What is the Project life cycle in project management

A project life cycle is the sequence of phases that a project goes through from its initiation to its closure. Various other factors determine the number and sequence of the cycle.

Each project has its life cycle, consisting of separate phases (stages) - the project cycle. The project cycle is a series of necessary, predefined, and step-by-step activities that go from the beginning of the project to its completion. Each stage of the project is technically and financially independent and has its effectiveness. As each model and project cycle is conditional, the determination of the phases arises from a practical need - they facilitate project management.

A project goes through a life cycle that can vary in size and complexity

A project goes through a life cycle that can vary in size and complexity and depends on the style of the organization. Individual projects differ in their basic attributes - such as duration, cost, type of technology, degree of uncertainty. Therefore, there is no universal approach to dividing the project management processes into different phases of its life cycle. In the specialized literature and institutional practice, various models of the project cycle are encountered.

The project cycle model, developed by Burton and Michael

The model, developed by Burton and Michael, includes the following four phases:

  • Pre-planning - defining baseline conditions, determining feasibility;
  • Detailed planning - development of project procedures, schedule of tasks and resources;
  • Implementation - monitoring and control, review and adaptation of the plan;
  • Review of the completed project - submission of the final report, preparation of personal assessments, collection of historical information.

This model primarily characterizes the stages of project management and has many advantages, such as detailing procedures, differentiating planning activities, etc.. Still, there is also one major drawback - the lack of a phase of identification and conceptualization of the problem.

The project cycle model, developed by Weiss and Wysocki

The project cycle model, developed by Weiss and Wysocki, follows the key management functions and has five phases:

  • Problem definition - development of a feasibility study including problem analysis, assessment of required resources and project duration, identification of uncertainty and risks;
  • Planning - development of a hierarchical tree structure of project activities and tasks, schedule of tasks implementation, detailed plan of task resources, project budget;
  • Organization - development of specific criteria for the selection of personnel for the project, allocation of tasks among the members of the project team, operational management of the project work;
  • Control - preparation of status reports, necessary changes on tasks and the project as a whole;
  • Closure - development of an audit report and a final report.

Here we come across as the separate phase of identification (problem definition). However, it is noteworthy that there is no implementation phase during which project implementation is monitored.

Another model representing the full life cycle of a project

Another model representing the full life cycle of a project involves the following sequential phases:

  • Development of a concept - decision making in the organization about the necessity of realization of a project or receiving a request from a client with a request for the development of such a project;
  • Needs clarification - specifying the resource requirements and laying the groundwork for more detailed project development;
  • Detailed planning - preparation of preliminary systematic development, detailed to a degree sufficient for comprehensive planning of activities and their financing; approval of the project;
  • Production - implementation of project activities;
  • Closing - completion of project activities.

In this model, the five phases of the project lifecycle are presented as a function of time. Still, it lacks a link (performance evaluation) between the last and the first phase to initiate a new cycle.

Similar to the model developed by Cleland and King, which has five phases:

Conceptual planning

Conceptual planning - defining the needs of the project or the need for its implementation in relation to the problems in the activity; initiating the project and evaluating potential alternatives to the project implementation; assessing the potential benefits, expected costs, risk and resources required of alternative projects; selecting a project based on set goals, needs, long-term commitments and objective resources;

Planning and organizing

Planning and organizing - forming the organizational structure of the project, defining lines of communication, procedures for delegation of rights and reporting of results; developing a project schedule, plan and budget;

Detailed planning

Detailed planning - development of detailed plans, including the planning of the entire process, formulation of final requirements, detailing of the structure of activities, preparation of information flows, planning of resources and expenses, detailed budgeting and estimation of expected cash flows; developing procedures and mechanisms for implementation, monitoring and control;

Execution (production)

Execution (production) - carrying out the project activities, including their correction depending on changes in the current state; providing managerial support and effective communication between participating partners; controlling, monitoring and evaluating the progress of project activities;

Closing (completion)

Closing (completion) - summarizing the project implementation results and analyzing deviations from previously planned activities and resources; development of a final project report, defining the degree of achievement of the project goals and results.

This cycle is logically well-maintained. Separation of project completion in another phase underlines the great attention being paid at this stage, as it involves important activities that evaluate the experience of project implementation and provide useful information for the preparation and implementation of future projects.

Although the authors describe a different set of functions in the models considered, they do not differ much, and this is a matter of aggregation and division. However, what is common in their models is that they are based on a process approach. This approach views governance as a process, i.e. as a series of continuous actions called “managerial functions”.

Different methodologies are used in practice

In practice, the methodologies of various international institutions are used - for example, the World Bank, the German Society for Technical Cooperation, and others, whose models include the phases of identification, preparation (formulation), implementation, and performance evaluation. In some of these models, the assessment and financing decision is separated into separate phases because of the need to comply with specific requirements and administrative procedures of the financing institution.

Without generalizing the universality of one model or the functionality of another, it can be summarized that they are applicable in a relatively different organizational context.

In the management of infrastructure projects in the public sector, it is necessary to use a model that is equally valid for all project partners and is logically sound. That is why the model adopted by the Commission of the European Union is used hereafter.

The European Union project life cycle management methodology, for example, is based on an integrated approach to program and project management. It is a specific method of managing the different phases of the project cycle to ensure that it remains consistent with feasibility, compatibility, and sustainability.

Comments from the BVOP™ community on "Project life cycle"

  1. Summary

    A project life cycle is a series of phases from start to finish. The number and order of the phases depend on various factors. Each project has its own cycle, with separate stages. The project cycle is a set of necessary activities that lead to completion. Each stage is independent and effective. The phases are determined practically to make project management easier.

    Projects go through a life cycle that varies in size and complexity depending on the organization's style. There is no universal approach to dividing project management processes into different phases. Various models of the project cycle are encountered. The Burton and Michael model includes four phases: pre-planning, detailed planning, implementation, and review of the completed project. This model has many advantages but lacks a phase of identification and conceptualization of the problem.

    The project cycle model has five phases: problem definition, planning, organization, control, and closure. The problem definition phase includes a feasibility study and identifying risks. Planning involves creating a task schedule, resource plan, and project budget. Organization involves selecting personnel and allocating tasks. Control includes status reports and making necessary changes. Closure involves creating audit and final reports. However, there is no implementation phase for monitoring project implementation.

    Two models are presented for the full life cycle of a project. The first involves five sequential phases: development of a concept, needs clarification, detailed planning, production, and closing. However, it lacks a link for performance evaluation between the last and first phases. The second model has five phases as well: conceptual planning, planning, and organizing, detailed planning, execution, and closing. This cycle is logically maintained and emphasizes the importance of evaluating project implementation. Both models are based on a process approach to governance.

    Various international institutions use different methodologies for managing infrastructure projects, such as the World Bank and the German Society for Technical Cooperation. These models typically include identification, preparation, implementation, and performance evaluation phases. The European Union's project life cycle management methodology is used for its integrated approach to program and project management, ensuring consistency with feasibility, compatibility, and sustainability.

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