In this guide, you are going to learn about the key project management stages as well as how you can effectively implement them. Whilst, bearing in mind, just like kissflow puts it (in their 5 phases of project management breakdown to be precise), you’ll come to realize that managing a project is no easy feat, no matter what the scale and scope are.
From planning the minutia to handling the ever-changing demands of clients to shipping the deliverables on time, there’s a lot that can go wrong. When you divide the project into manageable stages, each with its own goals and deliverables, it’s easier to control the project and the quality of the output. So as to optimize your business workplace workforce.
The reality is that whether you’re brand new to project management or you’ve got years of project management experience under your belt, managing and completing a project on time and within budget is not easy. Each project is different and poses a distinct set of project management challenges. Irrespective of the project type, you are going to face some challenges.
For instance, there are tight deadlines and high expectations. That’s why all project managers must know all the stages of a project, from planning to execution to monitoring and closure. Project managers need to set up efficient workflows, monitor project progress, manage the workforce efficiently, and ensure effective collaboration between stakeholders.
Understanding The Main Project Management Life Cycle
Ultimately, we can define project management life cycle phases as the general process of steering a project from the start through its lifecycle. Whilst, keeping in mind, that the main objective of project management is to complete a project within the established goals of time, budget, and quality. Projects have life cycles since they aren’t intended to last forever.
To enumerate, a project management life cycle starts when the project is initiated and ends when the project is either completed or terminated in one way or another. Moving on, at the end of each phase, there is a decision point where stakeholders decide whether or not to complete the project or terminate it and cut losses.
The PMI, in its Project Management Book Of Knowledge (PMBOK), divides project management into 10 digestible areas. They coincide with the chronological phases of project management and are the core technical subject areas.
Including the likes of projects:
- integration management
- scope management
- time management
- cost management
- quality management
- human resource management
- communication management
- risk management
- procurement management
- stakeholder management
In layman’s language, project management structure can be defined as the official line of control and authority within project teams as well as the organization. At all costs, they often tell us how reporting relationships work. While it is impossible to harness the chaos in project management overnight, there are a number of effective ways to streamline the whole process.
The Key Project Management Stages For Beginner Managers To Understand
Technically, the core aspects of the key project management stages are to provide you with an overview of what is project management, its importance, and how it helps various teams. If you are somehow in a position where you are expected to manage organizational projects and are feeling overwhelmed, it’s better to start learning the project’s life cycle basics.
Not to mention, understanding them thoroughly will help you improve your overall management skills. Everything in project management basics is hands-on. Unlike other fields, you can’t find your way to success by making mistakes; experimentation will only get you slaughtered. You need to abide strictly by the principles to succeed — that’s where this guide comes in.
To stay ahead of the curve, you can try to get some assistance from some of the best project collaboration tools that are available in the market — that’s if you’d want to make your life a little bit easier. Forthwith, it’s important to realize, some of these project collaboration tools will equally help you to improve efficiency and increase the productivity of your team.
On that note, according to the PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project management life cycle consists of 5 distinct phases including initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure that combine to turn a project idea into a working product. That said, below are the key stages to get started:
Stage #1: Project Initiation
On one hand, the project initiation stage is the first phase of turning an abstract idea into a meaningful goal. In this stage, you need to develop a business case and define the project on a broad level. In order to do that, you have to determine the need for the project and create a project charter. On the other hand, there is the project charter to consider as well.
Whereby, this is an important document consisting of details like the project constraints, goals, appointment of the project manager, budget, expected timeline, etc. Once you have the project goals and project scope, identify key project stakeholders–the people who are to be involved in the project. You can create a stakeholder register with the roles, designations, etc.
In addition to communication requirements, influence, and the like. While a clear goal of the project is established in this phase, a project charter does not contain any technical details that happen in the planning stage. It’s where you identify technical requirements, develop a detailed project schedule, create a communication plan, and set up goals/deliverables.
