Five Phases of the Project Lifecycle


The project lifecycle describes the tasks that must be completed to produce a product or service (NYS Project Management Guidebook, 2003). The Project Lifecycle has been divided into five phases. The first phase of the Project Lifecycle is the Define Phase in which the project concept is evaluated, selected and defined as the solution to a specific need or set of needs. In the second Plan phase, the concept is developed into a practical plan for implementation.

The Launch phase of project lifecycle constitutes the third phase.

This is a phase in which management activities are carried out to establish clear terms of reference and a clear management structure. The Manage phase of project lifecycle is the penultimate phase in which the implementation plan is executed. The final phase is termed the Close phase in which the project is completed and documented. The deliverables are then handed over to the care and control of the owner.

The Five Phases

Each phase of the project lifecycle is associated with a number of activities.

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The number of activities in a project depends on the class of the project and also on the judgment of the project manager.

The different activities associated with each phase of the project lifecycle are described below:

  1. Define Phase

The Define or Initiation Phase is the first phase in the Project Life Cycle and essentially involves starting up the project. A project is initiated by defining its purpose and scope, the justification for initiating it and the solution to be implemented.

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(MPMM, 2007)

Project Request Approval: Approval of the project request formalizes and institutionalizes the project. This activity ensures that only projects that deserve the kind of investment that is envisaged are selected for implementation and executed. It helps in managing the workload of individual departments.

In the ideal situation, anyone can make a project request on a prescribed project request form signed by the operating unit head. The project approver evaluates the report on the basis of pre-specified criteria.

The output of this activity is in the form of either an approved or a denied project. If the project is approved, a project manager is assigned.

Project Overview Statement: The Project Overview Statement (POS) provides the essence of the project. It is a short document that establishes the purpose of the project and its relevance to the organization in terms of the business value that it will provide.

The Project Overview Statement identifies the problem which the project addresses and determines the goals and objectives of the project. The effort that would be required in completing the project is estimated, and the assumptions, risks and obstacles are identified.

The primary objective of the POS is top impress the importance of the project upon the senior management and to secure its support for the project. Once the management is convinced, the project manager gains the authority to use organizational resources for the project. During the course of the project lifecycle, the POS becomes the point of reference for the project.

Business Case: This activity helps to build a case for the project by justifying it as a business need. All the costs and benefits of the project are weighed before taking the decision to investment in the project. Dependencies, fund requirements and risks are identified. A cost-benefit analysis is undertaken.

Project Governance: In this activity the roles and the activities of the different team members and stakeholders are identified and fixed. The decision making hierarchy and structure of the project are defined. Escalation procedures are also drawn up.

Management Approval for next phase: This activity concentrates on acquiring the approval of the management to move to the next planning phase of the project. Each phase of the project lifecycle constitutes of a transition activity to move into the next phase. In this activity, the senior management analyzes status report and feedbacks from customers. The senior management together with the project manager then takes a decision whether the project should move into the next phase or not. This activity ensures that projects that are found unworthy or not feasible are rejected early in the lifecycle.

  1. Plan Phase

The focal point of this phase is developing the project scope into a stable project plan, which will be later used to guide the project through the project life cycle and fulfill the business requirements (Hinds IT Management).

Start-off meeting: This is the kick-off meeting in which the project manager sets guidelines for project execution, reviews the Project Overview Statement and lays down the expectations from the project team. Timelines, approach, assumptions and constraints are discussed in this meeting. There is a conscious effort to dispel any doubts that team members may harbor. The minutes of this meeting is documented.

Project Approach: The objective of this activity is to define a solution for the project and to identify the method to deliver the solution. An implementation approach to meet the project goals is developed. Policies and standards are laid down. This activity also validates the planning activities required. Various methods in which the project objectives can be achieved are evaluated and the best adopted. Components from other projects that can be applied in the project under consideration are identified. A rationale is provided for the adoption of the particular project approach. The project approach is documented.

Quality Strategy: The quality strategy to be adopted for the project is determined. The project manager and his team decide which Quality Assurance and Quality Control activities will be carried out during the course of the project lifecycle. A list of Quality Assurance and Quality Control activities is developed.

Work Breakdown Structure: The project is broken down and decomposed into smaller components of activity units, sub tasks and work packages. This enables the manager to estimate the duration of the project more objectively, determine the resources that would be required and also work out a schedule for project execution. It provides the management with enhanced control. A work break down structure evolves out of this activity. This activity is an element of the work plan.

Time and Cost Estimate: The time and cost for each task is estimated depending upon the resources available and capability. The time and cost estimate that is drawn up becomes an input for the work plan.

