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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Project Life Cycle

The life cycle is the Key factor that uniquely distinguishes projects from non-projects. The project life cycle defines the beginning and the end of a project and the various milestones associated with it. Although every project has definite planned start and end dates, the deliverables vary across projects.

As part of the PMP Exam Prep series, I had published an article on Project Lifecycle which is still very valid for the PMI ACP Exam as well. So, I would suggest you revisit the page and understand the details because I am going to skip the core details that are already covered there. Click here

The project life cycle provides the basic framework for managing a project, regardless of the specific work involved. In general, a project life cycle refers to a logical sequence of activities undertaken to accomplish goals or objectives. 
According to the Project Management Principles outlined by PMI, every project would have 5 different stages or phases in the Projects Lifecycle. They are:
1. Initiation

2. Planning
3. Execution
4. Monitoring & Control
5. Closing

Trivia: Some people use the terms Project Life Cycle and Project Management Lifecycle interchangeably. Even though PMI Defines a Project to have the above 5 different life cycle stages, its more from a Project Management Stand point. So, a Pharmaceutical project could easily just have 3 Phases – Research, Develop and Sell but each of these Phases would require proper planning, execution and closure which is where Project Management comes in… 


The following are some of the salient characteristics of a project life cycle:
1. Cost and staffing are low at the beginning of the project.

2. Stakeholder influence is high at the start of a project.
3. Uncertainties are also high at the start of a project.
4. The ability to influence the final outcome characteristics of a project without impacting the cost is high at the start of a project
5. The likelihood of a project not being completed at all is highest in its initial stages. 

As the implementation of the project matures and recognition of its perceived value to the organization increases, risks and uncertainties that were associated with the project during initiation decline.


Projects are generally so complex and ridden with uncertainties that they are divided into Phases. At the end of each phase we expect a set of deliverables. Also, the skill sets needed and cost associated with each of these phases is very different. 

You may be wondering why I am talking about Relationship between these Project Phases (Or Lifecycle stages). Most people feel that these phases happen one after the other and often ignore the other types of relationships they could actually have with one another. 

Sequential relationships – This is the simplest Relationship type and also very common. In projects whose phases bear a sequential relationship with each other, a subsequent phase starts only when the implementation of its immediately preceding phase is complete. This project life cycle model is called a waterfall model because, like flow of water in a waterfall, the implementation of a project is carried out phase by phase, from top to bottom; for example, the completion of the requirement phase precedes the start of the design phase.

Overlapping relationships – In projects whose phases bear an overlapping relationship with each other, a subsequent phase starts even before implementation of its immediately preceding phase is complete; for example, coding might actually begin before Design is complete or Testing might begin before Coding is fully Complete. Waterfall model with feedback is an example of overlapping relationships. Sashimi model, and V model are also examples of overlapping relationships

Iterative relationships – In projects whose phases bear an iterative relationship with each other, at any given point in time, implementation of only one phase is planned, and if required, the same phase is executed again, depending on outcomes; for example, requirement analysis alone may be executed many times over until the requirement has been clearly defined. This project life cycle model is also called the RUP, spiral model.

Phase transition stages are convenient and appropriate points to update baselines, conduct senior management reviews, and evaluate project costs, quality requirements, and schedules, as it indicates the end of particular types of work like requirement gateway, design etc. Specialist review can be conducted at the end of the phase as this point determines whether we can take the project forward or not, and what actions are required to bring the project back to control.

A project completion phase is also called a phase exit. Exit criteria entail getting an acceptance from the customer, called sign-off.

Prev: What is a Project? 

Next: Project, Program and Portfolio Management

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