As an example, let’s consider the workings of an automobile manufacturer — in most cases, those assigned to develop an electric vehicle. And, as such, the selection of the design, capacity, and battery power of the vehicle will not be a part of the initiation phase. The only certainty would be that an electric vehicle will be developed within the given timeframe and budget.
Stage #2: Project Planning
The project planning stage is one of the most important phases in the project management process. It involves determining the scope of the project, identifying stakeholders, and developing a project plan. It also involves determining budgets, resources, and defining requirements. Once a plan has been defined, the next step is to monitor the overall project progress.
And then, thereafter, be ready to communicate with stakeholders. During this stage, the project team must evaluate the project in terms of its objectives, scope, resources, and schedule. Eventually, it must determine the stakeholders’ roles and influence over the project, and it should also set the expected success of the project.
Once all the stakeholders have been identified, project team members must define specific requirements, timelines, and actions. The project charter also has to establish the budget and timeframe for the project. In other words, the project planning phase requires complete diligence as it lays out the overall proposed project’s roadmap for involved parties to follow.
Be that as it may, it’s clear to note this: Unless you are using a modern project management methodology like agile project management, the second phase of project management is expected to take almost half of the entire project’s timespan.
Stage #3: Project Execution
Of course, yes! The project scope is defined as we move toward this stage. There’s a possibility of changing the scope of the project demands but the project manager must approve the change. Project managers also develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which integrates with management software to clearly visualize the entire project in different sections.
By all means, the project execution stage is the phase in which you put your planning into action. This is where your team does the actual work. Suffice it to say, as a project manager, your job is to establish efficient workflows and carefully monitor the progress of your team. It is the time when concrete is poured, walls are framed, and windows are installed.
For your information, the execution phase begins with a kick-off meeting, where the project team discusses their roles and responsibilities. They work together to create a project plan and develop detailed requirements for the execution phase. The project manager will help keep the team focused and collaborative.
Another yet useful responsibility of the project manager herein is to consistently maintain effective collaboration between project stakeholders and the task force team. As a result, this ensures that everyone stays on the same page and the project runs smoothly without any issues. Mark you, the key is to stay focused and follow the plan, no matter what comes up.
Stage #4: Project Monitoring
Notably, the project monitoring stage helps keep a project on track and recover from mistakes. In other words, also known as the project controlling stage, it compares actual data to planned data and allows the project manager to take corrective action. Perse, the project monitoring and controlling phase run simultaneously with project execution.
Thereby, ensuring that objectives and project deliverables are met. As a matter of fact, the areas that should be monitored by a project manager include cost, schedule, and scope. Not forgetting, in this project management stage, the tools used to track some of the most important metrics will highly depend on the type of project. Monitoring is an essential part of any project.
For one thing, without it, the project is likely to fail due to factors like poor visibility, unrealistic schedules, and stretched resources. By creating a monitoring plan, a team can react quickly and keep the project on track. You’ll make sure that no one deviates from the original plan by establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Critical Success Factors (CSF).
Equally important, of all the project management stages, during the monitoring phase, the project manager is also responsible for quantitatively tracking the effort and the running cost during the process. Furthermore, this tracking not only ensures that the project remains within the budget but it is also an important aspect of any other future projects.
Stage #5: Project Closure
Last but not least, we have the project closure stage as the final phase of the project management stages. Whereby, it involves a number of administrative tasks, which typically include sending a final status report and requesting final payment. Closure involves formalizing the acceptance of the project and transitioning it to ongoing operations or maintenance.
Realistically, the final task of this phase is to review the entire project and complete a detailed report that covers every aspect. Similarly, it includes approving time sheets and re-assigning resources. Must be remembered, that all of the necessary data is stored in a secure place that can be accessed by project managers of that organization.
After all, this is an effective method to ensure continuous improvement within the company to enhance the overall productivity of the team in the future. On the other side, it’s also the best phase to thank your team members for their contributions and acknowledge your accomplishments. Markedly, most teams hold a reflection meeting after the completion of the project.
