Project management can be divided into five phases. First, stakeholders initiate the project, and then define and plan it. Next, the team executes the project and monitors its performance. Finally, once the project is completed, it must be closed out.
Managing a project is no easy feat, no matter what the scale and scope are. From planning to handle the changing demands of clients to submitting the deliverables on time, there’s a lot that can go wrong. When you divide the project into manageable stages, each with its own goals and deliverables, it’s easier to control the project and the quality of the output.
According to the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project management life cycle consists of 5 distinct phases including initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure that combine to turn a project idea into a working product.
The goal of project initiation is to broadly define the project. This process usually begins with a business case or project charter. If research or feasibility testing is necessary, you should complete it during this phase.
Important stakeholders will do their due diligence to help decide if the project is a “go.” If it is given the green light, you will need to create a project charter or a project initiation document (PID) that outlines the purpose and requirements of the project. It should include business needs, stakeholders, and the business case. note that as you create a PID, don’t get too bogged down in technical requirements. Those will be clarified and clearly defined in the planning stage.
The planning phase is key to successful project management and focuses on developing a roadmap for the team to follow. Planning all the activities involved and setting a timeline. This step involves writing a detailed description of the activities and the steps to be taken in order.
In this phase, the primary tasks are identifying technical requirements, developing a detailed project schedule, creating a communication plan, and setting up goals/deliverables.
The most popular method of setting project goals is SMART and CLEAR
The acronym CLEAR stands for
C.L.E.A.R. Goals – A newer method for setting goals that take into consideration the environment of today’s fast-paced businesses.
Collaborative – The goal should encourage employees to work together.
Limited – They should be limited in scope and time to keep it manageable.
Emotional – Goals should tap into the passion of employees and be something they can form an emotional connection to. This can optimize the quality of work.
Appreciable – Break larger goals into smaller tasks that can be quickly achieved.
Refinable – As new situations arise, be flexible and refine goals as needed.
During this phase, the scope of the project is defined and a project management plan is developed. It involves identifying the cost, quality, available resources, and a realistic timetable. The project plans also entails establishing baselines or performance measures. These are generated using the scope, schedule and cost of a project. A baseline is essential to determine if a project is on track.
At this time, roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, so everyone involved knows what they are accountable for. Here are some of the documents a PM will create during this phase to ensure the project will stay on track:
- Scope Statement – A document that clearly defines the business need, benefits of the project, objectives, deliverables, and key milestones. A scope statement may change during the project, but it shouldn’t be done without the approval of the project manager and the sponsor.
- Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS) –This is a visual representation that breaks down the scope of the project into manageable sections for the team.
- Milestones – Identify high-level goals that need to be met throughout the project and include them in the Gantt chart.
- Gantt Chart – A visual timeline that you can use to plan out tasks and visualize your project timeline.
- Communication Plan – This is of particular importance if your project involves outside stakeholders. Develop the proper messaging around the project and create a schedule of when to communicate with team members based on deliverables and milestones.
- Risk Management Plan – Identify all foreseeable risks. Common risks include unrealistic time and cost estimates, customer review cycles, budget cuts, changing requirements, and lack of committed resources.
Project Execution and Monitoring
During the project execution phase, the team develops and completes deliverables. This phase begins with a kick-off meeting, is marked by the onset of status reports and updates, and transitions into performance and monitoring as the project progresses.
Tasks completed during the Execution Phase include:
- Assign resources
- Execute project management plans
- The project manager directs and manages project execution
- Set up tracking systems
- Task assignments are executed
- Status meetings
- Update project schedule
- Modify project plans as needed
While the project monitoring phase has a different set of requirements, these two phases often occur simultaneously.
Project monitoring and controlling
In the project management process, the third and fourth phases are not sequential in nature. The project monitoring and controlling phase run simultaneously with project execution, thereby ensuring that objectives and project deliverables are met.
As a project manager, you can make sure that no one deviates from the original plan by establishing Critical Success Factors (CSF) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
Here is where the plan should be executed. The approach you take and the discipline to stick to the timeline are important in producing the results. Weekly or quarterly meetings, depending on how complex the project is, will help you know if you are progressing to avoid any delays.
When the project is complete, the team must formally close it. Project managers generally hold a post mortem meeting to evaluate successes and failures. Project close helps a team identify things that went well and areas for improvement. During the last 10% of the project, momentum is often lost. Most people get the sense of feeling that everything is completed and they tend to forget that final details usually take a lot of time to complete.
This step entails the creation of a project punch list of things that didn’t get accomplished during the project and working with team members to complete them. Perform a final project budget and prepare a final project report.
Let us know some of the online software you use to manage your projects in the comment section below.
Author – P Wakesho & K. Wahome