charts are the most useful tools for project management because they show the relationship between various different tasks. The illustration shows how some tasks must be completed before another one can start. One example of some software that may be used for project management is Microsoft Project.
This stage of the project is where the project stages commence and everyone does their part to complete it. Some of this process will be supervised so that where guidance is needed it can be provided to help the process continue smoothly.
Performance and Control Stage
The fourth stage of the project life cycle is where performance of the project is monitored to ensure that team members perform on time. There will also often be performance reviews and controlling the project when disruptions or changes occur.
The project is completed and activities such as presentations and demonstrations may take place. Collaborations with others may end and sometimes they will have a team meeting to congratulate their team mates.
They Are Not Always Distinct
Even though these are called the 5 stages, many of them will overlap with each other and this is essential for everything to run efficiently. As an example, the controlling element will have to last across the whole process because this ensures the team performance is high enough to meet deadlines.
Why is the Project Life Cycle Beneficial?
There are many different benefits of a business following these 5 stages.
Helps Reduce Stress and Keep Organisation
Projects make up a large majority of the day to day running’s of a business. Some have to juggle many projects at once and this can cause stress and confusion. With the ability to take each project in easily identifiable stages it can help to keep them all separate.
The structure can also help to keep stress levels down as it is an organised and consolidated way of carrying out the project.
It Can Increase the Project Profits
Due to the ability for the project life cycle to involve a large dedicated amount of considerations and planning, more considerations into project profits can be had. In addition, as the time management will be planned efficiently, there will be a reduced chance of delays or problems affecting profits.
Performance Controlling Can Help Them Achieve Bigger Goals
Some of the processes of the performance and control stage include KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This measures how the performance of the project is going. These KPIs will most probably be set out in the initiation stages of the project. Some examples of KPIs you should consider in a project include how well teammates are working within the time scheduled. Furthermore, measuring whether the progress has been stalled by any issues that can be resolved. KPIs are important because they allow teams to reflect. Reflecting on performance is one of the best ways to develop and produce even better results. When considering which KPIs to use for the project in the initiation stage, they may follow the SMART route. This means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
It Helps the Team Increase Their Communication
Following the life cycle also encourages increased communication. The plan would show everyone what they were doing and the time schedules they have to meet. Therefore, the team is more likely to keep others updated in the projects progress due to the increased kick of motivation.
When May You Use the Project Life Cycle in Your Career?
There are many different careers in which you may come across the project life cycle. One of these includes Project Management. Within this role you will plan and direct the project and ensure it maintains in budget. Essentially, you will work very closely with the life cycle and ensure each element is carried out to make the project as efficient as possible. The salary for project managers is also high, at an average of around £40k a year in the UK. Those with lots of experience could be earning upwards of £60k.
Other members of the project team will also be familiar with the project life cycle.
Business analysts may be involved in the initiation stages to determine what the best solutions are for the project. They may also be involved in the monitoring stages to try and solve any problems.
Those in industries such as technology and computer software will also need to have a clear plan of their project life cycle. This is because they work in such a fast progressive industry that they need to work as productively as possible. They often use plans which will incorporate a lot of self reflection and meetings to work out how to make even better project decisions.
Different Types of Life Cycle
As well as there being the 5 stages of the life cycle mentioned above, there are also different types of structures of the life cycle that a project may choose to work with. Each of them will be dependent on the type of project and the way which works best for them. If the project is needed to be very concise, following a linear route, the waterfall would likely be best. However, if the project would not work in this way, it needs to be done faster, then approaches such as iterative may be more suitable.
The Waterfall life cycle is one of the most traditional and the first model that most projects followed. This is a sequence project delivery, where one task goes after the other and only starts once the previous one is finished. The sequence is normally: Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification and Maintenance.
The iterative project life cycle is different to a waterfall model. All of the planning and designing does not have to be completed at the beginning. All tasks can be done in stages and they all act as building blocks. You may start one part and continue adding to it as needed. Each part of the project is done in small sprints.
By taking each sprint separately, you are able to plan the budget and time more effectively, gaining insight from the previous iterations. Taking each part in sections will avoid the chance for big delays, large mistakes or going over budget.
The agile life cycle is most commonly used in software projects. However, it is likely that this technique of project management will become used in other industries. It focuses on the relationship with the customer, reflecting on how to be more efficient and to make things more simplistic to avoid the long waiting times. This type of project life cycle follows a set of rules and principles. This type of project life cycle would not be useful if you had to deliver a project finalised in full, that would require a waterfall approach.
How Can You Use the Project Life Cycle More Effectively?
The original purpose of the project life cycle was to create a simplified, structured way of working. However, not every kind of project can work in this strict manner. Therefore, using the cycle as a guide and making it adapt to the project would ensure that it follows the basic guide to maintain productivity.
Another way to ensure that you keep to the cycle, is to incorporate project management software into your business. This can help everyone in the team to keep on track. This would be most commonly used in the execution stage to log who finishes tasks, but it may also be used in the planning stage. Many software’s can show your project on a timeline and log which tasks need to be completed on specific days to ensure that you remain on schedule.
There are software’s tailored to construction workers, marketers, software developers and more. For example, Primavera P6 is commonly used by those in construction such as schedule analysis professionals. They can open multiple projects at the same time and it allows for multi user access. Without this software, professionals would struggle to see the relationship between different tasks and know how to optimise the schedule.
Software has made a huge change in the development of how projects can be delivered. It has helped those who cooperate from different countries and different departments of a business. The use of the project life cycle and software has also been essential to help projects progress throughout the pandemic when physical contact is prohibited and social distancing is in place.
What Else Can You Do to Boost Your Project Management Skills?
Aside from adopting the project life cycle into your operations, there are also other ways that you can develop your project management skills. The College of Contract Management offers live online courses including the Advanced Diploma in Project Management. This course is specifically for construction workers, learning key skills such as planning and scheduling, resource management and more.
In addition, the College offers a Business Management course, this HND is not specifically for construction and can help you to develop in order to get into a career in project management. You will learn how to manage a successful business project and many other relevant topics. This would also be ideal for those who would not be qualified for the advanced diploma. The advanced diploma is a level above a degree. The HND is a level 5 qualification which can give you the equivalent level of education as 2 years of university. Furthermore, the HND can be topped up to a full degree if you wish. You could then enter a career in management or project management. You could also go on to become a risk manager or management consultant.
If you wish to know more about what The College of Contract can offer you, please get in contact.
This article has outlined what the project life cycle is, why it is so useful to follow and what kinds of careers will use the project life cycle in their day to day tasks. Furthermore, it has also explained the different structures and types of life cycle that many organisations adopt into their project strategies. Finally, this article addressed the ways that you can use this cycle more effectively and adapt it to meet your specific needs.