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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chapter 4: Project Life Cycle


Aim: To Describe the Project Life Cycle

The project manager and project team have one shared goal: to carry out the work of the project for the purpose of meeting the project’s objectives. Every project has an inception, a period during which activities move the project toward completion, and a closure (either successful or unsuccessful). Taken together, these phases represent the path a project takes from the beginning to its end and is generally called the project life cycle.

The project life cycle is often formally divided into phases that describe common activities as the project matures. The activities near the beginning of a project look different from activities closer to the end of the project. Most projects share activity characteristics as the project moves through its life cycle. You might see several questions on the exam that ask you to compare different phases in a project’s life cycle. In general, here are the common comparisons of early and late project life cycle activities:
• The least is known about the project near its beginning. As the project matures, more is learned about the project and the product it produces. This process is called progressive elaboration. As you learn more about the project, all plans and projections become more accurate.
• The level of uncertainty and risk is the highest at the beginning of a project. As more is learned about the project and more of the project’s work is completed, uncertainty and risk decreases.
• Stakeholders assert the greatest influence on the outcome of a project at the beginning. After the project starts, the stakeholder influence continually declines. Their influence to affect the project’s outcome is lowest towards the end of the project.
• Costs and personnel activity are both low at the beginning of a project, are high near the middle of the project, and tend to taper off to a low level as the project nears completion.
• The cost associated with project changes is at its lowest point at the project’s beginning. No work has been done, so changing is easy. As more and more work is completed, the cost of making any changes rises.

One of the more important relationships to understand throughout the project life cycle is the relationship between project knowledge and risk. As stated earlier, knowledge of a project increases as more work is done due to progressive elaboration, and risk decreases as the project moves toward completion.

Another important relationship present in a project’s life cycle is the relationship between the declining influence of stakeholders on the outcome of a project and the cost of changes and error corrections. Because little or no work has been accomplished near the beginning of a project, changes require few adjustments and are generally low in cost.
At the same time, stakeholders can assert their authority and make changes to the project’s direction. As more work is accomplished, the impact and cost of changes increase and leave stakeholders with fewer and fewer viable options to affect the project’s product.

The image below summarizes these relationships:


Although all projects are unique, they do share common components or processes that are normally grouped together. Below are the generally accepted process groups defined in the PMBOK:
• Initiating
• Planning
• Executing
• Controlling
• Closing

Moving from one phase in the life cycle to another is generally accompanied by a transfer of technical material or control from one group to another. Most phases officially end when the work from one phase is accepted as sufficient to meet that phase’s objectives and is passed onto the next phase. The work from one phase could be documentation, plans, components necessary for a subsequent phase, or any work product that contributes to the project’s objectives.

You can learn more about the Project Lifecycle by Clicking Here

Who Are the Stakeholders?

A project exists to satisfy a need or requirement. Without a need of some sort, a project is not necessary. Needs originate with one or more people; someone has to state a need. As a result, a project fills the need and likely affects some people or organizations. All people and organizations that have an interest in the project or its outcome are called project stakeholders. The stakeholders provide input to the requirements of the project and the direction the project should take throughout its life cycle.

The list of stakeholders can be large and can change as the project progresses. One of the first requirements to properly manage a project is the creation of a key stakeholder list. Be very careful to include all key stakeholders. Many projects have been derailed due to the political fallout of excluding a key stakeholder. Every potential stakeholder cannot be included in all aspects of a project, so it is important to identify the stakeholders who represent all other stakeholders.

Although it sounds easy to create a list of stakeholders, the ground reality is far from easy. You often need to ask many questions about many people to ensure you create a complete stakeholder list. Because stakeholders provide input for the project requirements and mould the image of the project and its expectations, it is vitally important that you be as persistent as necessary to identify all potential stakeholders. The Key stakeholders for any project would include
• Project manager - The person responsible for managing the project.
• Customer or user - The person or organization that will receive and use the project’s product or service.
• Performing organization - The organization that performs the work of the project.
• Project team members - The members of the team who are directly involved in performing the work of the project.
• Project management team - Project team members who are directly involved in managing the project.
• Sponsor - The person or organization that provides the authority and financial resources for the project.
• Influencers - People or groups not directly related to the project’s product but with the ability to affect the project in a positive or negative way.
• Project management office (PMO) - If the PMO exists, it can be a stakeholder if it has responsibility for the project’s outcome.

You can learn more about the Project Stakeholders by Clicking Here

The Project Manager


One of the most visible & Obvious stakeholders is the project manager. The project manager is the person responsible for managing the project and is a key stakeholder. Although the project manager is the most visible stakeholder, he does not have the ultimate authority or responsibility for any project. Senior management, specifically the project sponsor, has the ultimate authority for the project. Senior management issues the project charter and is responsible for the project itself. The project manager is granted the authority by senior management to get the job done and to resolve any issues that might arise during the course of the project.

