This article looks to discuss project life cycles. Covering the project life cycle and the project phases such as concept, definition, implementation, handover and close-out. We then discuss the relationship between the phases and stages, and why we should split projects into phases. Finally discussing the extended life cycle.

Successful projects are handled by project mangers in traditional projects. The project manager should have a clear understanding of what a project life cycle is. They should understand the different stages in the project. The Project manager must be clear about the progression of the project. They should understand the following phases: Concept, definition, implementation, handover and close, including the operations and termination phases.

These phases are further broken down into stages. The work involved in a phase is broken down into smaller, manageable steps and are performed in specific order.

Project Life Cycles – Phases and Stages

A project life cycle usually follows a 4-phase life cycle (Project Concept to Close-Out). There are an additional two phases to it, as mentioned above, based on APM standards. The first 4 phases span from the start to the end of the project. The other two phases occur post delivery of the project. This includes support during operations and in sunsetting.

The termination phase can be a lengthy process. This phase may even begin shortly after the project has been turned over to operations. The project manager must always consider how the product of the project is going to be disposed off. A plan needs to be made for when the product reaches its end of life, becomes obsolete, or has completed its course.

Now let’s discuss each of these phases and the people involved in every phase.

The Concept Phase of the Project Life Cycles

There are 3 things that need to be established during this phase. The need for the project, the problem that will be solved by the project, or the opportunity for the project. These things are considered during a feasibility study. The results from this study will show whether the project is realistic, sustainable, and applicable.

A feasibility study is normally done by a consultant who is an expert in this activity. The feasibility study is an entire process on its own. The main output of the study is to prove the validity and viability of the project. This should be done before deciding to set the project into motion. Ideally, the project manager must remain involved in this step. They can learn valuable information about the viability of the project. It helps to provide a clear understanding of the resources needed to carry out the project. A feasibility study provides a wealth of information that project managers can use to guide them once they roll the project out and make sure that they are staying within range.

A feasibility study is more of a research work and is an important step in the Concept phase. The work includes analysing the viability of the project. Any roadblocks that can affect the success of the project are uncovered, the risks. We can determine if the project fits the landscape of the market that it was designed for. Next steps include defining the scope. We must assess the value of the project by cost vs benefit. Then we re-assess these items before making the final decision, whether it’s a go or a no-go.

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The Definition Phase of the Project Life Cycles

This phase is where a project management plan is developed. The results from the feasiblilty study are considered and are used as basis when defining the scope and bounderies of the project. The steps involved in this phase include risk assessment and detailing the project road map which will guide the team during the implementation, from start to finish. These are included in the project management plan.

The project management plan is the main product of this phase. It presents the project in detail and states the project’s final output. The goal of presenting the details of the project is to align the purpose of the project with the intended final outcome. It should meet the expectations of the stakeholders. This aims to provide a clear and specific definition of the project in terms of what the project is meant to produce and its ultimate function of the product, including design limitations, so that users have a clear understanding of the full capacity of the product, including how it will benefit the product users. The product termination process is also discussed and developed during this phase.

Project Life Cycles and the Implementation Phase

Once the project has passed the first two phases, it will now enter the Implementation phase. This phase has two parts: the design stage and the build stage. Each of these stages are further broken down into steps that represent the action that needs to be done to complete the step.

There are checks performed in between each set of steps, to make sure that the project stays on track, stays within budget and is being done within reasonable amount of time. This also guarantees the quality of the product as the checkpoints can uncover weak points and allow the team to make changes to the design if necessary. Once the plan and the strategy is set in motion, the project manager will be working with gatekeepers, whose job is to conduct a Phase Review, which is going to be part of the build stage routine. The gatekeepers will decide whether the project should continue, change, or stop.

A Phase Review is time consuming but it is considered a necessary waste, especially in software development projects. Checkpoints usually uncover unforeseen roadblocks and identify the tendency for a scope creep to occur, especially if the project goal was less specific at the time it was proposed — this is extremely helpful in refining the process, especially for agile marketing  projects.

The Handover and Close Phase

Once the project has been completed and the product is ready for delivery, it is time for Handover and Close. This phase is divded into two parts. The first part is the Handover, where the team delivers the project to the client; the product is ready for operation. The second part is the Close where the client accepts  the product as complete and ready for operational use. This marks the end and the completion of the project, as it has already fulfilled the product that is expected from it.

The Operations Phase

Some products require maintenance and support after its delivery. This commonly occurs in technology related projects like software, hardware, and other tech services, as well as with eqiupment and machinery. The project manager remains involved in this this phase, as this is considered an extended project management phase.

The maintenance and support requirements are detailed and explained in the implementation process, and the actual maintenance and support services are provided throughout the life of the product. These may change if there are upgrades, updates, and improvments along the way, throughout the use of the prodct, so the maintenance and support services will go through several changes and updates as well. Normally, the project manager will be working with people from operations and support, to ensure that the users are fully supported all throughout and that product maintenance services are delivered accordingly.

The Termination Phase

When the product has fulfilled its purpose and has realised the benefit that it was designed for and made to work for, the product goes through an archiving process. Some of the terms used to describe this action are disposal, sunsetting, end-of-life, and phase out.

The project management team will have very limitted involvment in this stage and their actual job is to provide a straightforward process for the product termination. The discussion and creation of the product termination process is performed during the second phase of the project life cycle.

Ideally, a different team will be handling the termination process as it involves multiple phases and steps on its own. The work required in this phase is to completely and effectively dispose off, archive, or terminate a product or a service with as less impact and footprint as possible.

Now that we’ve discussed the two phases in the extended project life cycle, it gives us a better understanding of how projects are considered complete and closed. Some products need maintenance and user support, while other products need consultation and training support. Some go through a simple termination or archiving process, while some go through a lengthier procedure, especially if it involves equipment, machinery, and other tangible products.

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Section 5: Project Concept to Close-Out

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