Four Steps of Project Management Life Cycle
Project Management Life Cycle is a separation for a project. According to Ms. Cui’s research, managers can separate a whole project to some steps and connect those steps with project operation; the sum of all those steps are project management life cycle (Cui, 2011). There are four components in project management life cycle, which are time requirement, project stages, project task and project result. Generally, because the unpredictability of project, project management life cycle often uses time dimension to control and evaluate the project (Cui, 2011). There are many ways to separate project life cycle into steps. Project Management Institute in United States (PMI) separates the project life cycle into three steps: beginning stage, medium stage and final stage (Cui, 2011).
Chinese Project Management Body of Knowledge (C-PMBOK) separates the project life cycle into four steps: Conception Phase, Development Phase, Implementation Phase and Final Phase. Though those two standards have some differences, both of them separate a project into many steps in order to survey and control the operation of project. In my opinion, the standard of C-PMBOK is better than the standard of PMI. C-PMBOK’s standard is not only based on time dimension but also based on activity dimension. C-PMBOK demonstrates the important aim for each stage. However, the standard of PMI is only based on time dimension and fails to demonstrate aims of stages. (1) Conception Phase
In this step, the project practitioner should try his or her best to clarify the core mission, the clients’ demand, the aim and the definition of his or her project. In business, project practitioners may send a Request for Proposal (RFP) to customers. According to the feedback of RFP, project practitioner will make a basic concept for his or her project. Feasibility report and project design are two necessary documents in this step. (2) Development Phase
In this step, project practitioner should make the detail plan for the whole project and discuss this plan with customers. This step is the last step before the project will be put into practice. Not only a plan, a scheduling duration should be set up for next stage. In addition, project practitioner should organize the team and arrange works. (3) Implementation Phase
In this step, the project is implemented. Project team should works as the project plan and ensure all phased aims achieved. (4) Final Phase
After Implementation Phase, the work of the project is finished. However, finishing all works does not means that the whole project finishes. In this step, some important work still should be done. For example, in trading business project, project practitioner should check out whether the goods are delivered to correct client and whether all invoices are paid in time. In addition, the feedback from clients and the lesson learned are both should be done in this step. People should understand that those steps above are a general method to separate the project life cycle. Both standards of C-PMBOK and PMI are guides rather than practical ways. In different industries, most of managers will use those ways to separate manage their projects.
However, according to the different characters of industries, managers separate their project based on their different needs. For Instance, in urban construction industry, Morris Model is widely used in project management life cycle (Dong & Wang, 2010). Morris Model separates the project life cycle into four steps, which is same as general method. However, steps in Morris Model demonstrate the characters of urban construction industry: Feasibility step, urban planning and designing, building step and putting into use step (Dong & Wang, 2010). The Ways to Evaluate and Control the Project
To ensure the project operating well and on time, the ways to evaluate and control are important. In current project management life cycle theory, three concepts are introduced to managers, which are used to evaluate the project operation. (1) Checkpoint
Checkpoint is a specific time point. Managers will set up many checkpoints in each steps of project life cycle. Every checkpoint will have a specific time span with another one. Manager will compare the situation of project operation with project plan to check whether or not the project is on track. For example, when China Merchants Bank designed their new system, the manager of IT department set a checkpoint every two week to evaluate whether this employees finished their work as project plan that is 1000 lines computer programs per week. (2) Milestone
Milestone is a specific time point, too. However, different with checkpoint, the project will be evaluated not only whether the time schedule is okay but also whether the quality and goal requirements are achieved on milestone. Milestone will be set after a stage work finish. In a step of project life cycle, there will be many checkpoints but only few milestones. (3) Baseline
Baseline is a kind of special milestone. The stage work before a baseline will be the basis of the stage work after this baseline. For example, when airplane company designs a new plane, engine design and tuning will be a stage work followed by a baseline because of three reasons. First, the engine design and tuning should be finish in time because the fly test cannot be done without engine. Second, the quality of engine design and tune is the core element of the safety of test. Third, the engine design will be one of basics of next stage work – plane tuning. When manager set checkpoint, milestone and baseline, they need to consider carefully. If the
time spans between them are too short, the evaluation will be meaningless. However, if time spans are too long, mistakes will accumulate too many and serious to be fixed and rescued. Managers should try to ensure the project is operating as schedule. If missing the checkpoint, milestone or baseline, managers need to fix their plan to chase the time expected schedule, or the project might be delay or failed on quality.
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