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Project Life cycle

Jun 28, 2020 Blog

Project Life Cycle

The PMI Project Management process groups are called:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Control & Monitoring
  • Closing

You may need to repeat these processes repeatedly in a large project. These processes will integrate with your particular organizational or industry project management methodology.

1. Project Selection Methods

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: compares the predicted costs and potential benefits of a project.
  • Decision matrix/scoring models: a decision-support tool allowing decision makers to solve their problem by evaluating, rating, and comparing different alternatives on multiple criteria
  • Opportunity Costs: a comparison of what an organization cannot do if they choose to do the project.
  • Economic Methods: Payback period, net present value, or internal rate of return. The payback period is the number of years required to return the original investment from the net cash flows (net operating income after taxes plus depreciation).
  • Balance Portfolio Method: Selecting projects to provide a good mix of project types and market segments, projects completing at staggered times, and varied risk distribution.

2. Feasibility

  1. Is the project technically feasible?
  2. Does the project have management support, employee involvement and commitment?
  3. Does the project generate economic benefits?
  4. Can the project be financially supported?
  5. Can the project be integrated well with the local cultural practices and beliefs?
  6. Will the project elevate or hinder the participants’ social status?
  7. Is the project physically and organizationally safe?
  8. Is the project politically correct?
  9. What is the environmental impact?
  10. What is the market demand, expected competitive activities, commercial start-up, and price wars potential?

3. High Level Planning

  1. Think beyond your first approach idea. List at least five alternative approaches that could be used to achieve the same objectives:
  2. Retrieve previous project lessons learned. Note them here.
  3. Line up plan options, from which the PM can review in consultations with SMEs. What optional approaches are we seriously considering?
  4. Plan with an emphasis on suitability, quality, robustness, and effective integration

4. Assign a PM

Selecting the right project manager for the project is like selecting the right tool for the job. If it is a complex project, crossing departmental boundaries, requiring risk and change management…you should be selecting a person who is both experienced and has been well-trained in project management.

Name the Project Manager and determine their level of authority.

  • Project Expeditor
  • Project Coordinator
  • Project Manager with very limited authority
  • Project Manager with balance authority with the Department Managers
  • Project Manager with authority over the Department Managers
  • Project Manager with full authority over all team members

5. Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder analysis is the starting point of requirements elicitation.  Your information production techniques are not going to be very effective if you are not talking to the right audience!

Start with a stakeholder analysis (a brainstorming session and all individuals, departments, and organizations impacted by the project) and plot the stakeholders based on their levels of interest in the project, and their level of power and influence on the project. This becomes the basis for your project communication plan.

Your next step will be to ensure that you consult with the interested project stakeholders. Many times individuals who feel that they should have been consulted on the decision to undertake the project, or whose point of view was not heeded, will not support the project or will continue to actively oppose it.

6. Project Charter

The project charter is a simple, yet very powerful tool to empower the project manager. A common technique is to initiate the project charter for your project sponsor, then review it with them and request to have them edit it as desired and send it out in their name.

Considerations for your project charter:

  1. Who should send it out?
  2. What do you want to be sure to include in your project charter:
    • Name the project manager.
    • Background on the business purpose and objectives for the project.
    • Scope of work.
    • Initial constraints and assumptions.

7. Preliminary Scope Statement

  • Project Statement:(A quick overview of the project in 15 to 20 words.)
  • Business Purpose:(What are we trying to accomplish?)
  • Specific Project Objectives/Background and Goals: (Reasons for recommending the project, including background information, business problem and more specific goals.)
  • Project Work Statement. (At a high level, what work will you do in this project to deliver the project product? What is the approach you have decided upon?)
  • Key Deliverables: (Verifiable outcomes of the work.)
  • Out of Scope List. (Work that might be part of other projects, purposely decided as out, or on a future wish list.)
  • Key Milestones and Schedule Goals:(Major events and points in time indicating the progress in implementing your work. Potentially define the phases.)
  • Major Constraints and Cost Goal. (Constraints may be physical, technical, resource, or any other limitations.
  • Major Assumptions. (Factors that are not entirely known.)
  • Team Composition. (Identify the core team members including the project manager, sponsors, known vendors, and known subject matter experts.)

