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Definition of project life cycle: Exploring the 5 phases

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When you’re starting a big project, establishing a foundation for success is crucial.  However, it can be tough to figure out where to begin. One key to success is understanding the project life cycle – a series of stages a project goes through from start to finish.

The project life cycle includes five main stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closure. Keeping an eye on the completion of each phase helps ensure the project stays on time and within budget. 

In this article, we’ll explore the definition of project life cycle in depth and show how tools like Jira can streamline and enhance each stage of the process.

What is the project life cycle?

The project management life cycle provides a structured plan for project managers to guide their projects to successful completion. It includes all the stages needed in a project – from the inception of an idea to the final implementation.

When project managers have a clear understanding of the various project management phases, they can see the big picture and better know how to handle each stage. These phases break the project down into simpler steps, making it easier for project managers to anticipate what’s coming next. This, in turn, helps them stay on track and ensure the project’s success. Using the right tools and methods also contributes to effective team management throughout the project life cycle.

The 5 project life cycle phases

The project life cycle outlines the different stages a project goes through from start to finish. It encompasses several key phases, each addressing different needs as the project progresses. This framework offers a high-level view of the project’s evolution, ensuring you hit important milestones along the way. There are typically five project life cycle phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closure. 

Initiation is where you define the goals, scope, budget, and timeline. Planning follows, focusing on creating a detailed action plan. Execution then carries out the plans to deliver the product. Once the project begins, you must monitor the project and control for any deviations from the plan. Finally, closure involves wrapping up tasks, obtaining project acceptance, and archiving records.

Even though the names and exact number of phases may differ, most project life cycles follow a similar pattern of planning, execution, and closure. The key is to have a structured approach that helps manage resources, timelines, and deliverables as the project moves from one stage to the next. 

Throughout the phases, project managers monitor and control their teams' efforts, tracking progress and adjusting work as needed to keep the project on schedule and within budget.

Initiation phase

The initiation phase marks the beginning of a project, with the project manager defining the scope and objectives. During this phase, it’s vital to align stakeholders on common goals and lay the foundation for a successful project.

Next, the project manager creates a project charter, outlining the purpose, goals, and scope of the project. This charter includes the following key information:

  • Project purpose and justification
  • Main objectives and deliverables
  • Key stakeholders and team members
  • Initial schedule and budget estimates

The project manager also conducts a feasibility assessment to determine if the project is realistic and worthwhile.

Planning phase

During the planning phase, the project manager develops a detailed project plan and roadmap. This involves determining key scheduling details, resource allocation, and risks that could impact the project. The goal is to create a comprehensive map of how the team will execute the work.

Jira Product Discovery (JPD) helps gather and organize product ideas, features, and solutions, creating custom, up-to-date roadmaps that show which features the team will build, when, and why. JPD helps project managers identify and prioritize ideas or features that will have the most substantial impact on the project's success. 

Execution phase

During the execution phase, the team puts the project plan into action. The project manager plays a key role in coordinating resources, including people, tools, and materials, while also ensuring the team is well-informed about their individual tasks and timelines.

Jira is a collaboration tool that helps teams track work activities and offers simplified project tracking and enable seamless project management across both software and business teams, all while accommodating each team's unique working style.

Jira provides end-to-end management of this critical stage. The platform handles the day-to-day demands of executing complex projects, freeing up teams to focus on delivering work rather than struggling with spreadsheets and disjointed tools.

With Jira, project managers can assign tasks, set deadlines, and automate reminders so nothing slips through the cracks. With all their work in one place, they can understand how each task impacts the timeline and budget. This allows for immediate adjustments to keep the project moving forward.

Monitoring and controlling phase

The monitoring and controlling phase involves regularly checking project progress and team performance to ensure everything adheres to the project plan.

During this phase, the project manager identifies any deviations from the plan and budget, determining the cause to take corrective action. Tools such as status reports, time tracking, budget reports, risk management plans, and stakeholder reviews make it easy to see the most important metrics and milestones. To make changes to the plan, team members should submit a change request for approval. 

