Guide Overview Chapter 02

The Five Stages of Project Management Life Cycle

The project management life cycle is divided into 5 distinct stages. Read this section for clarity on what these stages are and what they entail.

The way the business operations world throws around phrases like project management, process management, task management and can be confusing. Aren’t these all the same thing? On the surface, these terms seem interchangeable, but they aren’t.

Task management is about just that: individual tasks. These can be managed with an app or with a simple, old-fashioned to-do list. Process management is far more complex. Processes, unlike tasks, have no single completion point because they’re continuous, active parts of your business operations.

But what about project management? Projects have an end date, but they aren’t as predictable as processes, and they’re comprised of multiple tasks, people, and teams. Everyone involved needs transparency on the project so they know what project tasks have been completed and what’s still left to be done.

The PMI defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements” and identifies five project management stages.

Want to learn project management but put off by jargon?
Learn what's important in the simplest ebook for non-project managers.

Project management life cycle – 5 Steps

Here are the different steps each project life cycle usually goes through:

Step 1. Initiation project life cycle

The first project management stage is initiation. Often considered the most important stage of project management, the project initiation phase includes all the preliminary work that must be done before any other project activities can take place. Exactly how many steps are in the initiation phase depends on what sector you’re in and how your team operates.

The essential elements can be roughly divided into four activity categories:

  • Building a business case
  • Conducting feasibility reports
  • Involving stakeholders
  • Creating a PID

1. Building a business case:

This is the why of your project. What’s its purpose and does it make good sense for your business financially as well as in terms of mission, risk assessment, and viable alternatives?

2. Conducting feasibility reports:

Once the business case has been established, conduct a feasibility study to see whether you have the financial and human resources available to complete the project. This is the time to carefully weigh all the pros and cons to see if you should move forward with your project.

3. Involving stakeholders:

Give stakeholders adequate time and information to conduct due diligence. Stakeholders include local governments, community organizations, and other entities that will be impacted by your project.

During due diligence, these entities identify potential negative effects of the project, assess whether these effects can be mitigated or avoided, and determine what actions should be taken in relation to those effects.

4. Creating a PID:

The project charter or project initiation document (PID) is a short document that summarizes all the essential information you’ve compiled during the initiation phase. It establishes in writing the scope of the project, its objective, and the people involved. The PID also lists major stakeholders and establishes the authority of the project manager.

Manage your project life cycle better with Kissflow Project

Step 2. Planning project life cycle

In the project planning stage, you flesh out the details of your project and create a successful project plan. Those details can be divided into four broad categories:

  • Scope
  • Resources
  • Time
  • Communication

1. Scope:

You’ve already defined the project scope, but how exactly will you accomplish your vision? What are the individual goals that you must meet to achieve the larger goal defined by your scope? Once those goals are established, delineate the steps necessary to reach each of them, breaking the steps down into tasks and subtasks as necessary.

2. Resources:

What are you working with? Good resource planning means crafting a detailed budget, securing the people needed for the project, and establishing which vendors you’ll be working with.

3. Time:

A detailed timeline in project management is essential to keeping your project on time. Set milestone expectations for each project step and estimate how much time major tasks should take.

4. Communication:

Establish communication channels and guidelines. What systems will your team use to keep track of project progress and keep one another up to date? What are the expectations regarding the frequency and content of communications?

Learn how effective project management communication is established between team members.

Step 3. Execution project life cycle

This is the phase most people have in mind when they think of project management. It usually starts with a kickoff meeting to officially start off the project. This is when you share the vision and plan for the project, delegating tasks to team members, and send everyone on their way to get things done.

Changes and corrections are almost inevitable. Sometimes these are due to mistakes or unforeseen circumstances and sometimes due to alterations in customer requirements. During the project execution phase, it’s important to keep a log of issues and to make updates to your budget and other planning documents as changes occur.

Step 4. Monitoring project life cycle

It may be a bit counterintuitive to think of project monitoring as a separate project management stage because it happens at the same time as the execution phase. Nevertheless, it’s helpful to identify monitoring as its own phase so that it’s not neglected.

During the planning phase, you established key performance indicators (KPIs) in the form of budgets, timelines, and quality expectations. By periodically checking your KPIs, you can catch issues and make corrections quickly.

Check out how tracking project progress can help you monitor better.

Step 5. Closure project life cycle

Closing a project involves obvious steps like delivering the product to customers and submitting final reports. The project manager must ensure that every aspect of the project has been correctly completed, all documents have been updated, and all deliverables have been formally accepted.

Projects should only be considered closed when all stakeholders are satisfied as to the successful completion of the project’s objectives. A project manager will often hold an evaluation meeting to assess the successes and shortcomings of the project and to recognize the contributions of team members. Team members and other resources are released for work on other projects.

See what are the types of project deliverables to be documented at the end of the project.

How project management tools can help you

A well-designed project management software can help you execute well through all the project management stages. It uses value stream mapping to create a set of steps that must be completed to move items from Not Started to Completed. Each item moves through a kanban board and gives all users the flexibility to handle exceptions and quick stages using a kanban board.

  1. In the initiation stage, you meet with all the stakeholders to map out what the workflow should look like and what data everyone needs along the way.
  2. In planning, you actually build the board and the form using the Kanban board and test it.
  3. Execution happens when you are actually working on items and moving them to different steps and stages in the workflow.
  4. Monitoring happens when the project manager takes an overall look at where items are getting stuck. You can also create reports to show how long items take to move from being worked on and how long they take to complete.
  5. Closing happens when items are moved to the completed state and are finished.

There are lots of project management tools that can help you work best with ongoing or long term projects where items need to be handled in a similar way each time.

Understand project life cycle better with Kissflow Project

Kissflow Project is built for people who have lots of experience in the business world but aren’t as familiar with project management software. Project Management can be overwhelming, but hopefully, you feel a bit more able to tackle the job now that you understand the stages of project management.

If you need a smart, intuitive suite of tools to take your project management to the next level, try out the Kissflow Project for free.

More Resources

Try Kissflow Project
for free!