Being able to manage a project from concept to execution is a vital skill for success as an entrepreneur. Successful project management involves assessing a project’s potential for success, assembling a productive team, and executing on your ideas.
While project management is more of an art than a science, it’s possible to break down the project management process into five distinct stages. In this blog post, we’ll examine the project management fundamentals, from concept to execution.
If this is your first time managing a project, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the basics of project management. Our course, Project Management Training, will bring you up to speed with the basics of planning and managing your projects.
The 5 Stages of Project Management
Project management can be broken down into five different stages. These stages are the fundamentals of project management, and they should form the core process of any project you launch, whether it’s about web design or product creation.
According to the Project Management Institute, the five basic phases of any project are:
- Conception and initiation
- Definition and planning
- Launch and execution
- Performance and control
- Close of the project
We’ll look at each of these phases in more detail later in this guide. For now, it’s vital to see how late in the process of project management the actual development of any project begins. You’ll start work on your project in Phase 3: Launch and Execution.
One of the most important aspects of project management is assessing the value of a concept or idea. Let’s start with the first stage of project management: examining an idea to determine its costs, benefits, and effect on an organization.
Conception and initiation
In many ways, the conception and initiation phase of a project is the most important of all. This phase involves examining an idea to determine whether or not it’s worth working on, what benefits it offers, and how much it will cost to pursue.
The conception phase involves looking at the benefits – often commercial – of a new idea. For example, the conception and initiation phase could involve an analysis of a new software idea to see how much revenue it could generate for the company.
Project conception typically involves a great deal of market research. If the project you’re working on is your own, you’ll want to assess its profitability, its reach, and other factors that increase its likelihood of being a success upon completion.
If the project you’re working on is on behalf of a client or organization, your goals may be slightly different. The project may be strategic, aimed at achieving a highly targeted, specific goal. It may also be driven by objectives other than revenue.
The conception and initiation phase also involves looking at whether a project can be completed, how long it will take to complete, and how much it will cost. Because of this, the conception phase is hugely important in determining a project’s success.
Are you developing a product or service? Our course, Vet Your Startup Ideas With The Startup Matrix, allows you to easily determine whether a business or product idea is worth developing using simple but effective tactics.
Definition and planning
In the conception and initiation phase, you’ll examine a project to see if it’s worth pursuing, as well as its potential benefits. In the definition and planning phase, the focus changes from the hypothetical to the actionable.
During the planning phase, you’ll create a detailed project plan that lays out scope, cost, and other factors. A project charter is often created to further define the key objectives of a project, as well as the people involved in its development.
Effective project planning involves looking at the projected costs of a project and preparing a detailed, specific budget. It also involves developing milestones and a clear, focused schedule to make sure the project is developed according to plan.
Finally, the definition and planning phase involves assembling the right team for a specific project. This could involve hiring contractors or outsourcing specific parts of the project in order to reduce development costs and speed up execution.
Since the project plan can determine the success or failure of a project, spending a large amount of time on definition and planning is essential for success. Without a detailed, actionable plan, even the most capable team can fail to achieve its goals.
Are you planning a project for the first time? Learn the basics of project planning, from baselines to critical path analysis, by enrolling in our course, The Basics of Project Planning.
Launch and execution
Stage three – the launch and execution stage – is where you’ll begin working on your project. The execution phase involves assigning work to teams, informing members of their jobs and responsibilities, and starting work on your project.
This is where you’ll begin to see progress start to occur on your project, whether it’s the first lines of code for a new application or the foundation being laid for your new building.
The execution stage is where you’ll begin to see the strength – or, if you rushed past the first two stages, the weakness – or your plan. If your project plan clearly lays out the project’s scope and cost, you’ll likely make stable, predictable progress.
Launching development on a project is a satisfying task. Your analysis and planning are put into effect, and you can begin to see the hard work you invested earlier start to pay off.
One of the most important parts of a successful project launch is time management, on both the individual and team scale. Our course, Effective Time Management for Professionals, offers in-depth advice on working efficiently and effectively.
Performance and control
The larger your project is, the more important performance and control becomes. In the control stage, you’ll compare the progress of your team to the plan you designed at the beginning of the project to see if you’re ahead of or behind schedule.
During this stage, you may need to make adjustments to schedules and budgets in order to speed up project development. You’ll also begin to notice any major errors or issues in your project plan as progress surges or stalls on certain aspects.
As well as measuring progress on the project, the control stage is where you’ll look at the cost of the project to see if it’s within your previously planned budget. This is often the stage where you’ll need to make adjustments to your original plan.
When projects are seriously behind schedule or over budget, the control stage is an opportunity for managers to take corrective action. This could mean taking on new team member to complete the project, or increasing the budget to promote action.
At the core of effective project control is intelligent, informed decision making. Our course, An Effective Leader’s Guide to Decision Making, will help you make the right choices in order to complete your project on time and within your budget.
Close of the project
As your project nears completion, your major goals will shift from making progress on development to quality control. For software projects, this can result in a testing and analysis process designed to eliminate bugs and glitches prior to completion.
Are you managing a software development project? Learn about the importance of testing to find and eliminate defects by enrolling in our course, Basics of Software Testing.
Depending on the type of project you’re working on, the close of a project can also involve delivering your work to a client. They may approve the project or request additional work, based on the concept and project plan you prepared earlier.
In some cases, the close of one project is also the beginning of another. For example, if your project is the development of a product or service, the closing phase of your first project could lead to the start of a marketing or promotional project.
Do you need a recap of the steps involved in successful project management? Enroll in our Project Management Master Class to learn the fundamentals of great project management from the experienced team at Exner Education.
Tips for effective project management
As the world grows more connected, the skills involved in project management are changing. The tools available to you, as a project manager, are also becoming more focused, specialized, and helpful.
Are you working on an online project? Trello is a helpful project management app that makes coordinating group projects simple. Learn more about using Trello for your digital projects in our Project Management course.
Does your project involve outsourcing? Without the right strategy, outsourcing can become an expensive, time consuming headache. Learn how to manage your virtual staff effectively with our course, Managing and Influencing Virtual Teams.
Do you want to learn more about project management?
Project management is a huge field, and while learning the five stages of a project is an important part of becoming a great manager, it’s certainly shouldn’t be the end of your project management education.
Our blog post on the role of a project manager is a great look at the skills required to succeed in project management. For in-depth, actionable tips on management, make sure you also read our blog post on running projects efficiently.