Closing phase

The closing phase marks the formal end of a project. During this phase, the focus is on getting final approvals and sign-offs, conducting a post-project review, identifying what went well, determining areas for improvement, and documenting lessons learned. These activities foster a culture of continuous learning and promote accountability and transparency.

Agile approaches to the project life cycle

In traditional project management, teams typically establish a fixed plan that does not change. Agile project management, on the other hand, allows for changes to the project plan. In the Agile methodology, teams engage in short, frequent check-ins and make adjustments. This approach focuses on iterative development, customer collaboration, and adaptability. The best methodology depends on the project type.

Scrum is a widely adopted Agile methodology in which Scrum teams work in time-boxed iterations, with daily stand-up meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and plans. In Kanban, another Agile methodology, teams visualize workflows using a Kanban board, allowing them to prioritize tasks and maintain a smooth workflow.

Benefits of effective project life cycle management

Effective project life cycle management streamlines processes in several ways:

  • Improved project visibility: Teams can proactively remove obstacles to ensure timely, high-quality results. This enables more effective decision-making.
  • Better risk management: Teams can spot risks early and find solutions. Regular risk checks ensure projects stay on time and avoid costly delays or failure.
  • Enhanced stakeholder communication: With regular updates, progress reports, and meetings, participants stay more informed and involved throughout the project life cycle.

Project managers can use Jira tools to organize and prioritize ideas, making it easy to create and share custom roadmaps with the team.

  • Jira breaks large projects into manageable tasks, tracks progress, and encourages teamwork across all teams and the organization.
  • Jira Product Discovery works with Jira, providing context for and visibility into software development projects, business tasks, and more.

Ensure a successful project life cycle with Jira Product Discovery

Jira, a popular project management tool, offers several features and project planning templates to streamline processes and provide context and visibility for projects.

JPD helps with planning, tracking, and managing project phases. With JPD, product teams can neatly gather and organize product ideas, opportunities, features, and solutions within a centralized tool. This helps in the  prioritization of features to find those with the most significant impact.

Jira is effective project management tools that natively integrate with JPD, providing context for and visibility of all project tasks. 

Project life cycle: Frequently asked questions

How does Agile differ from traditional project life cycles?

Agile and traditional project life cycle approaches differ significantly in their approach to change and planning. Agile is known for its flexibility and iterative nature, embracing change and promoting continuous review and adaptation. As the project progresses, the team continuously gathers new information, insights, and feedback, allowing them to understand what works and what doesn't. This enables them to make dynamic adjustments to the project plan to make it more effective and aligned with the project's goals.

Traditional approaches are more sequential and rigid. Project managers conduct detailed planning upfront, and the team adheres closely to the plan. In this approach, change is challenging to accommodate.

Each approach has advantages, but Agile is better suited for projects where change is expected or necessary.

How does project life cycle management contribute to organizational growth?

Project life cycle management helps teams optimize the utilization of resources, including people and tools. This improved efficiency allows teams to complete projects on time, contributing to the success of the organization.

What are the potential challenges faced during the project life cycle?

Project management can be complex and challenging, requiring careful attention to potential obstacles, such as scope creep, resource constraints, and communication breakdowns.

Scope creep happens when project requirements expand beyond what the team decided at the start of the project, leading to insufficient resources, delays, and deviations from the project plan. Change control processes help eliminate scope creep. Project managers must check the project's scope often, communicate changes, and involve stakeholders to make sure any changes match the project goals.

Resource constraints can cause delays, jeopardizing successful project completion. To overcome these resource issues, check your resources early in the project planning. Create a backup plan ahead of time. This is how you can find potential problems and think of solutions, like getting outside help or shifting your resources.

Productivity suffers when there are communication breakdowns, which encompass insufficient communication, disagreements, and poor collaboration. Creating a culture where people are happy to share information within the project team and holding regular meetings, both formal and casual, can keep everyone on the same page and prevent communication breakdowns. Project management tools, such as Jira, simplify communication, track progress, and simplify information sharing.

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