Project Management Phases

Five Phases of Project Management: Simplifying Project Management

Project management can be a complex and challenging task even for experienced project managers. It is easy for them to feel lost among the several requirements from planning to tracking the customers’ changing demands and delivering the finalized product on time.

Whether it is a big or a small project, the chances of things going wrong at one or the other turn are always high. It is why project managers must divide a project into manageable parts or phases.

Dividing a project into phases makes it easier to track progress while also tracking the various requirements easily. Each of the stages has its own goals and objectives and transitioning from one stage to another happens smoothly. It also makes it easier for the project managers to control the quality and the final output of the project.

The lifecycle of a project can  be divided into five basic stages according to the PMBOK guide. For project managers, it is critical to build an understanding of these five basic stages since they would otherwise feel overwhelmed while managing projects for their organization.

The five basic phases of project management include initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closure. The first phase is the initiation phase and the last phase is closure. 

Project management phases

In this post, we will deal with the five phases of project management in detail:

  • Project Initiation
  • Project Planning
  • Project Execution
  • Project Monitoring and Control
  • Project Closure

Phase 1: Project Initiation: 

The project initiation is the first phase of project management or the stage at which the real work on an idea begins. It is from where an abstract idea starts taking the form of a real project. This stage involves broadly defining the goals of the project without getting into the minutes. It also includes defining the scope of the project and the various constraints like budget and time.

In the beginning, the project managers need to determine the need for a project and create a project charter. A project charter is a critical document that includes several crucial details like the project manager, project goals, budget, other constraints and the timeline.

Once the project manager has identified the key requirements including project scope and and goals, it is the time to identify key project stakeholders. The stakeholders are the people who will be affected by the project or can influence the project or simply put those involved in the project.

Since, it will be important to communicate with several stakeholders while the project is underway, it is critical to maintain a stakeholder register including the names, designation, communication details and the level or type of influence. This register proves helpful in the next stages since project managers will find it easy to communicate with the various stakeholders and keeping them updated regarding the progress. 

As already explained, this phase does not include planning the minutes, which is a part of the planning stage. At this stage, the project goals are established at a broader level and the expected budget and timeline are known.

For example, if a smartphone brand is developing a new model, the budget and the timeline are known at this stage. They know they are developing a smartphone or rather a premium smartphone but the other details are not required at this stage.

Phase 2: Project Planning: 

While the Project Initiation phase was a smaller phase, the second phase or the project planning phase is a much lengthier phase that is undertaken with a lot of caution and affects the progress to a significant extent. It can also turn out to be the longest phase in the entire lifecycle of a project. However, now there are several modern and digital tools available in the market that can help project managers cut short the duration of the planning stage.  Otherwise, only the Project Planning phase can take up to half of the project’s total duration.

In the project planning phase, you set up the technical requirements of the project. The other tasks that need to be carried out in this phase include creation of the project schedule and communication plan as well as setting the goals or deliverables of the project.

The most commonly used criteria for goal setting is the use of the SMART framework. Project managers can set goals for the project based on SMART criteria which implies that the goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Using the SMART framework for goal setting ensures that the goals are achievable and defined clearly. 

Goal setting is a very critical task in project management and needs to be completed with caution since it has a huge impact on several factors including performance, budget and the time required to complete the project. Use of the SMART framework minimizes time and budget related risks and helps managers ensure that they set realistic goals that they can achieve in the given budget and expected timeline. 

The project planning phase also includes setting the scope of the project. In many cases, the scope of the project may need to be changed based on customer demand or due to some other reason or constraint. Project managers need to approve these proposed changes before they can be implemented. 

A Work Breakdown Structure also helps project managers at this stage. It breaks down the entire project into various sections and presents a visual representation of those sections which are useful for team management and providing clarity on assigned roles and tasks.

 Another critical requirement of the project planning stage is the development of the project timeline. It is critical for project managers to develop a detailed timeline of the project with associated deliverables. Based on it, project managers can also develop a communication plan which helps in terms of communication and managing timely communication with all the important stakeholders.