Schedule Development: This activity documents the various tasks that need to be executed during the course of the project lifecycle and then assigns responsibilities and establishes timelines for the tasks. Dependencies between various tasks are highlighted. Resources are assigned to the tasks, quality reviews and testing are planned. This activity ensures that the project is completed on time and that the business aspect of the overview statement is addressed. Once the overall schedule is available, the project manager is responsible for monitoring the progress closely. The deliverable of this activity is the work plan.

Risk Management Strategy Plan: This activity develops a complete plan for handling risks pertaining to the project. It defines how risks will be identified, who will do so and at what frequency risks will be identified. It adopts a risk monitoring toll, sets the risk escalation matrix and defines how to handle issues with high risk probability. The roles and responsibilities for the risk management process are accorded.

Communications Management Plan: This plan is developed to ensure flow of required information to all team members. Access methodologies are worked out, information is categorized according to target groups and overall communication systems defined.

Issue Management Plan: An issue management process is defined in this activity. The objective of the activity is to ensure that issues are identified, evaluated and assigned for resolution. An issue log is documented and tracked.

Quality Assurance Plan: This plan is implemented to validate that the major activities and processes are completed with an acceptable level of quality. Acceptance criteria for deliverables, quality assurance activities, in-process control plans, and quality-related responsibilities are defined. Frequency of project plan reviews, frequency of receiving and sending status reports, and frequency of checking for process improvements are determined.

Resource Plan: This plan is developed to determine the resources that will be required during the various phases of the Project Lifecycle. It also takes into consideration the need training programs or other value-addition processes. The type and amount of resources needed are determined. The estimated output, availability, and cost of the resources are determined.

Procurement Plan: This plan draws up the procurement strategy. The scope and type of products and services that are to be procured are outlined. Procurement responsibilities are fixed and assigned. Vendor evaluation criteria and approval procedures are set.

Operational Transfer Plan: This activity ensures the smooth activation of the project. Installation processes and related roles and responsibilities are identified. Pre-requisites for smooth rollout of processes are tracked and planned for.

Stephenson et. al. (2000) in the Mars Climate Orbiter Mishap Investigation Board puts high importance on this activity. Referring to NASA operations it states that “close attention should be paid from project outset to the plan for transition between development and operations. Adequate systems engineering staffing, particularly a mission systems engineer, should be in place to provide a bridge during the transition between development and operations, and also to support risk management trade studies.”

Integrated Project Plan: This activity enables proper co-ordination of the project. Roles and responsibilities are identified. Reviews are planned; all aspects of the project are examined to ensure that all relevant factors are taken into consideration.

Team Assignment: Team assignment is done to ensure that individuals with appropriate skills are assigned to the relevant group and area of work. The Project Manager balances resource availability with the Work Plan. Work packages are defined and assigned and any questions and conflicts regarding work packages are resolved.

Management Approval for next Phase: Management approval is given for the next phase based on analyses of status reports and feedbacks.

Planning takes a lot of patience. A traditional mistake is to leap before one is ready. When there is pressure to deliver, the temptation is to ‘get the ball rolling’ (Jenkins, 2006).

  1. Launch Phase

Initial Meeting: The project manager informs the team members of the ground rules of the project, the working style, the communication plan and the escalation process for conflict resolution. The minutes of the meeting is documented for reference.

Initial Risk Identification: Risks are identified and categorized during the course of this activity. For each risk identified, the risk event is assessed in terms of likelihood of occurrence and its effect on project objectives if it were to occur. The objective is to ensure that the entire team is involved in the identification of risks for the project. This ensures that all perspectives are taken into account while planning for risks.

Team Readiness: This activity consists of preparing each member of the team to handle the roles and responsibilities that has been assigned to the person. Training programs, workshops and seminars are organized for skill and knowledge updating. Key goals are identified for each team member.

Within the team, each role is accountable for the activities necessary to achieve its own quality goal (Microsoft, 2002).

  1. Manage Phase

The project plan is executed in the Manage Phase. The primary purpose of project management during this phase is to monitor, evaluate and communicate project progress and to define and implement corrective measures if progress does not meet the expectations defined in the Project Plan (Heinsights, 2003). This phase comprises the following activities:

Performance Tracking and Reporting: The overall objective is to track the progress of the project and to ensure that the project is progressing at a satisfactory rate. Cost, time, scope and quality are tracked along with actual accomplishments and results. All persons associated with the project are provided access to the progress records. Team meetings are held to exchange information. The status of the project is reported to the relevant stakeholders. Weekly status reports and tracked project schedules are the outcomes of this activity.

