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Project Lifecycle

Learn about the Project Lifecycle here or click one of the links below to go straight to the Project A-Z or Stage1 of the Project Lifecycle


Project Lifecycle | What is it…

The purpose of a project lifecycle is to provide a standard methodology by which tried and proven processes are repeated to deliver success. The structure and governance followed within a project lifecycle helps to manage risk and ensure key tasks and activities are undertaken to a required standard. Furthermore, they help to ensure all items are considered which at first glance may not seem appropriate, like for instance engaging the contact centre in a digital self-service project – as after all it is the contact centre colleagues who will be supporting customers to channel shift and use the new technology the project is delivering.


Food for thought!

In nearly all large organisations you will find polar opposite colleagues, when it comes to the right level of structure…

Colleague A)  where the structure and governance provided by a framework is taken to the extreme and acts as a strait jacket rather than the protection and insurance it is intended for, versus;

Colleague B) where the need for any structure is classed as simply getting in the way of delivery and anybody wanting to complete a RACI matrix or suggests a benefits mapping exercise is scorned upon.

The issue is both the above characters can make a compelling argument for why their course of action is the best course. The trick here is having the confidence – in trusting the method – and tailoring the approach and level of governance appropriately.

Project Tailoring

One thing you might hear when stepping out the lifecycle for your project is “this project is different” – and to those who say that, they are correct. Every project is different – just think about two, even similar projects, you have been involved in, did all team members do everything the same?

A project lifecycle provides a common framework to operate within built from years of industry and hopefully in-house experience for organisations which use a ‘house methodology’. What you need to consider here is how to tailor the lifecycle for your project. The Prince2 project methodology used extensively in the UK is often criticised for being heavily bureaucratic – (mostly likely due in part to its founding relation to the UK Government – even though the methodology is informed and developed by industry experts). However, the tailoring element of Prince2 is often ignored or misunderstood.



Let’s think of the two colleagues in the excerpt above…

Colleague A) will use the Prince2 (or any other methodology) as a bible to follow each and every section to the letter. They would freely accept a 2 month delay due to a minor item being overlooked and needing to re-validate with the board.

On the flip side…

Colleague B) would utilise the tailoring element as carte blanche freewill to ignore all structure and claim not doing so was simply down to other colleagues lack of drive, leadership or ambition.

Now in certain types of projects either one could be acceptable but in the main the answer lies somewhere in the middle and that is the role of the project manager, sponsor and team to work through.

A good example is a project highlight report. Let’s say in your organisation this is required every week, for every project, without fail. For some projects, this maybe a good half a day’s work to gather, consolidate and articulate the highlights for the past week, with the deliverable being a word document which is pre-circulated and then discussed in a meeting for an hour on a Monday morning. And depending on your type of project this may be correct. For other projects the highlight report could be a simple verbal confirmation of a pre-set of agreed items – potentially even the same set of items on the word document in the previous example. However, the briefing for this could last as little as 5 minutes on a Monday morning and take no longer than half hour to produce.

So in terms of tailoring your lifecycle there are a few factors to consider which include:

  • The size,
  • scale and
  • scope of your project

It is also worth considering past organisational experiences and any special measures. i.e. if a similar project to yours failed spectacularly previously you may expect some more heavy handed governance until organisational confidence is restored.

So what does a Project Lifecycle consist of

1. Project Stages / Phases – The stages (or phases) the project will work through – the InvisibleConsultant offers the following 5; Identify; Justify; Define; Do and Close – however you could be used to something a little different such as Initiation; Planning; Executing; Monitoring; Closing. As you may notice by these terms they are very similar in the approach. The key is to follow a structured purposeful methodology. The stages are where the projects deliverables are undertaken. Each stage has a different set of activities to complete and as the project progresses the level of confidence increases and in turn the level of risk decreases.

2. Project Gates – Each stage has an accompanying gate. The gate is a critical checkpoint for your project and is a decision point on whether to proceed to the next stage or not. A gate will:

  • Ensure an on-going mandate for the project – is it still required by the business? and are the associated risks are within an acceptable level?
  • Confirm the project remains a priority relative to other projects and financial outlay
  • Agree the detail plan for the next stage and the roadmap for the remainder of the project
  • Go/No-Go decision on progressing to the next stage

Reviews – This refers to assessing projects and performing quality assurance. The outcome of the review will help to formally determine if a change of course, additional action or corrective action is required. These can be incredibly helpful in understanding the health of a project and should not be held off until a gate process if required. Read more about assessing a project here.

Contracting – Applicable to those projects with third party organisations or where internal teams/departments have a set structure or regulatory or legal requirements. In external projects this is often a process which approves payment as part of a scheduled of work/deliverables completing. 

3. Project Status – In addition to where the project is within the project lifecycle a project will have a set status.

  1. In the first stage ‘Identify‘ the status is classed as – Proposed, a project waiting to start
  2. Then for the remainder stages the project status will be classed as one of the following:
    1. In progress – An underway project 
    2. Suspended – Significant work towards the project has temporarily ceased
    3. Terminated – A project which is now closed and will not complete
  3. And for the final stage the above still apply but the project can progress to – Completed, full scope of the project is delivered and the project infrastructure has now been closed down.

Project Lifecycle FAQ’S

What is a Project Phase?
Project phases are periods of time during which work is undertaken to create a project’s deliverables. Many of these deliverables are prerequisites for passing the next gate. As a project passes from one phase to the next, the level of risk  within the project should decrease. In some project methodologies these will be called Stages.
What do you mean by Project Lifecycle?
A project like many things goes through a cycle of deliverables. This starts with initiation – when the project is born – through to when the project closes – its end. Depending where the project is within its lifecycle will depend on what activities are required to be completed and the level of risk associated.
What is included within the Project Scope?

Project scope refers to the detailed set of deliverables that the project will deliver. The project scope will often include:

  •  Justification
  • Acceptance Criteria
  • Deliverables
  • Constraints
  • Assumptions
  • Out of Scope Elements

It is equally important to define what is out of scope as well as what is in scope.

What are the PMI Project Stages?
The PMI (Project Management Institute) is the leading Project Management Methodology. The PMI has 5 phases within their project lifecycle these are:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Controlling and
  • Closing

Continue learning…

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