Every new project comes with costs, deliverables, deadlines, and demands. Failing to manage all of these moving parts could result in lost money, wasted resources, and failed projects. Fortunately, following the project life cycle methodology can bring order to the bedlam.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines the project life cycle as, “a collection of generally sequential project phases whose name and number are determined by the control needs of the organization or organizations involved in the project,” in the PMBOK® Guide, otherwise known as the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The PMBOK® Guide is a great reference point for any business professional looking to improve their project management skillset.
Regardless of size or scope, each project contains five phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure — in that order. Additionally, when all is said and done, you’ll need to create client invoices based on tracked time and expenses. Dividing your efforts into these six phases will give the project more structure and simplify large tasks into manageable steps. Here is a breakdown of those six stages.
The beginning phase of the project management methodology focuses on defining the project at a basic level. During this phase, sponsors and stakeholders are decided upon and the initial research begins. It’s not uncommon for a team to start the project with a ‘project kickoff meeting’ as a way to communicate the goal of the project and outline the benefits, cost, and risk factors associated with deliverables. Once assessed, a business case is developed to define the why, what, how, and who of the project.
Here’s an example of what should be included in a business case:
- Company Name: Wow World Media
- Project Name: Wow World Media
- Project Manager: John Doe
- Objective: The objective is to work with inter-organizational knowledge transfer, implement professional expertise networks, optimize time to empower a new employee or team to perform better, accelerate learning in the workplace, streamline the search for relevant information and avoid loss of key knowledge
- Stakeholders: Brett Anderson, Kerry Nolan, Eve Sherry.
- Timeline: November 1 to December 22, 2021
- Benefits: The benefits of this report include providing Wow World Media with the tools they need to spend less time managing operational processes as well as help them attain a new competitive edge.
- Risks: While we see more benefits than risks, the business is evolving and may need more focus on training when onboarding new employees.
2. Project planning
In the project planning stage of the project life cycle, teams create and clearly define goals. While there are multiple ways to execute goal planning, SMART goal criteria is a great strategy to get the ball rolling. With the SMART approach, each letter refers to a different criterion for judging objectives. To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
After goals are clearly defined, you can create a timeline to document project milestones, deadlines, and deliverables.
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3. Project execution
The execution phase centers on implementing theories from steps one and two to create and launch the project within the specified timeframe. First, specific tasks will need to be assigned to the appropriate team members, along with due dates. If you already use project management software, you can add these tasks to your project workflow so your team can quickly access resources and communicate in one place. Knowing who is doing what and when will reduce the chances of unforeseen issues or bottlenecks.
4. Project performance
Quantifying the success of a project is imperative for many reasons. Firstly, team members need to learn from both success and failure, and you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Fortunately, there are countless key performance indicators (KPIs) to use to set, compare, and achieve strategic goals using project management software.
5. Project closure
During the final stage of the life cycle, teams will conduct analyses to see whether or not the project was a success. This is also the time to present the project outcomes to stakeholders and other individuals involved in the project. From there, it is important to check in with the client to see how the product or service is performing, assess customer satisfaction, address problems, resolve issues, inform future projects, and identify future opportunities.
6. Project Invoicing
Last but not least, you will need to report at the end of the project. If you have been using a time tracker, billable and non-billable time can easily be accessed. This will save you time and make it much easier to create an invoice as well as get additional insight into your workflow. Simply set an hourly rate for each specific project and task, and decide what work is billable and non-billable. Once you have set a billable hour budget, you can create invoices from your billable hours. You can then customize your invoices with a logo, your client’s information, set the currency, and include the product or service description with the total bill.
Managing a project can be tricky, but project management tools can help your company make the best use of its time, resources, and money. Using the project life cycle guide in tandem with collaborative software will help your team deliver a great product every time.