Schedule Control: The objective of this activity is to ensure that tasks are executed as per the Work Plan so that the deadline for the project can be met. If there is any possibility of delays, the relevant stakeholders are informed.  The project manager tracks the various tasks in a project by exchanging task status information with team members and then incorporating the latest status information into the project Work Plan. If the any task, schedule or resource information changes, the Project Manager communicates the revised Work Plan to the project team. The outcome of this activity is the tracked work plan.

Change Control: However meticulous the planning may have been, all projects need to accommodate changes. The objective of this activity is to ensure that all changes to scope are documented and authorized by the relevant stakeholders.  Any change to the scope is communicated to the project manager. Change requests are put up to the project manager who approves or denies the request in consultation with the management.

Cost Control: This activity ensures that the project cost adheres as closely as possible to the budgeted cost. Since costs are agreed upon at the beginning by the sponsors, the project manager has to monitor the costs and report any deviation of project cost from the budget cost to the sponsor or customer. A status report documents project costs in the various phases of the project.

Quality Assurance and Control: This process comprises project reviews, product reviews, code reviews, testing, and any other process that the Project Manager might think necessary. Defects are identified, and categorized. Root causes are analyzed. This activity is carried out with the objective of ensuring that the project team meets the project requirements in terms of all requisite quality criteria.

Monitoring and Controlling consists of those processes performed to observe project execution so that potential problems can be identified in a timely manner and corrective action can be taken, when necessary, to control the execution of the project (Wikipedia, 2008).

Procurement Management: The objective is to ensure adherence to the procurement plan and procedures so that the selection procedure is fair and the quality of supplies and services are acceptable.

Risk Management: Risk management follows the Risk Management Plan that was adopted in the Plan Phase. The management monitors all risks with a risk exposure over the threshold limit. Risk mitigation strategies are planned and contingency plans are developed. The Risk Matrix is revisited at an appropriate frequency.

Information Distribution: This activity ensures that all parties concerned have easy access to relevant information in accordance with the information sharing plan. All relevant information needs to be communicated to the appropriate parties at the right time and in the appropriate format.

Time Tracking and Management: This activity is concerned with the logging of all time spent on the project. Time spent is tracked at a project level, and analyzed at an organizational level. The output is in the form of time sheets and variance reports.

Management Approval for next phase: Management approval is given for the next phase based on analyses of status reports and feedbacks.

  1. Close Phase

This consists of bringing the project to an orderly end: formalizing and communicating the acceptance or conclusion of a project, handing over to the ongoing accountable area, completing an Activity Completion Report and, for major projects, holding a post implementation review (QUT, 2008)

Transition to Production: The Operational Transfer Plan is carried out after the required checks are done. This activity ensures that all planned testing is carried out, all customer requirements are met and that the product is fully operational. Customer acceptance of the product is ensured before commencing production.

Wrap-up Meeting: This final meeting is again called by the project manager to take stock of everything that has happened in the course of the project.

Lessons Learned: Lessons learned during the project are documented and incorporated in the knowledge base for future use. The ‘lessons learned’ document is developed and deposited in the knowledge base.

Administrative Closure: The Project Manager ensures that the project is approved and accepted by the relevant stakeholders. All documentation and records are reviewed, organized and archived. Backups are taken. Resources are released and the project is closed. This activity marks the final closure of the project.



Heinsights, 2003, Project Management Lifecycle, Development Standard.

Hinds IT Management, Project Management Life Cycl, Lilla Nyby; Valmerdalen, Sweden.

Jenkins, N., 2006, A Project Management Primer, Creative Commons, California, USA.

Microsoft Solutions Framework, 2002, White Paper, MSF Project Management Discipline.

MPMM, 2007, Project Management Life Cycle, [Online] Available [March 1, 2008]

NYS Project Management Guidebook, 2003, Project Management Lifecycle, [Online] Available. [March 1, 2008]  

QUT, 2008, Project Phases, [Online] Available.  [March 1, 2008]

Stephenson, A., G., Mulville, D., R., Bauer, F., H., Dukeman, G., A., Norvig, P., LaPiana, L., S., Rutledge, P., J., Folta, D., Sackheim, R., 2000, Report on Project Management in NASA, Mars Climate Orbiter Mishap Investigation Board

Wikipedia, 2008, Project Management, [Online] Available  [March 1, 2008]


Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Five Phases of the Project Lifecycle. (2017, Feb 24). Retrieved from

Five Phases of the Project Lifecycle essay
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