Project Management Life Cycle | Practical Example

Project management life cycle and the work breakdown structure (WBS) have come to the forefront in recent years as key frameworks or structures for subdividing the project’s scope of work into manageable phases or work packages. Where the WBS is a hierarchical subdivision of the scope of work, the project life cycle subdivides the scope of work into sequential project phases.

Let’s consider a simple house building project which passes through the phases.

Project life cycle

Concept and Initial Phase: The desire for a new house develops into a need. The options and alternatives are considered, and the feasibility of the best options is evaluated.

Design and Development Phase: The preferred option is now designed and developed in detail, together with all the associated planning of schedules, procurement, resources and budgets. The land and long lead items may be bought in this phase.

Implementation or Construction Phase: The contracts are let and the house is built to the detailed plans developed in the previous phase. Change may be made the original baseline plane as problems arise or better information is forthcoming.

Commissioning and Handover Phase: The building is inspected and approved this now ready to be handed over to the owner.

Taking the project life cycle model a step farther, consider some other interesting characteristics:

  • The project phases take their name from the deliverables of the phase, e.g. initiate, design, construct or handover.
  • The sequence of the project phases generally involves some form of technology transfer or handover from one phase to the next phase, such as:
  1. Project brief  to design and development
  2. Detailed design to manufacture
  3. Construction to commissioning
  4. Commissioning to operation

This has also been called over-the-wall transfer if it is not accompanied with appropriate discussions and explanations.

  • The end of a project phase is generally marked by a review of  both the deliverable and performance in order to determine if the project should continue into the next phase.
  • Each phase can be planned and controlled as a mini project.
  • Each phase may be performed by different departments or contractors.
  • As the project progresses through the phases, if the goals and objectives change so the project management process should reflect these changes.

Some other characteristics of the project life-cycle that will be developed in the following section include:

  • Inputs, processes and out puts within each phase.
  • Key activities, milestones, hold-points and approvals within each phase.
  • Overlaps between phases (fast tracking).
  • Plotting level of effort (labor or cash-flow)against the project life-cycle.
  • Plotting level of influence against the cost of changes (to show front-end importance).
  • Project life cycle costing.

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