However, there are some more critical aspects of the project planning phase including those related to risk management. Project managers can also develop a risk mitigation plan in this stage. Generally, potential risks can be identified based on past data  and accordingly risk management strategies can be developed. Project management and especially the project planning phase also involves change management planning. To avoid foreseen and unforeseen hurdles, the project managers are required to keep a change management plan ready.

Since scope creep can arise in any project, big or small, project managers must remain ready with scope management, change management and risk management plans ready. Especially, in the course of a major project, changes may need to be included unexpectedly and remaining ready with a change management plan can help avoid unnecessary risks or delays.

Phase 3 : Project Execution:

The third phase in the project life cycle in the actual execution phase. In this phase, the actual work related to the project is carried out. For example, if a smartphone company is working on developing a new model with a bigger camera, this is the phase during which it develops the actual model. Establishing efficient workflows and monitoring the progress of his team is the responsibility of the project manager. 

In the execution phase, the project manager must also ensure that he maintains appropriate and accurate communication with the stakeholders. It helps keep the people involved in the project updated about the workflow and how the project is progressing. However, proper communication and efficient collaboration also ensure that no unwanted risks arise during the course of execution of the project. 

Ensuring a high level of collaboration between the team members involved in the execution of the project is also the responsibility of the project manager. However, nowadays there are several advanced project management and collaboration tools available in the market that help ensure a high level of collaboration between the team members. This will also ensure that the team is efficient and productive and work flows faster. 

Phase 4: Project Monitoring and Control

The fourth phase in the project lifecycle is related to monitoring and control. Monitoring and control are related to quality management in terms of project management. Monitoring and control happen together since it is essential for maintaining the expected quality and to ensure project goals are achieved in the expected timeline.

Project managers also develop critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the purpose of monitoring and control. The KPIs and CSFs ensure that everyone in the team sticks to the original game plan. Some other factors that must be tracked in this phase are the budget and the duration of the project. It helps managers ensure that the project goals are being met within the allotted budget and the right time frame. 

Project managers need to ensure that they monitor the project for the involved costs and that the project is carried out within the time frame. While it is critical for the success of the current project, the lessons learnt from this project may also help with the future projects.

Phase five: Project Closure:

Project closure is an important phase in project management that needs to be carried out with caution. In several cases, companies also hire independent contractors to carry out the closure of the project. During the fifth phase, the project execution has been completed and outcomes verified. However, the paperwork required to mark the completion of the project is still required to be done. Once it is completed, the project outcomes are accomplished and the contract closed. 

Project managers also discuss the outcomes and critical success and failures during the course of the project in this phase. They hold meetings with their team members to discuss important points related to the project just completed which includes any critical achievements or significant hurdles that arose during the course of the project.

This information can be used to improve the team’s efficiency and productivity. Apart from that any critical lessons learnt from the current project can also be used in future projects to make execution seamless and the project a success.

Companies keep detailed reports ready after the completion of projects which can be accessed later for use in other projects. It is important for managers to reflect on the critical wins and losses related to each project after its completion since that can help make improvements which will help save time and money in later projects.

Importance of the five phases of project management:

Project management is not an easy or straightforward task mainly because of unforeseen risks and changes. However, the processes and methods as well as tools used by a company for project management can be continuously improved to minimize risks and for improved results.

To simplify project management, project managers must understand the importance of the five basic phases of project management, which will help them minimize risks and keep the project on track. It will also help them plan and include any changes once execution has begun without any difficulty.

Planning is of critical importance in terms of project management just like any other operational activity. It is why the planning phase is generally the most time consuming phase in project management. However, when done properly and with a lot of focus, it also helps bring superior results and save costs. There are many project planning tools available for managers that can be used to complete the planning phase in a shorter duration.

 Project managers must also focus on change management and risk management plans which are critical to avoiding scope creep as well as the development of important documents like the project charter and the stakeholder register.

Setting goals is another crucial area which requires a lot of focus and precision so managers can set manageable and achievable goals. However, time is a critical constraint for project managers and to ensure a smooth workflow, they must ensure a high level of collaboration among team members by using online collaboration tools.