You can learn more about the Roles & Responsibilities of a Project Manager by Clicking Here

Exam Watch:
You must have a clear understanding of the project manager’s roles and responsibilities for this exam. If you have a pdf version of the PMBOK, search for the word “Project Manager,” and look at all the responsibilities defined. Know what a project manager must do, should do, and should not do.

Managing Project Constraints

Managing projects is a continual process of balancing the various competing project variables, or constraints. Historically, project managers have focused on the three most common constraints of scope, time, and cost. But in reality, there are more than just three constraints. Each of the project constraints are related and have an effect on the outcome of the project. The project manager must manage the competing constraints to successfully complete a project. Too much attention on one generally means one or more of the others suffer. A major concern of the project manager is to ensure each of these variables is balanced with the others at all times. The project constraints include, but are not limited to
• Scope - How much work is to be done? Increasing the scope causes more work to be done, and vice versa.
• Quality - What quality standards must the project fulfill? Higher quality standards often require more work, impacting other constraints.
• Schedule - The time required to complete the project. Modifying the schedule alters the start and end dates for tasks in the project and can alter the project’s overall end date.
• Budget - The cost required to accomplish the project’s objectives. Modifying the cost of the project generally has an impact on the scope, time, or quality of the project.
• Resources - Resources that are available to conduct the work of the project.
• Risk - Each decision made in the planning and execution of a project comes with risk. Riskier decisions might have consequences that affect other constraints.
Any change to one of the variables has some effect on one, or several, of the remaining variables. Likewise, a change to any of the variables has an impact on the overall outcome of the project. The key to understanding the project constraints is that they are all interrelated. For example, if you decrease the cost of your project, it is likely that you decrease the quality and perhaps even increase the risk. With less money, less work gets done. Or, you might find that it takes more time to produce the same result with less money. Either way, a change to cost affects other variables.

Even though this concept is fairly straightforward, a project manager must stay on top of each one to ensure they are balanced. In addition to managing the project constraints, the project manager also is responsible for explaining the need for balance to the stakeholders. All too often, stakeholders favor one constraint over another. You have to ensure that the stakeholders understand the need for balancing all constraints.

Project Management Process Groups


Work executed during the project can be expressed in specific groups of processes. Each project moves through each of the groups of processes, some more than once. These common collections of processes that the PMBOK defines are called process groups. Process groups serve to group processes in a project that represent related tasks and mark a project’s migration toward completion.

Remember that the five process groups defined by the PMBOK are
• Initiating - Defines the project objectives and grants authority to the project manager
• Planning - Refines the project objectives and scope and plans the steps necessary to meet the project’s objectives
• Executing - Puts the project plan into motion and performs the work of the project
• Monitoring and Controlling - Measures the performance of the executing activities and compares the results with the project plan
• Closing - Documents the formal acceptance of the project’s product and brings all aspects of the project to a close

Understanding Project Life Cycle and Project Management Processes Relationships

The PMBOK defines 42 project processes, grouped into five process groups. These processes define the path a project takes through its life cycle. The processes are not linear; some overlap with one another. In fact, some processes are iterative and are executed multiple times in a single project. It is important to become comfortable with the process flow and how it defines the project life cycle.

Throughout the life of a project, different processes are needed at different times. A project starts with little activity. As the project comes to life, more tasks are executed and more processes are active at the same time. This high level of activity increases until nearing the completion of the project (or project phase). As the end nears, activity starts to diminish until the termination point is reached.

Processes, Process Groups, and Knowledge Areas

The best way to prepare for questions that test your knowledge of the project management processes is to know and understand each of the processes, along with its process group and knowledge area assignment.

You can learn more about the Processes, Process Groups & Knowledge Areas by Clicking Here. The details are available in a table format that is easy to understand.

Understanding Process Interaction Customization

The five process groups defined in the PMBOK are general in nature and common to projects. However, all projects are unique and some do not require all 42 individual project processes. The processes defined in the PMBOK are there for use when needed. You should need the majority of the processes to properly manage a project, but in some cases you will not require each process.

Because projects differ from one another, a specific process can differ dramatically between projects. For example, the process of developing a communication plan is simple and straightforward for a small project with local team members. However, the process is much more involved and complicated if the team is large and located in several countries.
Understand the five process groups and 42 processes as defined in the PMBOK. But, more importantly, understand when and how to use each process. The exam focuses more on process implementation than process memorization. Be prepared to really think about which processes you need for a particular project.

Prev: Chapter 3

Next: Chapter 5

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