Managing Project Life Cycle

Projects have a distinct life cycle, starting with an idea and progressing through design, engineering and manufacturing or construction, through use by a project owner. Project life cycle is a collection of generally sequential project phases, whose name and number are determined by the control needs of organization or organizations involved in the project. A project phase is collection of logically related project activities usually culminating in the completion of major deliverable i.e. any measurable, tangible, verifiable outcome, result or item that must be produced to complete a project or part of project.

The project originates as an idea in someone’s mind, takes a conceptual form and eventually has enough substance that key decision-makers in the organization select the project as a means of executing elements of strategy in the organization. In practice, the project manager must learn to deal with a wide range of problems and opportunities, each in a different stage of evolution, and each having different relationships with the evolving project. Thus a project manager can effectively and efficiently plan and execute his decisions if he were able to identify these stages in the evolution of a project which is called life cycle of a project.

Read More: Project Life Cycle

A product grows through several phases in its life cycle, starting with an idea, progressing throughout production or construction and passing on to sales and distribution and through to after-sales logistic support. In the same way a project passes through the following stages:

  1. Develop an idea something which is something new.
  2. Do Research by inquiring or examining into the field of knowledge with the objective to convert idea into a practical plan.
  3. Design-idea and get it converted into practical plan.
  4. Convert Design by developing into actual product, service, or process.
  5. Take the product, service, or process through Marketing to customers. It may precede the design phase.
  6. Convert the resources into product, service, or process through Production.
  7. Provide Post Sales Service and support to customers during the use of product or service.

The managerial action in these phases typically includes:

  1. Conceptual Phase: Bases are established and the management approach is formulated in this phase. The decision that a project is needed is made. Goals are established, resources are estimated, and key personnel are appointed.
  2. Planning Phase: In this phase, major program characteristics are validated and refined and program risks and costs are assessed, resolved, or minimized. The project organization is defined, targets are set, schedule of execution is drawn, tasks, and resources are defined and allocated and project teams are built.
  3. Execution Phase: This phase consist of full scale development phase and production phase, in full-scale development phase, design, fabrication and testing are completed. Costs are assessed to ensure that the program is ready for the production phase. In the production phase the system is produced and delivered as an effective, economical, and supportable system. During this period, responsibility for program management is transferred.
  4. Termination Phase: In this phase, the system is actually transferred to organization. Commitments are completed, personnel are rewarded, resources are released, and team members are reassigned.

There are several issues in managing project life cycle. They are:

1. Number and Names of Phases

It should be noted that these phases or stages are as per user requirements. Further the names of phases are different in different organizations but the meaning remains the same. Hence a project leader, rather than trying to educate people as to use pf his name for a particular phase can better exploit the names already familiar to people in the organization to avoid confusion and resentment in use of a particular name.

2. Assessing the Requirements of Resources

One of the first undertakings in planning for a project is to develop a rough estimate of the major tasks or work packages to be done in each phase. There are many ways of looking at a project life cycle. Adams and Brandt suggest two ways of looking at the managerial actions by project phase and the tasks accomplished by project phase. Once established, the life cycle model should be updated as more is learned about the project. As the project progresses through its life cycle, the project exhibits ever-changing levels of cost, time, and performance. The project manager must make correspondingly dynamic responses by changing the mix of resources assigned to the project as a whole and to its various work packages. Thus budgets will fluctuate substantially in total and in terms of the allocation to the various project work packages. The need for resources and various kinds of expertise will similarly fluctuate, as will virtually everything else. This constantly changing picture of the life cycle is an underlying structural rationale for project management. The traditional hierarchical organization is not fully designed to cope with managing such an always-changing mix of resources. Rather, it is designed to control and monitor a much more static entity that, day today involves stable levels of expenditures, numbers of people etc.

3. Managing Uncertainty in Project Life Cycles

As the project life cycle progresses, the cost, time and performance parameters must be “managed”. This involves continuous re-planning of the as yet undone phases in the light of emerging data on what has actually been accomplished. The Project team must rethink much during the project life cycle to modify and fine-tune the work packages for each phase.

4. Combining the Effect of Stream of Projects

A “stream of projects” that place demands on its resources can characterize many organizations at any time. The combined effect of all the projects facing an organization at any given time determines the overall product, service, and process status of the organization at that time and gives insight into the organization’s future. The projects facing a given organization at a given time typically are diverse – some products are in various stages of their life cycles and embody different technologies; other products are in various stages of development. Management subsystems are undergoing development. Organizational units are in transition. And major decision problems, such as merger and plant location decisions, are usually studied as projects.

Moreover, at any given time, each of these projects usually will be in a different phase of its life cycle. For instance, one product may be in the conceptual phase undergoing feasibility study; another may be in the definition phase. Some might be in production. Other is being phased out in favor of upcoming models. The challenges associated with the overall management of an organization that is involved in a stream of projects are influenced by life cycle, just as are the challenges associated with managing individual projects. In project-driven organizations whose main business is management of the stream of projects passing throughout the organization, the mix of projects in their various phases is most challenging, particularly in allocating work force, funding resources, scheduling work loads, etc. to maintain a stable organizational effort.

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