There is certain project life cycle for every project, program or product in which there are particular phases of development. The managers & executives should have clear understanding of these phases in order to better control total corporate resources in the accomplishment of desired objectives. The phases of development are referred as life-cycle phases. In recent years companies of different industries or even same industries are not agreed on the universally accepted phases of project life cycle.
Phases of Project Life Cycle
However following are the important project life cycle 5 phases
- Conceptual Phase
Conceptual phase is the first phase of the project life cycle in which an idea is preliminary evaluated. Preliminary analysis of risk is the most important part of this phase which significantly influences the cost, time & performance requirements as a result. Risk analysis also seriously affects the resources of the company. The “first cut” at the feasibility of effort is also included in the conceptual phase.
- Planning Phase
Planning phase is the second phase. The elements specified in the conceptual phase are refined at this stage. A solid identification of the needed resources is required in this phase along with the cost, time and performance parameters. The initial preparation of all the documentation essential to support the system is also included in this phase. The project which is based on competitive bidding has the conceptual phase which will contain the decision to bid. The planning phase of such project will contain the development of the entire bid package (i.e. time, cost, schedule and performance). This phase further include two elements which are
- System Costs
- Cost Benefit Analysis
The analysis of the system costs during the conceptual & planning phase is not an easy task because of the amount of the estimation involved. The system costs of most projects can be split into operating (recurring) and implementing (nonrecurring) kinds. One-time expenses are included in the implementation costs like purchasing computer hardware, construction of a new facility or detailed planning. Recurring expenses are included in the operating costs like manpower. It is shown in the figure that the operating cost may be decreased if the personnel perform at a higher position on the learning curve. When the cost positions of the firm must be established, the identification of learning curve position is very important during the planning phase.
It is not permanently possible to understand what persons will be available or how quickly they can do at a higher learning curve position.
Cost Benefit Analysis
When the total cost of the project is approximately ascertained, a cost benefit analysis should be performed to ascertain if the estimated value of the information acquired from the system is more than the cost of acquiring the information. This analysis is mostly included as a component of feasibility study.
There are many situations where the feasibility study is actually the conceptual and definition phases like in competitive bidding case. The approval of the top management is almost always essential before starting of such feasibility study because of the costs that can be incurred during these two phases.
- Testing Phase
The testing phase is the third phase which is generally a testing and final standardization attempt in order to begin operations. In this phase almost all documentation must be completed.
- Implementation Phase
The implementation phase is the fourth phase of project life cycle in which the products or services of the project are integrated into the existing organization. If the objective of the project was to establish a marketable product, then product life cycle phases of market introduction, growth, maturity and a part of deterioration can be included in this phase.
- Closure Phase
Closure phase is the final phase of the cycle in which resources are reallocated. The main point of this phase is to find out where the resources must be reassigned. Suppose a company sells products on the open consumer market. When one product is started, it passes through the deterioration & death phases of its life cycle and this will result in the establishment of new products or projects. So, continuous stream of projects are required by that company for its survival.
The efforts on the total system are evaluated in the closure phase and this phase acts as input to the conceptual phases for new systems and projects. This phase also influence other continuing projects in respect to priority identification.
The size of the project or system is still not ascertained by any effort. Full time staffs are generally required by large projects. On the other hand small projects may need only part time people although their life cycle phase is similar to the larger projects. This indicates that multiple projects can be handled by an individual and there is possibility that each project among the group may be in different life cycle phase. In case of multiple project management, following questions should be considered
- Are the objectives of the project similar?
- For the benefit of the project
- For the benefit of the company
- Is there a difference between small projects and large projects?
- How the conflicting priorities be handled?
- Critical versus non-critical projects
- Critical versus critical projects
- Non-critical versus non-critical projects
Project Life Cycle Phases with Example
In the following table different life cycle phases are identified which are mostly used. Ten different definitions for life the cycle phases by surveying ten different construction companies.
As listed in the above table, the life cycle phases for computer programming are also shown in following figure which indicate how manpower resources can develop and decline during a project. PMO in the following figure is abbreviation of Present Method of Operations and PMO’ stands for New Present Method of Operations after conversion. The twelve month activity is probably represented in this life cycle.
Short data processing life cycles are preferred by most of the executives because computer technology changes very quickly. An executive of potential utility company stated that his company faces problem in ascertaining the way to close a computer programming project for improvement in customer service because an updated version emerge in the market when the package of the company is ready to be fully implemented. There is problem in deciding whether the new project should be started by canceling the original project. This decision is better supported by developing short data processing project life cycle phases, although through segmented implementation. It is generally obvious that the periodic review of major projects is the responsibility of the top management. This should be at least achieved at the finishing of every life cycle phase.
Procedural manuals are prepared by many companies for project management and for organizing work using life cycle phases. This trend has many reasons like
- Obvious description of the work to be achieved in every phase may be possible
- If well structured work definitions exist, pricing & estimation may be easier
- At the end of each life cycle phase, there exists key decision points so that incremental funding is possible
Characteristics of Project Life Cycle
Following are the important characteristics of project life cycle.
- The beginning & end of the project linked with the phases which are defined by the project life cycle. The deliverable’s of each ending phase are review for the completeness in accuracy & time in the light of the specified objectives. The final approval of these deliverable’s is also made before passing them to the next phase.
- Overlapping of the phases can be done as shown in figure, so that time should be saved and there should be fast tracking on the life cycle. The whole schedule is compressed by using this technique.
- There is no ideal method for defining project life cycle. Due to this fact each project management team can specify its own method to work on the project. Best common practices can be used by them and new ways can be learned for dealing projects with their experiences in general or in detail. Conceptualization, intermediate phase and closure are the only three phases that are surely performed.
- Technical information officer generally define phases in sequential order.
- Cost and staffing level is specified for each individual phase.
- Projects may include sub-projects which in turn may include their own project life cycle.
- The level of risk & uncertainty is always high at the beginning of the project.
- There are critical decision points in the initiating, implementing & closing phase of the typical project life cycle where the projects may be changed, continued or abandoned.
- Community of Professional (COP’s) may provide support & guidance at many points within the project life cycle. For example, such activities are involved in initiating the project like identifying the members of the project team, specifying the scope and business objectives of the project and highlighting the key stakeholders.
- During the closure of the project support is provided in reassigning & preservation of resources, sharing lessons learned and knowledge projects (i.e. deliverable’s).