Five Phases of Project Management

Managing a project is no easy task, no matter what the scale and scope are. From planning and minutia to handling the ever-changing demands of clients to shipping the output/product on time, there’s a lot that can go wrong. When you divide the project into manageable stages, each with its own goals and output/product, it’s easier to control the project and the quality of the output.

It a project management guide, if you are somehow in a position where you are expected to manage projects for your organization and are feeling overwhelmed, it’s better to start learning the fundamentals of the project management lifecycle phases.

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project lifecycle consists of five distinct phases that combine to turn an idea of a project into a working product.

Five phases of project management

The five basic phases in the project management process are: 

  1. Project Initiation
  2. Project Planning
  3. Project Execution
  4. Project Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Project Closing

Phase 1: Project Initiation

It is the start of the project, and the aim of this phase in project management is to define the project at a broad level. This phase usually begins with a business case. This is when you will research whether the project is practicable and if it should be undertaken. If feasibility testing necessary to be done, this is the stage of the project management in which that will be completed.

Major stakeholders/partners will do their due attention to help decide if the project is a “go.” If it is given the green light, you will need to create a project authority or a project initiation document (PID) that outlines the purpose & requirements of the project. It should contain business requirements, stakeholders, and business cases. Note: There are plenty of PID templates that adhere to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide guidelines available online that you can download to help you get started.

Phase 2: Project Planning

This phase is the solution to successful project management & concentrate on developing a roadmap that everyone will follow. This phase typically begins with setting goals. Among all the popular methods for setting goals, S.M.A.R.T. and C.L.E.A.R these two methods are very effective.

S.M.A.R.T Goals

This SMART Goals method helps to ensure that the goals have been thoroughly vetted. It also provides a procedure to clearly understand the implications of the goal-setting process.

Specific – To get specific goals, answer the following questions: who, what, where, when, which, and why.   

MeasurableCreatecriteria that you can use to measure the success of an aim.

Attainable – Identify the most important aims and what it will take to achieve them.

Realistic – You should be willing and able to work toward a particular aim.

Timely – Create a time-frame to achieve the aim.

C.L.E.A.R. Goals

A newer procedure for setting aims that take into consideration the environment of today’s fast-paced business.

Collaborative – The aim should encourage employees to work together.

Limited – They should be limited in scope and time to keep it able to be managed.

Emotional – Aims 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 aims into smaller tasks that can be quickly achieved.

Refinable – As new conditions arise, be flexible and refine aims as needed.

During this phase of management, the scope of the project is defined & a project management plan is developed. It includes identifying the cost, quality, available resources & a realistic timetable. The project plans also consist of establishing baselines or performance measures. These are constituted using the scope, schedule & cost of a project. A baseline is necessary to determine if the project is on track.

At this time roles and liability are clearly defined, so everyone involved knows what they are accountable for. Here are some of the documents a project manager will create during this phase to ensure the project will stay on track:

Scope Statement: A document that clearly defines the business requirement, benefits of the project, objectives, deliverables & key milestones. A scope statement may change during the project, but it should not be done without the approval of the project manager and the sponsor.

Work Breakdown Schedule: This is a visual presentation that breaks down the scope of the project into manageable sections for the team.

Milestones: Determine high-level aims that necessary to be met all over the project and include them in the Gantt chart.

Gantt chart: A perceptible timeline that you can use to plan out tasks and visualize your project timeline.

Communication Plan: This is of particular significance if your project involves outside stakeholders. Make 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. General risks comprise of non-realistic time and cost estimates, customer review cycle, budget cuts, changing requirements, and lack of committed resources.

Phase 3: Project Execution

This is the phase of management where deliverables are developed & completed. This feels like the provision of the project since a lot is occurring during this time, like status reports and meetings, development updates, and performance reports. A “kick-off” meeting commonly marks the execution of the project phase where the teams included are informed of their responsibilities.

Tasks completed during the Execution Phase include:

  • Develop team
  • Assign resources
  • Execute project management plans
  • Procurement management if needed
  • PM 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 phase of project monitoring has a different set of requirements, these two phases often occur simultaneously of each other.

Phase 4: Project Monitoring and Controlling

In the process of project management, the third and fourth phases are not sequential in nature. This phase of management runs simultaneously with project execution thereby ensures that the objectives & 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).

During the monitoring phase, the project manager is also responsible for quantitatively tracking the effort and cost during the process. This tracking not only verifies that the project remains within the budget but also is essential for future projects. 

Phase 5: Project Closing

This phase represents the completed project. Contractors are appointed to work specifically on the project are terminated at this time. Valuable team members are recognized. Some project managers even organize small work events for people who participated in the project to thank them for their efforts. Once a project is fully completed, a project manager will often hold a meeting – sometimes referred to as a “post mortem” – to evaluate what went well in a project and identify project failures. This is mostly useful to understand lessons learned so that improvements can be made in future projects also.

Once the project is completed, project managers still have a few tasks to complete. They will require creating the project punch list of things that didn’t get accomplished during the project & work with team members to complete them. Doing a final project budget & prepare a final project report. Finally, they will require collecting all project documents, specifications, deliverables, and storing them in a single place.

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