Understanding a Project Life Cycle


According to ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)’ 7th edition, a Project Life Cycle includes “a series of phases that a project passes through from its start to its completion”. Generally a project life cycle undergoes four main phases:

  • Project Initiation
  • Project Planning
  • Execution of the project
  • Closure

We will discuss the basics of each phase included in a project life cycle.

1. Project Initiation


This is the very first phase in a project life cycle. In this phase, the team first identifies a business opportunity or a problem. Then, they define a business case that provides solution options. After a thorough research about the suitability and efficacy of various available solutions, the most appropriate solution is brought forward. Upon approval the project is finally initiated with the aim to deliver the approved business solution. Objectives, scope, and the structure of the project is decided, and a project manager is assigned. The project manager then begins to hire a team. The project then moves on towards the planning phase.

2. Project Planning


Once the project team has been hired and a proper project office environment is created, the project life cycle enters a phase where detail planning is conducted. The planning phase of a project life cycle ensures that its execution is conducted in the most economics, time efficient, and successful manner. Steps included in project planning include:

  1. Creating a project plan: A hierarchical set of phases and tasks to be performed in order to complete the project are identified.  A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is created. Upon getting approval for the WBS, tasks are assessed with respect to the efforts required for each of them and are then sequenced. Resources are allocated and a definite project schedule is developed. The project plan is the most important tool utilized by the project manager to examine the project’s progress throughout the project life cycle.
  2. Creation of resource plan: Once a project plan is finalized, the resources that will be required by each of the tasks in the project plan is listed in detail. A resource plan clearly identifies the types of resources required (labor, equipment, materials) and their quantity.
  3. Developing a financial plan: This stage in the planning phase of the project life cycle focuses on identifying the total cost or budget required to complete all the tasks throughout all the phases in a project. This is the phase when an expense schedule is outlined. This helps the project manager to track the estimated expenditure versus the actual expenditure throughout the project.
  4. Quality plan creation: In this phase of the project life cycle, quality expectations are clearly defined and documented. This phase firstly defines what quality means in the project. It then lists clear quality targets for each deliverable in the project. Each defined quality target includes a set of standards that must be met in order to satisfy customer requirements and expectations. A quality plan not only focuses on planning about the quality of the deliverables but also plans the quality of the managerial processes that produce them.
  5. Risk Plan: This stage in the planning phase of the project life cycle estimates and documents all the potential risks within a project. It also includes the actions and steps required to mitigate the impact of the expected risks or to prevent them entirely.
  6. Developing an acceptance plan: An acceptance plan includes clear completion criteria for each deliverable within the project and also provides a schedule of acceptance reviews. Acceptance reviews help the customers to examine every deliverable and give their formal acceptance about the deliverable meeting their requirements.
  7. Communication Plan: Undoubtedly, communication is the key to a successful project. This plan within the planning stage of the project life cycle includes the kind of information that needs to be distributed to the stakeholders. It also includes the methods of distributing the information, how frequently the information would be conveyed, and the responsibilities of people in the project team for communicating the information.
  8. Developing a procurement plan: Among the last of the stages in the planning phase of a project life cycle is developing a procurement plan. This plan gives detailed information about the goods and services that are to be procured from external suppliers. It also includes reasons why the procurement is required from external sources rather than from within the business. It includes information about the selection process of the supplier and also schedules the delivery of the products.
  9. Contracting the suppliers: During this stage of the planning phase, a formal tender process is undertaken. It shortlists preferred suppliers and also selects the most suitable supplier with whom contractual discussions are held. 
  10. Performing a phase review: Phase review is a checkpoint that ensures that all the above stages in the planning process of the project life cycle are successfully met.