Specifically, in order to contemplate their successes and failures during the project. However, even though this stage indicates the end of the project after the final delivery, there are times when external talent is hired specifically for the project on contract. Whilst, bearing in mind, terminating these contracts and completing the necessary paperwork is also very useful.
The Topmost Project Management Process Benefits
By following the twelve steps meticulously in their project lifecycle, even non-project managers can successfully streamline and complete their projects. Additionally, you can also follow the project management checklist and also look out for the project management challenges to maximize your project productivity.
According to a survey by the Project Management Institute (PMI), only 58% of organizations realize the actual project management benefits and how it allows them to effectively tackle the issues they face. Apart from stimulating productivity, improving project transparency, and providing a clear vision to the team, project management can bring other key advantages.
These are the main benefits:
- Effective communication
- Efficient resource management
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Flexibility and higher risk tolerance
- Improved team morale
- Better quality of the output
- Retrospective learning
Project Management History has been around for as long as humans have existed. From the invention of the wheel to the construction of the Giza Pyramids to the device design you’re reading this on. All these “projects” required planning, having specific people to oversee them, a sponsor, and people working on them. But, there were also some challenges.
As an example, project constraints such as scope and workload weren’t considered back then — but there would have been budgets, project timelines, and other key determinant factors. The practice became more refined in the last 100 years with many methodologies being developed. Starting with Fredric Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911.
In simple terms, a great project management closure is a very important part of your business — the stage when all loose ends are tied up and the project’s outcomes are reported internally. Additionally, it also provides both the project managers and team managers with quality time to review the project’s progress and identify areas for future improvement.
Luckily, by following all the key steps meticulously in their project lifecycle, even non-project managers can successfully streamline and complete their projects. Additionally, you can also follow the project management checklist and also look out for the project management challenges to maximize your project productivity.
Failures & Approaches To Simplify Your Project Management Stages
As you can see, this project management stages and life cycle phases guide is useful for all beginners — who were thrown into the deep end of project management basics without any formal training. As well as intermediate or experienced project managers who want to learn more about the project management process and project management methodologies.
Today, all organizations expect their teams to deliver more results with fewer resources. This seemingly impossible trait can not only be fulfilled but also be exceeded if they take a working management approach. One of the leading causes of project failure is the misalignment of project teams for a lack of guidance as per the organizational structure.
Unfortunately, no one starts a project with the hope that it will fail, yet most projects fail when project managers disregard the need to streamline their project management techniques. Any viable outside the normal project management techniques are prone to failure due to many of the there most common reasons. So, it’s wise to be aware of some of these drawbacks.
The common reasons why most projects fail:
- Resource deficiency – insufficient resources to complete the project.
- Inadequate time frame – having trouble completing the project on time.
- Unclear goals – lack of detailed documentation can lead to inappropriate results.
- Poorly managed stakeholder expectations – project scope changes that are not agreed upon by stakeholders causing varying views of quality, time, or budget.
- Inadequate risk management – failing to establish the risk associated with each project can cause your project to fail.
Projects are filled with a slew of details. In the race to deliver the project on time, it is possible to miss a few important details along the way. Especially, when project management is handled manually, it is hard to note down every small detail of a project. It results in a heap of paperwork and spreadsheets where uncertainties thrive driving up the chance for failure.
Fortunately, there are project management approaches that offer a collection of processes, methods, and tools to manage and accomplish project activities. As a result, they ensure consistency, simplify complexities, lower costs, and reduce risks. There are a number of well-established project management approaches available.
Consider the following basic approaches:
- The phased approach in project management
- Lean project management
- Iterative and incremental project management
- Critical chain project management
- Product-based planning
- Process-based management
- Project production management
Basically, it’s also good to learn how remote project management is done effectively and how project management teams are aligned as one. Nowadays, using cloud-based project management software is a common way of storing all of the documents related to the project. Dividing a project into multiple phases gives the project a semblance of predictability.
