Project Management Life Cycle: The Basics

project management life cycleProject management is often, and unfortunately, an overlooked part of setting and completing goals. Having a project manager or being able to manage a project effectively on your own can mean the difference between achieving the full potential of a project and stifling or leaving a project uncompleted. Strategy is the key to any important endeavor and you want to make sure that you are thinking through the project in its entirety from the moment you begin working on it.

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Any project, from building a new office to launching a marketing campaign, requires thoughtful and directed project management. If you don’t have a background in operations or project management, however, how do you know how to get started?

The project management life cycle consists of 5 simple steps.

1. Initiation

2. Planning

3. Execution

4. Control

5. Wrap-up

Here we will provide a basic outline of these steps and what each of them involves.

1. Initiation

Initiation refers to choosing the goal. What is actually happening? Are you building a new office? Launching a new product? Make sure your goal is clearly worded and very concrete – this will serve as the backbone to your whole project. Once you’ve clearly defined the goal, you will want to define the scope of the project. Look at it from afar to figure out how wide it extends. If you’re building an office, do you need to find and purchase land, or are you just renovating an older space. This is the point where you will want to assign a project manager to take control of the project and be responsible for its success

2. Planning

Planning the project is possibly the most important phase in project management. The project manager should write project plans that outline what is being done and what items and actions are needed to do it. These plans will be used throughout the project to more clearly define a plan and make sure it is being executed properly. They can include such steps as:

a.     Estimating resources and time: Figure out what you will need and how much time you’ll need to complete the various stages. This could change at any point along the way and it’s good to make estimates toward both the high and low ends and aim to end up somewhere in the middle.

b.     Identify the order of tasks: Which tasks will take priority or logically come before others?  There are many software programs that can help you organize the sequence of your project.

c.      Execution schedule: This will help outline your implementation in a clear and focused way.

d.     Risk Analysis: Think about different setbacks you could face during the project and make alternate plans for them in the event they do happen.

e.     Communication Systems: Set up standards for reporting progress, setbacks and any changes in plans.

3. Execution and Control

Once you’ve got your plan completed, you can begin executing and controlling your project. You will inevitably have to modify your plan along the way and your project manager should have good project controls to make sure the whole operation is monitored and reacted to appropriately. This can also be tracked with efficient status reports and communication systems.

4. Wrap-up

After a project has been completed, the last step is the final wrap-up. A complete summary should be written of every step of the project along with changes made to the original outline of the work as well as any alterations to budgets and the overall lessons learned from the project. This will be very helpful to you and your company in completing future projects.

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