It’s no secret that project management is vital for most businesses because it provides direction to all of your team members and makes sure the operational aspects of your company continue to run smoothly.
There are many other benefits to project management, and regardless of your company size, you’ll probably need to utilise it to make sure your project stays on budget. In this post, we’re going to reveal the five stages of the project management process.
Why is Project Management Important?
The importance of project management should never be understated because it provides so many benefits for companies. A project manager plays an essential role in ensuring each project runs smoothly and delivers a result.
Before we dive into the five stages of project management, let’s take a quick look at why it’s so important.
It brings you back to reality.
According to a 2017 Pulse of the Profession report from the Project Management Institute, ambiguity surrounding goals was the leading reason teams failed to deliver a project.
It’s common practice for companies to get over-excited when working on a project, but this can often lead to promises they’ll never be able to keep. Effective project management provides a dose of reality and sets goals that they know their team can meet.
It aligns with your business strategy.
Project management should align with your business strategy to ensure that all areas of it run smoothly. When you use it to streamline your processes, create workforce onboarding and training and implement new technology, you can make sure your project management strategy enhances your business and provides growth and stability.
It saves money
Investing in new technology or training for your employees can improve your business. Likewise, project management is central to delivering results for your clients – especially if your business is service-based.
The fact is, so many companies waste money by not using project management because it removes any ambiguity about the scope of your project, enables you to stay within budget and reduces the potential risks of your investment.
There are many other benefits of project management, but the three above are the most important.
The Five Project Management Phases
Successful project management depends on analysing all aspects of the project and splitting it into five stages – also known as the life cycle.
Each stage is central to the smooth running and successful implementation of your project, so let’s take a look at them in more detail.
1. Project Initiation Phase & Conception
Ask any project manager, and they’ll tell you that the project initiation stage is the most important to get right.
Projects usually happen in two ways:
- A business wants to improve its processes, implement new technology or anything else that will benefit it in the long run.
- Service-based businesses treat each client they work with as a project to ensure they deliver the best possible results.
Whenever a company starts a project, they’ll first perform research to define whether their ultimate goal is possible and how they might reach that point.
A project manager will then create a brief that outlines the project’s objectives, key performance indicators and deliverables. The brief is also where a project manager will list the resources needed and estimate the costs involved.
There should always be a lot of emphasis on the project initiation brief because it will define how a project team creates a comprehensive plan to make each aspect of a project progresses as it should.
In some cases, you might have to be ready to alter the project’s goals to make sure the work breakdown schedule for your team is manageable.
2. The Project Planning Process
Once you create a project brief, you can move on to the planning process. The brief becomes a template that you’ll build upon to ensure that every aspect of the project runs smoothly from start to finish.
It’s always helpful to get a project team together to create the plan because a group will be more likely to pick up on small details that could impact the success of your project.
Most teams split the planning process into actionable steps, which guarantees they cover all bases.
Final Project Budget
Once you know your project goals, you can add a final budget in the planning phase. Doing this allows you to plan for the execution stage, and it’s imperative, but – at the same time – budgets are likely to change, and you’ll need to have some flexibility to ensure the project lifecycle stays on track.
Project scope is vital to define how long you expect your project to take. When there’s ambiguity surrounding time constraints, a project can often go off course, resulting in unforeseen costs.
You can always readjust the boundaries you set for the project’s scope as you progress along with the implementation phase. However, having them in place is useful to evaluate how much you’re spending and why the project is taking longer.
When you know the scope of your project, you can break it down into smaller stages which will help you estimate how long it will take. Each part of your project plan should be well thought out, and members of the project management team should all take part.
Key areas to think about are:
Once you have a comprehensive plan in place, you’ll know which team members are responsible for tasks and be able to follow up with each person to check if they’re sticking to the deadlines.
Communication defines how each member of your team and external agencies will maintain contact throughout the project. For example:
- When will you hold meetings?
- How will you communicate during those meetings?
- Will external agencies be involved in all meetings or separate ones?
- Which project management software will you use?
Agreeing upon how you and your team will keep in touch with a communication plan saves you a lot of time and enables each member to know what they’re doing and when they’re doing it.
Project Management Software
To ensure your team stays on track during the five phases of project management, it’s always a good idea to manage projects with software. There are many applications available, but the one you choose depends on your area of work.
For example, if you’re in the construction industry or any other trade based sectors, your project management process will be different to an IT companies project management life cycle.
If your team carries out a lot of fieldwork, it’s best to help them learn project management through a dedicated software solution that measures project performance and progression.
Last but not least is your risk management plan, which is vital for avoiding situations that might ruin your project or cause financial losses. By looking at the potential risks, you can take steps to minimise them before they occur.
3. Project Execution Phase
If you make it through stages one and two, you’re doing well and can move onto the exciting part; project execution. It’s the longest stage because each team member performs their tasks to ensure the project implementation runs smoothly.
It might seem like the project manager takes a backseat during the execution phase, but they’re responsible for keeping each team member on track with the project. The role often involves maintaining streams of communication and overseeing the following:
- Timeline Management
- Budget Analysis
- Risk Evaluation
- Change Management
- Resource Planning
- Reviews on Deliverables
- Planning and Overseeing Meetings
As you can imagine, project managers need to be excellent multi-taskers capable of thinking fast in times of crisis.
4. Project Monitoring
In a way, stage four is similar to stage three because it involves the same tasks, but there is one difference. Project execution is about making sure a team starts their duties and manages them, but project monitoring consists of looking at four key aspects of the overall job.
Goals should always serve as an endpoint, but there might be times when a project manager needs to readjust their expectations. By monitoring the likelihood of meeting goals, you’ll be able to evaluate how to move forward if obstacles arise.
Each company has a set of agreed-upon standards put in place by the shareholders and owners. It’s the project managers job to ensure that all deliverables relating to the project meet these standards.
Project managers understand that their overall role is to oversee the progress of a project and ensure it’s successful. But a project will never be completed unless the team involved in it perform their roles and meet their deadlines.
For this reason, project managers will often take an active approach to keep track of each team member’s progress and work with them to ensure their performance will improve.
If you need to address performance issues, it’s always best to take an empathetic approach and work with team members to find ways to put the project back on track.
5. Project Evaluation & Closure Phases
Once you have a completed project, it’s time to check if all parties are happy with the deliverables and complete the handover process. Creating a report is the most crucial step of the project completion stage, so you should always set aside a few hours to reflect on your successes and what could have gone better.
Here’s what you should include in your project closure report:
- Base Information such as the project planning, name and goals.
- The project management lifecycle including planned delivery versus actual delivery time
- Work breakdown structure
- Details of the project team
- Wins and Losses
- Anything else you think might be important
Making sure you and the project team take the time to discuss every aspect of the project means you can improve on the next one. Collaborating with your team also means you can create a more extensive completion report that details each part of the project.
Project management doesn’t have to be a headache. Its primary purpose is to make each project more manageable for companies. Whether you’re working on an internal project or for a client, following the five phases of project management can streamline the process.
From planning – the most critical phase to evaluation, following the 5 phases of project management will strengthen your team and improve your process for the next project.