3. Execution of the Project

This phase in the project life cycle is the longest in duration. After laying out a detailed plan for the project, deliverables are now physically manufactured and then presented to the customers for their approval. The project manager is responsible for supervising and controlling the activities, resources, budget required to develop each deliverable within the project. Execution of the project includes various managerial activities to ensure that the activities of the project are carried out according to its planning phase. There are three main stages in the execution of the project:

  1. Building of the deliverables: this stage includes the physical manufacturing of the deliverables. The activities and their sequence depends upon the type of the project and the methodology practiced.
  2. Monitoring and Controlling: It is indispensable to stick with a plan inorder to successfully and efficiently build deliverables within the time and budget restraints. The project manager implements managerial processes that are meant to supervise and control the manufacturing activities within the project life cycle. These monitoring and controlling activities include:
  • Time Management
  • Cost Management
  • Quality management
  • Change Management
  • Risk Management
  • Issue Management
  • Procurement Management
  • Acceptance Management
  • Communications Management

3. Performance of phase review: Towards the end of the execution phase of the project life cycle, a phase review is conducted. This acts like a checkpoint to ensure that all the planned activities are completed.

4. Project Closure and review

Project Closure and review
Project Closure and review

Once all project deliverables are accepted by the customers, the project moves towards its closure phase. This phase in the project life cycle includes:

  • Ascertaining that all the criteria of project completion are met
  • Identification of any remaining project activity, or expected risks
  • All the deliverables are handed over to the customers
  • All supplier contracts are canceled and all the resources used by the project are released to the business.
  • Closure of the project is finally conveyed to all stakeholders 

 Once the closure is executed, a project is reviewed for its success by an independent party. The performance of the project is gauged by the following questions:

  • Did the project provide the benefits that were promised in the business case?
  • Were the objectives defined in the terms of reference achieved?
  • Did the deliverables of the project meet the standards defined in the quality plan?
  • Were the deliverables within the time and budget outlined in the project plan?

Example of a typical project life cycle

Project Life Cycle
Project initiation phase in a Project Life Cycle :

Let us consider an organization that wants to implement a new software system in order to boost their sales tracking. The initiation phase of this project’s life cycle will include the following stages:

  • The company will firstly realize that they need a new sales tracking system. They will decide implementation of a new software is the best solution to meet the business requirement.
  • The company will now define the objectives of the project, along with the specific goals expected from it
  • The company will now identify the stakeholders who will be impacted by this project and its deliverables. This includes the employees who will use the software, the IT staff who would execute and maintain the software, and their supervisors.
  • Next, the company will develop a business case which will provide an outline of the benefits of implementing the new software system. I will also include the cost savings, improvement in efficacy, and better sales tracking and management.
  • The company will then examine if the project to implement a new software to track sales is feasible and is within its budget, resources and timeline.
  • A project charter is then developed. A project charter defines the scope, objectives, stakeholders, risks, and all other critical information about the project.
  • The project charter is then presented to the executives. Upon their approval, the project moves towards the planning phase
Project Execution phase in the project life cycle:
  • The project manager will assign tasks to the team as per the project plan
  • The team will begin to build the software system as per the specifications in the project plan
  • They will then test the sales tracking software system to assess if it meets the quality standards and intended functions
  • The team will also address and attempt to fix the issues or problems that were encountered at the time of developing or testing the software.
  • The project manager supervises and controls the progress of the project to ensure that it is completed on time and within the assigned budget.
  • The progress of the software is communicated to the stakeholders as per the communication plan 
  • The stakeholders give their approval on project deliverables
Project Closure phase in the project life cycle:
  • Upon completing the project, the team will deliver the software to the stakeholders
  • The stakeholders will accept the software system
  • The team will then train the users to use the sales tracking software system
  • They stakeholders will approve of the project and will agree for its closure
  • The team will complete the documentation and final project report including the lessons learnt during the project life cycle
  • The team will finally archive all project materials and resources such as its documents, codes, and other deliverables
  • Finally, at the end of the project life-cycle, the team will celebrate the success of the deliverables and recognize the contribution of various team members and stakeholders.

The PMI Project Management Professional or the PMP certification course provides a thorough and practical knowledge about all the phases in a project life cycle throughout various project methodologies – predictive approach, adaptive approach as well as the hybrid approach. Education Edge trains you to successfully and efficiently manage all kinds of projects throughout their lifecycle irrespective of their approach, location, culture and environment.

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CAPM Exam prep: The CAPM Exam Content Outline is changing in 2023 

PMI PMP changes: PMP Exam and PMI Authorized PMP Exam Prep are changing in 2023

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