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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