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Project Management>Project Life Cycle

In the main, a project’s life cycle includes three stages:

§         Initiation (which can also include analysis or a feasibility review)

§         Control

§         Closure

At each stage, various documents are produced and logs are updated to help manage the project to ensure the project's objectives are met.


See Project Life Cycle Drawing

What happens at each of these stages and the documents and controls used are indicated below:


All projects start with an idea e.g. a new product, service, new system, new process, change to an existing process etc. The next steps will depend if further analysis work is require or not. 

The Project Sponsor (customer or senior manager) and the Project Manager would normally agree if any analysis work should be carried out.


If analysis work is required, various analysis techniques can be applied (see the first stages of the DMAIC Analysis)


When the analysis work has been completed the results may be given to the Project sponsor in a Business Case or Analysis Report.  The Project Sponsor will review the details and decide if the project should continue. 


If the project is given the go ahead, The Project Initiation Document is usually produced and submitted to the Project Sponsor for approval to enable the project to proceed.


The Project Initiation Document outlines:


§   The Project’s scope (what will and will not be included in the project)

§   Objectives (the purpose of the project)

§   The deliverables (the specific things that will be produced)

§   The approach (how you will go about it)

§   Any assumptions being made (low level risks outside of your control)

§   Risks (Risk assessment- what’s outside of your control, what could go   wrong, how will the risks be managed)

§   Constraints (the things that could prevent you from doing the project)

§   The key people involved and their roles (who is responsible for what)

§   Outline of the business case (why it is needed, the users, numbers involved, income it will generate, expected benefits, reasons for selecting)

§   Quality (how the quality of the deliverables will be measured to check it matches expectations)

§   Estimated costs and duration (estimating what it will cost to do the project (budget required) and how long it will take)

§   Project Plan of how the work will be planned (which can be included in the PID or it may be a separate plan (e.g. a Gantt chart, work breakdown structures or a list of activities) – See Planning the project and Planning tips


A contract is also usually completed, which is a formal agreement by the Project Sponsor and Budget Controller to start the project and also signifies the end of the Initiation phase.

If further analysis work is not required
The idea or process improvement can be communicated to the Project sponsor in a Project Brief. The Project Brief provides a brief overview of the proposed project and an outline of a business case (or this may be a separate document).

If the Project Sponsor gives approval to continue, the Project Brief is extended and refined into the Project Initiation Document (the contents of which are described above).

The Project Initiation Document and the project plan are then submitted to the sponsor for approval, which is needed to enable the project to proceed.

Finally, when the PID has been approved and given the go ahead, a contract is also usually completed.                                Back to Top


The control phase is about tracking and managing the project.
To do this a project plan is developed. The Project Plan is most commonly in the form of a Gantt chart, identifies the stages and tasks and who will carry them out. It also indicates the tasks’ timelines.
A good plan will include regular milestones that act as a measure of progress to keep the project team focussed on short-term goals.
Project plans may also include information about costs, human resources and dependent projects. See Planning the project and Planning tips

Once you have planned the project, it is important to assess and monitor any factors that could have an impact on your project, such as the risks identified in the PID.


You manage risks and any issues that may arise using a issues log and a risks log. It is also important to capture details of mistakes that can be learned from for future projects.  These details are entered in the lessons learned log.


The Issues Log is used to record issues and assign an owner with a plan to resolve them. The Risk Log is used to record and grade risks with an associated action plan to minimise them.


Often confused, risks and issues are defined as follows:


Risks: Is the likelihood of an occurrence or event, usually a negative one, which may adversely affect the successful completion of the project.

Issue: A concern raised by any stakeholder (i.e. an individual who has an interest in the project results) that needs to be addressed, either immediately or during the project.


Key to good project management and a successful project is effective communication. Progress Reports are used to communicate progress on a regular basis to all stakeholders of the project. (Click here to read what to do when things do go wrong)


The control phase ends once the project has achieved the goals and objectives detailed in the Project Initiation Document.                         Back to Top


Project closure is an important aspect of project management that is often overlooked.
A project that is not closed will continue to consume resources, albeit slowly.

To receive acknowledgment from the customer that the project has ended the Customer Acceptance Form is used. Once signed off the project team is disbanded and no more work carried out.


At this point, it is important to know whether the project has achieved its objectives. This is done using the Project Closure Report. This document communicates how well the project has performed against its original business case, project plan, costs and duration.


The Project Closure Report will also indicate when a Post Implementation Review, “a check” to determine if the expected benefits are still being achieved and are sustainable. This may take place shortly after the project has ended or it could be set to take place several months later.


Rather than leave valuable project experiences locked in peoples heads it is a good idea to complete and publish a Lessons Learnt Report at this point. This document is useful to pass on any lessons that have been learned that can be  applied to future projects.                                                         Back to Top


See Project Life Cycle Drawing

Go to Templates to view all the Documents mentioned on this page

Go to Project Management Knowledge Base

See also


Go to Analysis Knowledge Base
Go to Process Change Knowledge Base

Knowledge Base

Analysis Techniques
Project Management
Process Change


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