The Five Phases of Project Management

This article goes through the phases of project management and explains the key activities you should perform in each step in order to manage projects successfully. The phases and activities are based on the Project Management Institute’s established methodologies and practices. 

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1.     PROJECT INITIATING

Project initiating refers to high-level conceptualization of the project and assessment of its feasibility.

Within the project initiation process, your company (management or project committee) will have to analyze the project idea and determine if the project is attainable as it is presented.

Key activities and processes you should perform during project initiation include:

  • Clearly define your project goal in writing. Your project goal statement needs to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic, and Time-framed). Everything you do in the project needs to have a purpose related to achieving the project’s goal.
  • Define the preliminary project scope (what needs to be done and delivered to achieve your project goal).
  • Identify and appoint a project manager.
  • Identify the project’s stakeholders.
  • Prepare a project brief or a project concept note, including the definition of the scope, the objectives, potential risks, estimated budget and estimated timeline and send to management for initial approval.

2.     PROJECT PLANNING

Project planning involves detailed planning for each of the aspects of the project. Project planning includes the definition of the detailed scope, time and budget, and final approval from stakeholders.

Planning reduces uncertainty and helps you prepare for the execution, so it is critical that you plan your project well. If you make a good plan and you follow it, you will feel that things are under control and the possibilities of project success would be much higher.

It is critical in this phase that each member of the project team is clear about its role and responsibilities, including the tasks that each person needs to perform, the timeline and deliverables to be submitted.

Key activities and processes you should perform during project planning include:

  • Define a detailed scope of work. The scope of work comprises all the tasks or activities that need to be done to achieve the project’s goal.
  • Define the resources needed to complete each of the tasks identified in the project (e.g. personnel, machinery, and any other inputs). Assign resources to each task and definite the timing to complete them. Check the availability of the resources and coordinate with the Human Resources and Procurement Departments to make sure that resources will be available when needed.
  • Define the project cost. Once the scope, resources and timing are defined, you can obtain the cost of the project. You can download a basic project budget template here. 
  • Develop an action plan that clearly defines what needs to be done by whom and when.
  • Determine and define the project’s progress reporting requirements against budget, time and scope. Defining measurable and reportable criteria is key for success. It helps you monitor and control how the project evolves.
  • Determine product standards to be met by the project and plan how quality is going to be ensured and controlled.
  • Plan how communications will be managed through the project, who will be in charge of communicating what, when and to whom.
  • Identify potential project risks and define a mitigation plan. To learn more about Expanding and Handling Problems, have a look at the following article: Expanding and Handling Problems.
  • Plan how to coordinate with stakeholders and keep them informed and engaged throughout the project.

Several project management tools exist that can facilitate you to plan your projects successfully. You should research the project management tools and software available in the market for you sector of activity.

Some of the most used project management tools for project planning purposes include:

  • Project Plan: the project plan details what the project will deliver, all the processes and tasks that are part of the project, the responsible/s to complete them and the estimated timeline for the project to be completed.
  • Gantt Chart: project management tool used to track the different tasks involved in a project across a determined period of time, in form of a bar chart. You can find a template and a sample of a basic Gantt Chart here.
  • PERT Chart (Program Evaluation Review Technique) (also called logic diagram or network): project management tool used to illustrate how different activities or tasks are organized and sequenced in a project. The chart includes the time needed to complete each activity or task, and allows you to visualize the total time needed to complete the project.  
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): a project management tool that breaks down the project into smaller parts or work components following a hierarchical decomposition of the work that need to be done to achieve the project’s final goal. This process follows until activities cannot be broken further, or until it doesn’t make sense to broken them further.

There is also a wide variety of open source project management software tools available in the market, such as MyCollab, Odoo,  Taiga, Orange Scrum, 2Plan, GanttProject or Meistertask, among many others.

3.     PROJECT EXECUTING

Project executing involves all the processes related to implementation of the tasks and development and submission of the deliverables to achieve the objectives established in the project plan.

Key activities and processes you should perform during project execution include:

  • Conduct all the procurement required for the project.
  • Hire, develop and manage all the human resources needed for the project. Monitor your team, and make sure they are motivated and that they work as a team.
  • Direct and manage project work.
  • Manage communications with the team, stakeholder, client, etc. Ensure that everybody is informed of developments. Lack of communication or miscommunication is a frequent problem in project management and can cause problems or delays in the project. Ensure that you and other team members communicate effectively. If you want to know more about how to communicate effectively or how to run a formal meeting have a look at the following articles: Communicating Effectively and How to Run a Formal Meeting.
  • Manage any setbacks that may raise during the project.

 4.     PROJECT MONITORING AND CONTROLLING

Monitoring and controlling assures that tasks are completed in the estimated time and cost and that each delivery meets the quality defined in the scope of the project. It helps you compare what was planned with what is actually happening. Monitoring and controlling takes place at the same time as project execution, and it needs to be done regularly thought the life of the project (not only at the end of the project).

Monitoring and controlling is closely related to project planning. While planning determines what is to be done, monitoring and controlling establish how well it has been done.  Monitoring will detect any necessary corrective action or change in the project to keep the project on track.

Key activities and processes you should perform during monitoring and controlling include:

  • Monitor and control that all activities are being performed on time and on budget, as established in the project planning phase.
  • Monitor and control the quality of all activities being performed and the deliverables. Validate deliverables according to the established criteria in the project planning phase.
  • Monitor the project team. Make sure that every team member is working on the assigned tasks, and that everybody is performing as expected.

5.     PROJECT CLOSING

Project closing takes place when the client (or person or unit that has requested the project) validates the final product or deliverable and confirms that the project’s objectives have been achieved. In this phase, all contracts with vendors close and all project’s resources are released. Once a project has been completed, any additional task is either routine maintenance or a task that needs to be included in a new project.

Key activities and processes you should perform during project closing include:

  • Close contracts with suppliers, external vendors, consultants, etc. and evaluate their performance.  
  • Do a post-project review meeting and evaluation. Assess how the project went, the main areas of improvement, and lessons learned.
  • Archive all documentation that was developed during the project in a place that is easily accessible. It may be needed in the future.
  • Produce the final project report. 

The Project Management Institute is a leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project management profession