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Plotting Your Course: Essential Phases for Project Management Success

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    February 17, 2023
Plotting Your Course: Essential Phases for Project Management Success

Efficient project management is fundamental for any organization seeking to achieve its goals. It encompasses the decomposition of intricate projects into smaller, more manageable stages, each with distinct goals, deadlines, and outcomes.

It is a scientific approach that requires comprehensive knowledge and the ability to effectively execute the five fundamental phases of project management. Whether you're an experienced project manager or just starting, this article offers valuable insights to enhance your project management skills.

What Are the 5 Phases of Project Management?

Managing a project is not simply about taking the follow-ups of task to deliver the results on time. Instead, it is a sequence of several steps taken by everyone involved in the project to define its success.

This requires breaking down a project, irrespective of its size, into small chunks (small tasks) so that the end result is error-free and delivers the desired objectives. This breakdown is usually done in phases that are interrelated and sequential. In each phase, project managers and team try to achieve one or more deliverables.

Let’s learn about those phases here.

First Phase: Initiation

It is the first phase in project management lifecycle, where the project's feasibility and value are evaluated and defined. During this phase, the project's purpose, scope, objectives, stakeholders, risks, and constraints are identified and documented.

The following are the typical steps to start with the initiation phase:

• Identify the project's purpose and objectives that align with the organization's strategic goals. You can also do a SWOT analysis at this stage to identify the strength, weakness, opportunities, and possible threats of the project. These key factors will influence the success of the project thus necessary to conduct.

• Do a stakeholder analysis to identify all stakeholders involved in the project and understand their needs, interests, and expectations.

• Perform a feasibility study in terms of technical, economic, legal, environmental, and social aspects.

• Define the project scope including what is and isn't included and the boundaries of the project.

• Develop a project charter that outlines the project's purpose, objectives, scope, stakeholders, risks, and constraints.

• Appoint a project manager who will be responsible for the overall management of the project and establish a project team.

• Identify potential risks and develop a preliminary risk management plan.

• Develop a high-level project plan outlining the key activities, timelines, milestones, and resource requirements.

• Get approval from the project sponsor or other relevant stakeholders for the project charter and high-level project plan.

Second Phase: Planning

The next step requires due diligence as it will provide a clear roadmap of the project. A lot of time goes into creating a project plan if the traditional methodology is followed which is not the case with agile project management methodology. We’ll talk about it later.

First understand the primary tasks of planning phase of project management which include:

• Creating a detailed work breakdown structure (WBS) that breaks the project down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

• Developing a project schedule that outlines the order in which tasks will be completed, and the time required for each task.

• Identifying the resources needed to complete the project, including personnel, materials, and equipment

• Developing a project budget that outlines the costs associated with completing the project.

• Outlining a plan to understand how project information will be communicated to stakeholders. For this, project management software such as Jira and communication tools like Microsoft Teams are of great help.

The goals and deliverables should be set up at this stage itself. Goals should be SMART (smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) and CLEAR (Collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, and refinable.)

Critical path analysis is also an important step for project managers that should be done during the planning phase to identify the longest sequence of activities that must be completed on time for the project to be completed on schedule. By identifying the critical path, project managers can focus on ensuring that these activities are completed on time, as any delays in the critical path will delay the entire project.

It also helps them better understand the interdependencies of the project's activities, anticipate potential delays, and adjust the project schedule to meet project goals and deadlines.

Third Phase: Execution

After all that planning and preparation, the project management team begins the real work of executing the plan to achieve the set goals. Project managers are responsible for establishing an efficient workflow at this stage and keeping an eye on the team’s work and progress.

This is important so that corrective action can be taken on time before anything goes wrong with the project. Quality control measures are also taken to ensure project deliverables meet established standards. It minimizes the impact on the project timeline, budget, and outcome.

Fourth Phase: Monitoring and Control

This phase doesn’t necessarily come after the third phase, in fact, it goes hand in hand with the execution phase. The prime responsibility of project managers at this phase is to ensure that the team actually working on the project does not deviate from the set plan.

For this, project managers establish certain KPIs, such as schedule variance, cost variance, project duration, and customer satisfaction. Critical success factors are also established to make sure the project success.

Having a clear overview of the tasks is very important at this phase. For which, project managers can take help of the Gantt Chart or Kanban boards to get a quick overview of tasks and workflows.

Fifth Phase: Closure

The project closure phase marks the end of the project management lifecycle. However, most project teams forget about it. They think project done means the job done.  The close out phase is important for project evaluation. Did it meet the stakeholders, sponsors, and customers’ needs?

Other than this, the final phase is also the time of team evaluation. What have they learned and how those lessons will help them in the next project? These learnings are of big help in determining the best possible recommendations for improvement in the project. Include these in the final close out report and discuss the same with sponsors or stakeholders during review meeting.  

Bottom Line

Regardless of the project’s size and budget, these 5 project management phases are important to carry out for the proper alignment of the goals and achieve them in the set timeline. Dividing the project into phases also help the team to be productive and have a clear understanding of everything. This also helps in tracking in which direction the project is progressing. If deviation is figured out at an early stage, then the team can stop working further, evaluate the challenges, and implement the necessary solution to bring the project back on track. As a result, the time, budget, and efforts associated with the projects don’t go wasted.

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