9. Divide Large Projects into Phases

Is your project too large? If so, use this space to break down large projects into a program of smaller projects into a program of smaller, time-based sub-projects for the sake of better control.

10. Consult with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Make a list of all the project SMEs. Consult with them regarding these topics:

  1. What improvements would you suggest to the scope or high-level plan?
  2. What team members should be involved?
  3. Who should have approval responsibilities?
  4. Which technologies should be used or avoided?
  5. What risks might we encounter?
  6. How much should things cost?
  7. What do you predict regarding the schedule?
  8. What do you suggest for quality specifications?
  9. What other stakeholders should be involved?

11. Solicit Stakeholders Input

Review the project plans with the project stakeholders, similar to the list of questions you asked the SME’s above, seeking input and advice. Remember that changes are easy to make now, but will be costly and difficult to make later in the project.

12. Approach Analysis

You’ve gathered the stakeholder and SME input and reviewed your assumptions. You’ve broken down your large project into phases. Now at a high level determine how your going to approach the project tactically. List what your team is going to make internally versus hire out or purchase. Plan your approach to ensure a solution that will provide the highest satisfaction to your sponsors based on the constraints and project priorities.

13. WBS

Draft your project work breakdown structure (WBS) to organize all of the work (written in terms of deliverables) in outline or organizational chart format.

When you review your first draft, consider these aspects:

  • The WBS has been written to create every aspect of the project work.
  • Contingency funds and time has or will be allocated.
  • The project team participated in building the WBS or has reviewed and approved it.
  • Project management work is included in the WBS
  • Work packages have been broken down to a level that can be delegated, but not so far as to be micromanaging.
  • Milestones are added to indicate major approvals, phase gates, and other important time indicators – but with zero duration.

14. Resource Identification Estimating

List the people, equipment, and materials that are expected to be needed for the project. The outcome of resource identification is often a printed Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS). If you structure your WBS by organizational departments this is called an Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS).

15. Time and Cost Estimating

Here is a very brief summary of the most important estimating best practices:

Compare actuals to estimates
After the work has been done, compare the actual time the work took to the original estimate. Track the percent off (either under or over) and report that information back to the team members. The best way to improve estimating accuracy is by paying attention. The best way to pay attention is by tracking metrics.

Use more than one approach or more than one person, or both. After you have one estimate, compare the logic using either another approach or another person’s perspective.

Clearly write out what makes this work complete. Many times there are unknown needed revisions, quality acceptance criteria, and a level of completeness that has not been clearly thought out, not to mention communicated to the person doing the estimating.

Present estimates in either a range or by indicating your level of confidence. For example, our project team estimates this will cost $100,000, and we have a confidence level of -20% to +60% (meaning it could very possibly fall between $80,000 and $160,000).

Understand the definition of an estimate. In many knowledge projects (such as engineering, research, IT, creative, etc) the time work takes to create unique deliverables can be extremely difficult to accurately estimate. And eventually the estimation discussion turns into a risk tolerance question. It generally needs to be agreed that without seriously inflating estimates to turn them into guarantees, that schedules are best planned with some flexibility and contingency for going over. There are diminishing returns in over-analyzing the project.

Ask SMEs. Subject matter experts can be a big help, especially in informing project managers what the commonly overlooked work or costs are. There are very common estimation omissions. You will benefit from questioning what they are.

16. Network Diagramming

Detailed instructions, practice exercises, and a problem scenario are available in the workbook.

17-18. Scheduling and Workload Leveling

After you have your idealized network diagram, you will need to negotiate the workload leveled work dates with your project team. Start at the left of your project network diagram to meet with your team members and their department managers, perform the workload leveling, and schedule the work as actual appointments for the upcoming 3 months. For the remainder of the project schedule it is normal to plan around milestone dates.

19. Cost Budgeting

The cost budget is generally the sponsor-approved total cost baseline of a project. This often includes the estimated amount plus any approved project contingency and management reserves.

