What Is the Project Management Life Cycle?

Updated on October 12, 2017
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Max earned his project management professional (PMP) certification in 2013. He holds an MA in Communication from U of I.


The project management life cycle includes five high-level phases that account for all aspects of managing a project from beginning to end. These five phases are: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Having an understanding of the parts of each phase, and ensuring your operating in accordance with those while running your projects, will help make sure your project runs smoothly. This article takes a deep dive into what each of the five phases consists of.

Initiation Phase

The initiation phase is where the project manager and maybe other technical resources will review the business case associated with the requested project. From there, if the project is approved, they will identify who the project stakeholders need to be, gather high-level requirements, and identify risks and issues associated with the project. All of that information will be fed into the project charter, which will need to be signed off on by all of the key stakeholders before moving forward. The project charter is the key output of the initiation phase.

A brainstorming session is a great way to get requirements from project stakeholders.
A brainstorming session is a great way to get requirements from project stakeholders. | Source

Planning Phase

The planning phase is where the project team will work to flesh out detailed requirements associated with the project, and then prioritize those requirements. Those requirements will then feed into a process mapping conversation with some of the more technical resources who will be working on the project and key stakeholders with the intent of fleshing out all of more granular details about the functionality associated with the application. After that, a business analyst will take the requirements and facilitate a discussion with the technical resources to create a work breakdown structure, which breaks the requirements into large work pieces, and then breaks those work pieces down further into tasks and sub-tasks that have an estimate duration associated with them. The project manager will then work to get resources assigned to those tasks.

As part of this phase the project manager will also create the communication plan, deployment plan, and project schedule, and will pull all of this into the project plan, which is the primary output of this part of the planning phase. The project plan will guide the rest of the project.

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Execution Phase

The execution phase of the project management life cycle is where the deliverable and everything that will be used to test the quality of the final deliverable is developed, whether you're overseeing the construction of a building or overseeing the creation of a software application. While the the developers or builders are grinding away at creating the deliverable, the business analyst should be busy creating test cases and test plans to test against the requirements generated during the planning phase. As soon as development is done, the final product needs to be tested against the test plans that were generated. Any issues discovered as part of the testing should be stored in an issue log and then turned over to developers for remediation. After the final product passes the test plans, it's ready for review by the key stakeholders. After they accept, the execution phase of the project is complete.

Monitoring and Controlling Phase

During the monitoring and controlling phase of a project, you define the measurables or key performance indicators you will use during the development of the deliverables to ensure the project is on track and moving along as intended. Additionally, this is where you will define how you will monitor the budget to ensure that it's on track as well. All of the measurables that get generated should live in the project plan.

Having a central dashboard is a great way to keep an eye on all of the key performance indicators you want to monitor.
Having a central dashboard is a great way to keep an eye on all of the key performance indicators you want to monitor. | Source

Closing Phase

The most key component of the closure phase is that the final deliverables get turned over to the requesting entity, and that the requesting entity accepts those deliverables. Next, the project manager ensures that all documentation that needs to be signed off on by the key stakeholders gets signed and stored in the appropriate location. Finally, the project manager also needs to ensure that all outstanding invoices against the project are prepared for payment.

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