Managing a project is no easy feat, no matter what the scale and scope are. From planning the minutia to handling the ever-changing demands of clients to shipping 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.
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 basics of the project management lifecycle and the project management phases.
According to the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project lifecycle consists of 5 distinct phases that combine to turn an idea of a project into a working product.
This is the first stage of turning an abstract idea into a meaningful goal. In this stage, you need to develop a business case and define the project on a broad level. In order to do that, you have to determine the need for the project and create a project charter.
The project charter is an important document consisting of details like the project goals, constraints, appointment of the project manager, budget, expected timeline, etc.
Once you have the project goals and scope, identify key stakeholders–the people who are to be involved in the project. Create a stakeholder register with the roles, designation, communication requirements, and influence.
While a clear goal of the project is established in this phase, a project charter does not contain any technical details that happen in the planning stage.
Consider the example of an automobile manufacturer assigned to develop an electric vehicle. The selection of the design, capacity, and battery power of the vehicle will not be a part of the initiation phase. The only certainty would be that an electric vehicle will be developed within the given timeframe and budget.
The planning stage requires complete diligence as it lays out the project’s roadmap. Unless you are using a modern project management framework like Agile, the second phase of project management is expected to take almost half of the entire project’s timespan.
In this phase, the primary tasks are identifying technical requirements, developing a detailed project schedule, creating a communication plan, and setting up goals/deliverables.
There are several methods of setting up the project’s goals but S.M.A.R.T. and C.L.E.A.R. are most popular.
The ‘SMART’ criteria ensure that the goals you set for your project are critically analyzed. It is an established method that reduces risk and allows managers to make clearly defined and achievable goals.
The acronym SMART stands for
The ‘CLEAR’ method of setting up goals is designed to cater to the dynamic nature of a modern workplace. Today’s fast-paced businesses require flexibility and immediate results and CLEAR can help you with that.
The acronym for CLEAR stands for
During the planning stage, the scope of the project is defined. There is a possibility of changing the scope of the project demands it but the project manager must approve the change. Project managers also develop a work breakdown structure (WBS), which clearly visualizes the entire project in different sections for the team.
A detailed timeline with each deliverable is another important element of the planning stage. Using that timeline, project managers can develop a communication plan and a schedule of communication with the relevant stakeholders.
Risk mitigation is another important aspect of project management that is a part of the planning stage. The project manager is responsible for extrapolating past data to identify potential risks and develop a strategy to minimize them.
An important element that professionals often overlook is an effective change management plan. As a project manager, you must be ready to incorporate a few changes in the project to avoid bottlenecks and delays.
In the absence of a working change management plan, scope creep happens and causes huge problems for the project team in the later stages of the project. So, it’s best to reduce the possibility of unforeseen changes as much as possible.
The execution stage is where your team does the actual work. As a project manager, your job is to establish efficient workflows and carefully monitor the progress of your team.
Another responsibility of the project manager during this phase is to consistently maintain effective collaboration between stakeholders. This ensures that everyone stays on the same page and the project runs smoothly without any issues.
You can take help from collaboration software available in the market. They’ll not only make your life easier but also improve the efficiency and productivity of your team.
In the project management process, the third and fourth phases are not sequential in nature. This phase runs simultaneously with project execution, thereby ensures that project objectives and 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 of project management, the manager is also responsible for quantitatively tracking the effort and cost during the process. This tracking not only ensures that the project remains within the budget but also is important for future projects.
This is the final phase of the project management process. It indicates the end of the project after the final delivery. There are times when external talent is hired specifically for the project on contract. Terminating these contracts and completing the necessary paperwork is also the responsibility of the project manager.
Most teams hold a reflection meeting after the completion of the project in order to contemplate on their successes and failures during the project. This is an effective method to ensure continuous improvement within the company to enhance the overall productivity of the team in the future.
The final task of this phase is to review the entire project complete a detailed report that covers every aspect. All of the necessary data is stored in a secure place that can be accessed by project managers of that organization.
Nowadays, using cloud-based software is a common way of storing all of the documents related to the project.
Dividing a project into multiple phases gives the project a semblance of predictability. It gives a framework to operate, making it easier to plan and execute. While spreadsheets and post-it notes sufficed in the past, the requirements of modern project management are completely different.
You need the right tools to plan, organize, and track projects. Read how to choose the best project management software guide to find the right project management software for your needs.