Sum of Costs of Work packages
+Total Project Cost Contingency/Reserves
+ Management Contingency/Reserves
= Total Project Budget

20. Procurement Plan

For each significantly sized procured service or product answer the following questions:

  1. How will we identify good potential sellers?
  2. What type of pricing/service proposal best fits the project (RFI, RFP, RFB)?
  3. What type of contract legal issues could be written into our procurement contract to protect the project and our organization?
  4. Are there project risks that can be transferred to the sellers?
  5. What will payment arrangements be? Should retainage be considered?
  6. How will we ensure that all bidders receive the same project information at the same time?

21. Quality Plan

The workbook helps in the definition of your quality parameters, quality aids, and in setting technical specifications.

22. Human Resource Planning

The Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) is one of the HR resource planning templates in the workbook.

23. Risk Plan

An example of a risk identification form and the risk log is provided in the workbook. The Project risk game is a good tool for learning about the project risk management process.

24. Change Control Plan

An example change control form is included in the workbook.

25. Communication Plan

Consider including the following components with your communication plan:

  • Collection and filing structure for gathering and storing project information
  • Example of a project status report (showing the format and type of information to be included)
  • Escalation procedures
  • Stakeholder communications analysis
  • Glossary of new project terms

26. Baseline Project Plan

This is the initial version of all of the elements planned for the project including the WBS, schedule, time-based budget, and plan for how the resources, quality risk, communications, and procurement is planned. It often includes a visual/graphic of this plan as a line chart showing the increasing project planned value over the course of the project schedule.

27. Project Plan Approval

When you have the plan completed entirely, review the baseline project plan with the major sponsor. Make sure you include a sample of the format planned for the project status reports, and then request sponsor sign-off.  Note requested plan changes and sponsor rules for change thresholds:

  1. The project needs to be stopped, pending authorization to proceed, when the schedule variance is more than ______% off plan.
  2. The project needs to be stopped, pending authorization to proceed, when the cost variance is more than ______% off plan.

28 Acquire Project Team

In this conversation “fast is slow and slow is fast”.

  • If you are working with functional managers or a workload traffic manager, stress the following:
    • Which tasks require experts and which may be suitable for less skilled staff.
    • The importance of creating experts within the team by putting the same people on related tasks.
  • Ensure that each core project team member has a chance to address any serious project concerns.
  • Either involve the core team members in the creation of the WBS or get their approval on the WBS if they are added to the project later.

The first thing to do is assigning people to work on your project tasks. Talk to the individuals and/or their manager (depending upon your organizational processes). Make sure that they have, or can rearrange things to have, the time available to do the work. As the work is going on, check back to ensure they don’t have too much work and carefully monitor the progress. Reallocate tasks, support through training and problem solving, and provide feedback and reinforcements as needed.

29. Develop Project Team

The development of the project team also often involves taking steps to improve the team interactions and skill competencies for the project.

  1. Has the entire team been briefed on the project rules?
  2. Will the team benefit from having the project manager create a project glossary?
  3. What skills or training may be needed prior to the project work beginning?
  4. What team members need to get to know each other in order to facilitate effective work and communications?
  5. What is in it for the team member? Possibly the ability to learn new skills, add something wonderful to their portfolio, or help their career?

30. Complete Work Packages

This is the executing of the project work. This is the effort of creating the project deliverables as scoped in the project work breakdown structure.Remember that completion measures accomplishment, not effort expended. Consider using the 0-50-100 rule for tracking the completion of work packages.

  • 0% complete = The task has not yet begun.
  • 50% complete = The task has been started but not finished.
  • 100% complete = The task is complete.

Track this percent complete either in a Gantt chart or in the WBS.

31. Scope Verification

This is the work of obtaining formal acceptance of the completed project deliverables.

32. Information Distribution

This includes providing team member work information such as the WBS Dictionary executing the communication management plan, often including providing project status reports and facilitating project meetings, as well as responding to unexpected requests for information.

33. Quality Assurance

This involves the work of applying the quality plan, or more specifically to ensure that the project has the necessary quality tools and techniques, performing the quality audits, and analyzing the processes. The results of quality assurance include making improvements to the project deliverables, processes, and/or plan.

