Project Lifecycle


A project is typically divided into four phases –

  1. Starting the project
  2. Organizing and Preparing
  3. Carrying out the project work
  4. Closing the project

Project manager does certain work in each of these phases and produces certain project management or project output.

Starting the project

In this phase business case is prepared, high level requirements, constraints, risks and assumptions are understood, feasibility study is typically done and all preparatory work required to get the project off the ground is accomplished. The output would be Project charter. This is also the document that officially authorizes a project manager to the project and outlines her responsibilities and authority.

Organizing and Preparing

This is where most of the planning – at least high level and a bit of low level planning for high priority features (if Rolling Wave planning is followed) is done. All other domain knowledge specific plans called ‘subsidiary plans’ are prepared – these include risk planning, human resource planning, communication planning, procurement planning (if required) and so on. Certain baselines such as scope, cost and schedule baselines are prepared. Project management output document will be Project management plan.

Carrying out the project work

This is where all the action happens. Project deliverable are prepared, changes to scope, schedule, and cost baselines are managed, communication and stakeholder engagement are handled, procurement activities (if applicable) are conducted and deliverables are accepted by the customer. Vendor procurements can be closed in this phase.

Closing the project

This is where formal project closure happens. As part of this, administrative closure, updates to organizational assets such as ‘lessons learned in this project’, and release of team members are done.

Impact on certain project variables

Understanding this aspect is very crucial for project success. Please refer to the above graph.

The project cost is lowest at the beginning, and increases as the project progresses. This is because hiring of team, purchase/lease of equipments, procurement payments, defect repair costs add up as work progresses. Highest spending happens in Construction phase, or the phase where project work is executed. This is depicted by the blue curve.

There are few variables that are highest at the beginning of the project and wane down as time passes – these are influence of stakeholders, project risk and uncertainty associated with project outcome. This is depicted by the orange curve above.

And then there are a variable whose degree steadily increases as project progresses, this is the cost of changes. At the beginning when not much work has happened, this is low. Most of the changes (even major) can be made without much of cost. This gets progressively harder as project progresses due to the impact of changes on the already accomplished work. More the impact, higher is the cost. Hence adoption of Agile project management methods such as Scrum is increasing. This approach favors what is commonly known as “Rolling wave planning” – where detailed planning of known and high priority features are done and other features are only planned at a higher level.

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