Each project has its own life cycle. That life cycle consists of five different stages. However, depending on the project, those stages and the tasks that occur within those stages can vary depending on the customer requirements and specifications. Each of these stages requires careful planning, consideration, and measures that need to be properly carried out through the entire life cycle.
The five stages within a complete project life cycle include the following: customer requirements or information gathering, planning and design, execution, monitoring and fact checking, and closing before releasing final deliverables. In order for project managers to fully understand the steps and what is required in each stage, here is a break down of what occurs in each stage:
- Customer Requirements and Information Gathering. This is the first stage in every project life cycle. Gathering customer requirements can be a somewhat lengthy and involved process. This involves gathering information on a particular project’s scope, a customer’s policies and procedures, and just overall information on what the customer is looking to get from the project’s deliverables. What purpose does the project serve? What is the end goal or result?Gathering requirements can be accomplished by implementing several approaches, depending on the project, of course. Some data can be gathered by utilizing the participative or soft systems approach, which involves gather data in a quantitative manor, by utilizing graphs and charts and performing analyses on them. Another method is creating visuals for customers, or even prototypes to give customers an idea of what the outcome of a particular project would look like. This is an ideal approach for those customers who aren’t sure of what they want.
- The Planning and Design Elements. Once customer requirements and project data have been gathered for a particular project, then the planning and design stage can take place. The planning side of this stage involves analyzing the project specs, putting together budgets, allocating resources, drafting schedules and project milestones and aligning those with deadlines, and even identifying and planning risk management.Once these steps are set in stone and have been documented and communicated thoroughly with team members, then the design element can begin. This stage is when a project manager can analyze how the particular project will be best carried out that addresses each customer requirement and provide the best deliverables.
- Execution. The execution stage is when both the development and production stages are being actively carried out. This is where the bulk of the work is being done and is taking place and where the project specifications are being worked into the overall project. The design elements are being factored in and the output is being created.Behind the scenes, project managers are actively monitoring and controlling the tasks that are taking place within production, which can involve monitoring a series of tasks, making sure project milestones are being met along the way, and making sure all resources are working within budget constrains.
- Monitoring and Fact Checking. This stage involves performing a quality control or quality assurance check on the “draft” form of the project. This may be a “testing” phase in the world of manufacturing or technical fields, or a fact check or a proofread in the world of publications and communications fields. Ultimately this is the step that verifies and validates overall performance factors before the project dives into the next phase before completion and delivery.This is also the phase when the project manager reviews all resources, scheduling, and budgets accordingly to make sure those areas of the project are being maintained.
- Closing. The closing stage is obviously the last stage in the project life cycle. This is just about at the point when the project manager and team members all breathe a sigh of relief. Completion and freedom. However, before we get too excited, project managers and team members need to make sure all specs were properly met during the course, or the life cycle of the project’s design.The project manager will also perform their own “final project audit” or “final check” to make sure the project has properly adhered to all guidelines and incorporated all project specs appropriately and accurately. Once these steps are completed and the project management team is satisfied and confident with the overall results and outcome of the project, final deliverables are sent to the client.
These are the typical five stages that occur in any project’s life cycle. Of course the tasks and approaches taken in each phase greatly depend on the type of project, the organization, and industry in which it functions and operates, but if a project manager follows these five stages in each project, then he or she is likely to contribute to an overall successful project and satisfied customer.