It gives a framework to operate, making it easier to plan and execute. While spreadsheets and post-it notes sufficed in the past, the requirement of digital project management is completely different. You’ll need the right tools to plan, organize, and track projects — an online project management software to simplify the project management phases for each project.
Forward & Backward Pass To Determine Work Duration And Critical Paths
Now that you have put a lot of new information about project management into your brain, some of you may feel overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and look back on your own projects. Everything you’ve learned today is so practical. Therefore, if you’re working on a project and you are already using some of these concepts, start using Kissflow Project for free.
Thank you for getting started with Kissflow! If not, take a few minutes and reflect on how you can use these things to make your project go as smoothly as possible. Moreover, tuning your project management skills will help you complete your projects on time and within budget. It will also contribute to your own career and your organization’s growth.
With that in mind, in order to determine that success is seen in the above-mentioned project management stages, it’s important for project managers to consider incorporating other notable elements. Such as S.M.A.R.T and C.L.E.A.R Goals.
Utilizing S.M.A.R.T Goals
Generally speaking, a detailed project timeline with each deliverable is another important element. Using that timeline, project managers can develop a project communication plan and a schedule of communication with the relevant stakeholders. Risk mitigation is another important aspect of project management that is a part of the planning stage.
In project management, the ‘SMART Criteria ensure that the goals you set for your project are critically analyzed. It is an established method that reduces risk and allows project managers to make clearly defined and achievable goals. the acronym for S.M.A.R.T stands for the main principles that are illustrated in this image below:
So, in simple terms, SMART Criteria is a set of guidelines that helps you create and measure goals in your project. This approach helps you define and track project stages, as well as the end result of the project. It can be used to guide individual project managers or teams. There are guidelines are developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Essentially, that can help you create and manage your project effectively — their objectives are measurable, specific, as well as time-related. These goals can be easily tracked. However, if you set goals that are unrealistic or impossible, you might find it difficult to meet them. Besides, setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.
Utilizing C.L.E.A.R Goals
The ‘CLEAR’ method of setting up goals is designed to cater to the dynamic nature of a modern workplace. Today’s fast-paced businesses require flexibility and immediate results and CLEAR can help citizen developers with that. For your information, it’s worth noting that the acronym for C.L.E.A.R stands for the main principles that are illustrated in this image below:
For quality project management, CLEAR Method helps people get more done on their jobs. It helps them set goals and reach them. The process consists of three parts: the prep phase, the management phase, and the finishing phase. The prep phase helps the team prepare for the project, and the management phase focuses on ensuring that the team completes it.
The project manager is responsible for extrapolating past data to identify potential project management risks and develop a strategy to minimize them. An important element that professionals often overlook is an effective change management plan. As a project manager, you must be ready to incorporate a few changes in the project to avoid project delays or bottlenecks.
In the absence of a working change management plan, scope creep happens and causes huge problems for the project team in the later stages of the project. So, it’s best to reduce the possibility of unforeseen changes as much as possible. After coming this far, you can also learn more about how project goals and objectives are defined in more elaborate detail.
In conclusion, the above-mentioned project management stages are very essential for the successful completion of any project, regardless of its size or complexity. These stages, which typically include initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closure, provide a structured approach to managing a project from start to finish.
Initiating a project involves identifying the project goals and objectives, stakeholders, and project scope. Planning involves creating a detailed project plan, including schedules, budgets, and resources. Execution involves implementing the project plan and completing the work. Monitoring and controlling involve tracking progress against the plan.
While, at the same time, identifying and addressing issues and risks, and making adjustments as necessary. Oftentimes, planning is easier than actually executing. For example, a well-planned workout routine is much easier to develop than to implement. It is important to monitor the progress of your project at every stage to ensure that it remains on track.
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- Is Using A Project Management Software The Right Decision?
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- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Benefits & Best Tools
That’s it! Everything that you needed to know about the main project management stages. Keep in mind, by following all these key stages, project managers can effectively manage projects, ensuring they are delivered on time, within budget, and meet the desired quality standards. This ultimately leads to greater success and satisfaction for all involved parties.
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