34. Procurement Solicitation and Selection

The workbook shows a example of a Weighted Decision Matrix as a tool to assist in the seller selection process.

35. Overall Change Control

Keep a log of the Change Decisions (tracked from step 24), manage and control the changes to keep the project in balance and all of the plans integrated.

36. Scope Control

The project manager works to influence both the factors that create project scope changes and the impact of those changes. This includes noticing when changes are occurring, filtering out changes from inappropriate people, and ensuring that changes that are accepted into the project are beneficial.


37. Performance Reporting

This involves collecting and distributing performance information on the project status (often including schedule, budget, quality, risk and team performance information). This often also includes using the status information to forecast the future results.

38. Schedule Control

Determine the current schedule status and what the variance is from the plan. Work on influencing the factors that might affect the schedule, determining what may be causing any large schedule changes, and managing the schedule changes as they do occur.Post your schedule report in the Earned Value chart with step 43-44.

39. Contract Administration

The work of managing the agreement and performance between the buyer and the vendor/seller. This also involves managing contract-related changes.

40. Manage Project Team

Managing the project team involves tracking team member performance, providing feedback, resolving issues, and coordinating changes to enhance the project performance. It usually involves communicating both formally and informally with team members.

The workbook contains a helpful checklist of questions a PM should ask themselves regarding setting up their team members to be accountable and to help in fixing performance problems.

41. Manage by Exception to the Project Plan

If the project has been well-planned and work is proceeding on track, communications may expect to be focused on those aspects of the project that are not exactly as planned. When questions arrive the project plan should answer most predictable questions. This frees the project manager to address the things that are differing from the baseline project plan – usually meaning they are spending most of their time managing the project changes to improve the project results.

42. Quality Control

  1. What deliverables need to go through a quality check?
  2. What is the most appropriate way to check the quality?
  3. When should it be carried out?
  4. Who should be involved?

43. Risk Monitoring and Control

  • Known risks are monitored and, where possible, mitigation strategies are followed to reduce the probability or impact.
  • Update the risk log (located with step 23). Are there any new risks?
  • Monitor the associated contingencies for both known risks (in your log) and also for the pool of yet unknown risks.
  • There is a plan in place to continue to monitor and control risks.
  • All risks are assigned to someone.
  • Move those things that are actually occurring to your Issue Log.

44. Cost Control

  1. Have any significant pricing changes occurred during the timeframe of the project?
  2. Are there new opportunities to deliver the same or better project quality at a lower cost?

45. Manage Stakeholders

The project manager must communicate with the stakeholders to inform, resolve issues, and set accurate expectations with the people who have interest in the project. This is especially important whenever there are problems on the project.

The workbook provides a good checklist of tips for this.

46. Procurement Audits

The project manager must lead the buyers work of inspecting and identifying any weaknesses in the seller’s work processes or deliverables.

47. Product Verification

Evaluating a deliverable at the end of a project or project phase with the intent to assure or confirm that it satisfies the planned intent. Review the final project WBS and validate that everything planned was included. This is often done immediately before the formal acceptance.

48. Formal Acceptance

Have the sponsor sign off and note any required “punch list” of minor work that can be completed after formal project close-out.

49. Lessons Learned and Best Practices

The workbook provides a sample agenda for this meeting including a project report cards, lessons learned questions, and action challenges for improving the sharing of lessons learned and best practices.

50-51. Update Records and Archive Records

Documenting the final information pertaining to the acceptance documentation, project files, closure documents, and lessons learned. This often includes the completion of any needed compliance documentation. Archiving involves putting the updated project records into a long-term storage location for later retrieval as needed.

Review the list of “Out of Scope” work and forward it with recommendations when appropriate. Also review the “Wish List for Future Projects” and communicate it for consideration for future project selections.

52. Release Team

Acknowledgement and communication that the project team members have completed the required temporary work and that their services will no longer be required for this project. Often this is a point of recognition of the individual team member contributions, appreciation of their efforts, performance reporting, and transition to other activities.

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