Projects are essentially a series of steps you take to turn an idea into a reality. The Project Management Institute (PMI) breaks down these steps into five project management phases: initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing.
In this article, we will go through each of the five project management phases and how you can excel at each step.
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Project management phases
As mentioned above, the five phases of a project management life cycle are: project initiation, project planning, project execution, project monitoring and control, and project closure.
1. Project conception & initiation
Project conception & initiation is the first phase in the journey of project management, and the most important one too. This is when it’s decided if the project is necessary, and if so if it is feasible to execute it.
There are two tools that project managers use to evaluate whether to go on with the project, or not. They are as follows:
Business case document
The business case document is a formally compiled list of reasons of why the project is needed and if the execution of the project worth its estimated results. If the justification in the business case document is good enough to convince the panel, then the project will move ahead. If not, the project may be shelved.
If the project management office does not have enough resources and expertise to carry out the proposed project, then at this point, the panel may decide to shelve the project. Taking on the project with the necessary knowledge or resources, even if it may be beneficial for the business, may prove to be disastrous for the PMO. Resulting in wasted time, effort, and money.
If the panel is confident about the project after taking a look at the business case and feasibility study, then the project is given a green signal. This brings us to our next step: Project Planning.
2. Project planning
It is essential to carry out this step with due diligence, because the quality of effort put in planning will have an impact on the future phases of the project, and thus the final result. A good project plan should be clear, realistic and well-defined so the team working on it can carry out their tasks quickly and efficiently. The project plan must include the clear and attainable guidelines of the following aspects:
The project plan must outline specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound goals for the project. For a pitch-perfect definition of your project goals, use project management software to guide you.
The project scope must clearly define what the final product or result of the project should look like so that the team to get a clear vision of what needs to be achieved.
Definition of deliverables
Deliverables are small time-bound milestones, that should first be achieved to reach the destination of project completion. If the goal of the project is a production of 100 bicycles, this goal will be divided into small deliverables such as completion of output of all wheels, completion of production of all handlebars, completion of production of all seats, completion of the process of assembling all the parts, etc. The achievement of all these deliverables will result in project completion, i.e., production of 100 bicycles.
These deliverables should be identified, clearly defined and deadlines must be set to achieve each of them during project planning. Through good project management software, you can keep a clear track of all the achieved and to-be achieved deliverables.
Once the deliverables are clearly defined, the responsibility to achieve them should be assigned to individuals or teams. This should be done through a clearly defined work breakdown structure, or if you find some inconsistencies during completion of any deliverable, you know who is responsible. Work breakdown is easy to perform with a good project management software. Tip: Bear in mind the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and teams when assigning duties.
Budgets must be wisely allocated for each deliverable according to the nature of each activity.
Human resources plan
Here, each member of a team is assigned some tasks, and negotiations are made with the team members and supervisors, on the time that needs to be devoted on the project by each of them. Also if additional staff is required, then arrangements are made for that. A project management software helps you to create an efficient human resources plan.
Risk management plan
Here, all the risks or hiccups that can occur during the project journey, are listed down, and mitigation strategies are prepared for expected risks that have high stakes on them, and all this is done, with the help of suggestions from internal experts, stakeholders, project sponsors and the project team. Risk management plans are prepared better with project management software.
Here, it will be specified, the people who need to be provided specific project-related information, and the timing and channels through which the data will be delivered to them.
Stakeholder management plan
It defines the role of the stakeholders in the given project, whether they too need to perform some tasks, or providing timely updates of the project to them is enough.
Change management plan
Here, the protocols and processes are defined, for making changes in any of the project-related plans during the project, if needed. Change management plans can be made effectively, with project management software.
3. Project execution
This is when the actual work to complete the project is performed. The teams start executing their tasks, as defined in the project management plan. The project manager, in the meanwhile, keeps the execution process channeled in the right direction and also ensures that all the activities are performed well within the time limit allotted. The work performed is continuously presented to the stakeholders, who then review it and suggest any revisions, if required. Projects can be better executed with the help of project management software and payroll software to track human resources.
4. Project monitoring and control
Sometimes, the lengthy process of project management leads to scope creep, which may derail the project from the course of achieving the desired results. To prevent this, the teams constantly monitor the tasks that are being performed, regularly evaluate the KPIs, and monitor the budget and schedule. This phase of project monitoring and control is simultaneously performed during project execution.
5. Project closure
Project closure is the phase when the final finished product is handed over to the stakeholders. At this point, the teams evaluate their performances, mistakes made, and success achieved so that they can use this experience for the next project. And it’s time for them to move on to their next project.
Case study: What not to do
Now, let’s look at a case study of the most disastrous project management ever: ‘the Titanic,’ so that we can learn some critical project management lessons from it.
The initial project scope of the Titanic project demanded a technologically safe and robust design of the Titanic ship. This project scope was misinterpreted and spread as a myth that Titanic was practically unsinkable.
Due to this misinterpretation, the team in charge decided to reduce the number of lifeboats since they were so sure the Titanic could never sink. With the extra space, the first class passengers could get a better view, and the dining area could be enlarged. This led to scope creep, and project Titanic was no longer the original safe version it was planned to be.
Some officials raised this issue that reducing the number of lifeboats can prove to be dangerous, but their warnings were not paid any heed. Furthermore, the planning and execution of this project were so hurried that it led to confusion among the team members about their roles and responsibilities.
This case study is an unforgettable lesson for all project managers to execute each phase of project management very diligently, while keeping every aspect of the resources and goals in mind, and making a robust project plan with a clear framework, for a confusion-free execution.
Over to you
You can avoid these significant mistakes by managing your project closely through each project phase. There are many tools to help you achieve this, and make your job easier and less complicated.
While software can help you do some of the heavy lifting, a solid understanding of project management is vital to making your projects a success.
GoSkills Project Management for Business Professionals online course can help give you a solid foundation in planning, scheduling, and executing your projects to turn any potential “Titanics” into triumphs instead.
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