– the project manage lifecycle
– the different phases that a typical project goes through
A structured and disciplined approach is needed to manage projects due to their complexity, size, and scope.
Dividing a project into phases (lifecycles) can help in managing projects successfully.
The Project Management Process
Succinctly, the project management process means planning the work and then working the plan.
A coaching staff may spend hours preparing unique plans for a game; the team then executes the plans in an attempt to achieve victory.
Similarly, project management involves a process of first establishing a plan and then implementing that plan to accomplish the project objective.
A project lifecycle consists of four phases:
Phase 1: Identifying needs
Phase 2: Developing a proposed solution
Phase 3: Performing the project
Phase 4: Terminating the project
The first phase involves the identification of a need, problem, or opportunity that is the basis for a customer requesting proposals (the request for proposal, RFP) from internal sources (project team) and/or external parties (e.g., contractors) to address the identified need or solve the problem.The front-end effort in managing a project must be focused on establishing a baseline plan that provides a roadmap for how the project scope will be accomplished on time and within budget.
This planning effort includes the following steps:
The definition must be agreed upon by the customer and the individual or organization that will perform the project.2. Divide and subdivide the project scope into major “pieces” or work packages.
Although major projects may seem overwhelming when viewed as a whole, one way to conquer even the most monumental endeavor is to break it down. A work-breakdown structure (WBS) is a hierarchical tree of work elements or items accomplished or produced by the project team during the project. The work-breakdown structure usually identifies the organization or individual responsible for each work package.
4. Graphically portray the activities in the form of a network diagram.
This diagram shows the necessary sequence and interdependencies of activities to achieve the project objective.
5. Make a time estimate for how long it will take to complete each activity.
It is also necessary to determine which types of resources and how many of each resource are needed for each activity to be completed within the estimated duration.
The cost is based on the types and quantities of resources required for each activity.
7. Calculate a project schedule and budget to determine whether the project can be completed within the required time, with the allotted funds, and with the available resources.
If not, adjustments must be made to the project scope, activity time estimates, or resource assignments until an achievable, realistic baseline plan (a roadmap for accomplishing the project scope on time and within budget) can be established.
Need for a Baseline Plan
Planning determines what needs to be done, who will do it, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. The result of this effort is a baseline plan. Taking the time to develop a well-thought-out plan is critical to the successful accomplishment of any project.
Many projects have overrun their budgets, missed their completion dates, or only partially met their requirements because there was no viable baseline plan before the project was started.
Attempting to perform a project without first establishing a baseline plan is foolhardy. The baseline plan for a project can be displayed in graphical or tabular format for each time period (week, month) from the start of the project to its completion.
Information should include the follwing:
• Start and completion dates for each activity.
• Amounts of the various resources that will be needed during each time period.
• Budget for each time period, as well as the cumulative budget from the start of the project through each time period.
Once a baseline plan has been established, it must be implemented. This involves performing the work according to plan and controlling the work so that the project scope is achieved within budget and schedule.
Phase 2: Developing a Proposed Solution
The second phase requires the submission of a proposal to the customer with a solution to solve the problem.
Potential contractors spend a considerable amount of time and effort in developing RFPs (requests for proposal) to win the contract from the customer, thus facing a bid/no-bid decision.
A bid error can happen as follows:
• Yes-bid error can occur when the contractor is not qualified to do the project work and yet decides to submit the RFP.
• No-bid error can occur when the contractor is qualified to do the project work and yet decides not to submit the RFP.
Phase 3: Performing the Project
This third phase calls for the implementation of the proposed solution and ends when the customer is satisfied that the requirements have been met and the project objective has been accomplished.
Once the baseline plan has been developed, project work can proceed. The project team, led by the project manager, will implement the plan and perform the activities, or work elements, in accordance with the plan.
The pace of project activity will increase as more and various resources become involved in performing the project tasks.
While the project work is being performed, it is necessary to monitor progress to ensure that everything is going according to plan. This involves measuring actual progress and comparing it to planned progress.
To measure actual progress, it is important to keep track of which activities have actually been started and/or completed, when they were started and/or completed, and how much money has been spent or committed.
If, at any time during the project, comparison of actual progress to planned progress reveals that the project is behind schedule, overrunning the budget, or not meeting technical specifications, corrective action must be taken to get the project back on track.
Before a decision is made to implement corrective action, it may be necessary to evaluate several alternative actions to make sure the corrective action will bring the project back within the scope, time, and budget constraints of the objective.
Be aware, for instance, that adding resources to make up time and get back on schedule may result in overrunning the planned budget. If a project gets too far out of control, it may be difficult to achieve the project objective without sacrificing the scope, budget, schedule, or quality.
The key to effective project control is measuring actual progress and comparing it to planned progress on a timely and regular basis and taking corrective action immediately, if necessary. Hoping that a problem will go away without corrective intervention is naive.
The earlier a problem is identified and corrected, the better. Based on actual progress, it is possible to forecast a schedule and budget for completion of the project. If these parameters are beyond the limits of the project objective, corrective actions need to be implemented at once.
Phase 4: Terminating the Project
The fourth and final phase of the project lifecycle is terminating (closing) the project. It starts after project work has been completed and includes various actions to close out the project properly.
The purpose of properly terminating a project is to learn from the experience gained on the project in order to improve performance on future projects.
Therefore, the activities associated with terminating the project should be identified and included in the project’s baseline plan. They should not be done merely as spontaneous afterthoughts.
These activities might include organizing and filing project documents, receiving and making final payments, and conducting post-project evaluation meetings within both the contractor’s and the customer’s organizations.
The termination phase starts when performance of the project is completed and the customer accepts the result.
In some situations, this might be a somewhat formal event in which an automated system satisfies a set of criteria or passes tests that were stated in the contract. Another activity that must be performed during the termination phase is assuring that all payments have been collected from the customer.
During the project termination phase, the project manager should prepare a written performance evaluation of each member of the project team and mention how each has expanded his knowledge as a result of the project assignment, as well as what areas he needs to develop further.
If a project team member does not report directly to the project manager within the company’s organizational structure, the project manager should provide a copy of the performance evaluation to the person’s immediate supervisor.
Another important activity during the termination phase is holding post-project evaluation meetings. These meetings should be conducted internally, within the organization that performed the project, as well as with the customer.
The purpose of such meetings is to evaluate performance of the project, to determine whether the anticipated benefits from the project were actually achieved, and to identify what can be done to improve performance on future projects.