Many companies, their departments and employees work as they have always done and as they see fit. Consider thinking about the implementation of project management processes and phases. Thereby it is not necessary to invent project management, proven systems and standards already exist.
What are Project Management Phases?
Your projects will typically undergo certain stadiums. Thereby it usually does not matter how big or small your project is and what the desired result of the project is. Implementation of project management processes and phases allows to proceed in a more organized and purposeful way. View such division of a project from different angles. On the one hand, you can subdivide it into certain product phases, such as foundations, structural works, interior and finishing works, etc.
However, this article suggests the grouping of project management processes as per the following scheme:
- Monitoring & Controlling,
All five together are also referred to as the project life cycle. Speaking of project phases, by the way, is not correct in the context and according to the underlying standard. An overview of the project phases and the respective processes contained therein is available for free download on this website.
All projects start with this phase. During the initiation phase you will collect the ideas and requirements, determine the necessity of the project and ascertain the feasibility of the project. The output of the processes during the project initiation phase are typically the business case and a feasibility study. These two documents include details such as the justification of the project, projected investments, the expected return on investment, the anticipated time to completion, as well as environmental impacts, influences on the potentially affected people (stakeholder), and other intended outcomes, as well as potential risks. Project approval or rejection is based on the outcome of the initiation phase.
After the project approval, detailed planning begins. Planning is essentially about describing how best to achieve the project goal. Essentially, planning is always based on the three components
- Time, and
These three basic items form the project's boundary lines in the shape of a triangle. Any alteration requires prior approval. The detailed planning is about the following:
It is easier for you to manage the requirements and scope of the project after breaking them down into smaller packages and preparation of clear definitions for each package. Such definitions among others include things like specifications, quality features and so on. Further, these packages are broken down into individual tasks and activities, resulting into the so called Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
The result of this planning is a schedule. In the schedule you record all packages, tasks, activities in the right order and with their respective inter-dependencies. Estimate the duration as well as their time-dependencies for all activities. Thus you will get tentative start and completion dates for each activity. Ensure not to overlook that certain necessary waiting times between some activities must be implemented and explained. If possible implement and display necessary waiting times between activities as separate "waiting" activities. This ensures that you will not accidentally delete them during later revisions. Compile all activities with all their details in the project schedule.
Now that you know the individual activities and their duration, you may identify the necessary resources. These mainly consist of
- Materials (or intermediate products),
- Manpower, and
- Tools, and machinery.
While the material is fairly easy to plan, this is a bit more difficult for human resources and equipment. The reason for this is that their production rates are usually variable and based on certain influences, which may change frequently in the course of the project life cycle. Create an organization chart for the human resources so that everyone knows exactly what her or his responsibilities are and to whom she or he reports.
Based on the previous steps, the calculation of direct costs should now be relatively simple and follows simple mathematical steps. Caution is required for the indirect costs. In many cases, you will only know the total sum, but not the details. You will than apply a certain percentage of the total sum and consider that as indirect project cost. The most important output of this planning is the budget. The budget, as far as possible, should reflect the individual work packages so as to allow for more accurate control later on.
The quality standards to be adhered to result from the project requirements, legal requirements and contractual conditions. The quality planning therefore primarily relates to determining in which intervals and methods tests shall be carried out and how to proceed in case of deviations. Although quality control costs money, repair costs and costs due to loss of reputation are usually higher.
In the rarest cases, a project can be realized entirely without purchasing materials or services. It is therefore necessary to determine how decision shall be made whether to produce something in-house or to buy from someone else, from where to source material or services, how to do the purchase in detail, what type of contracts to use, etc.
Each project can be exposed to a variety of risks. Risks can come from changes in legislation, unforeseen events, environmental influences, and many more. Once a list of potential risks has been compiled, their probability and impact must be assessed. Subsequently, a corresponding contingency must be included in the cost planning and it is to be planned in which way the risk is to be countered.
Much in project management is about effective communication. This includes regular meetings as well as daily, weekly and monthly reports, formal notification of any problems, invoicing and much more. The project and the project management team will face difficulties without regular and honest communication. Equally important is the arrangement of communication channels. Communication is quicker and better when subjects are informed through the right channel to the correct recipient and by using the right mode of communication.
Stakeholders are all those people and organizations who can be influenced by a project or can influence it. Planning how to deal with such stakeholders and their demands based on their influence level is important, to ensure a smooth project flow and, on the other hand, to consider their legitimate needs. The identification of stakeholders is an important activity during the initial project phase. All that has been planned in this project phase is to be written down and recorded in planning documents. An extensive collection of free templates is available on this website.
Works implementation happens during this phase. This means in particular the execution of the actual works in accordance with the respective plans also the following:
- Developing knowledge,
- Managing the quality of the processes and their outputs,
- Acquiring, developing and managing resources,
- Hold meetings, and prepare and send reports,
- Implementing risk responses,
- Conducting procurement, and
- Managing stakeholder engagement.
Project Monitoring and Controlling
In monitoring and controlling, the primary concern is to ensure that the execution of the project is in line with the planning. Similar to the planning, monitoring and controlling takes place in all subareas and first and foremost means:
- Measuring project progress, and tracking delays and their root causes,
- Monitoring scope and controlling changes,
- Measuring results and monitoring the quality of works implementation,
- Controlling expenses,
- Monitoring development of risks.
Implementation of approved corrections starts after the analysis of all deviations, whether cost, schedule, quality, or whatever. Root cause analysis is very important prior to the implementation of corrections and reasons e.g. for slow works implementation can vary. Number of resources or their output may vary from the anticipation, external influences can impact and many more reasons. Avoidance of continued further deviation must be ensured. Deviations almost always require an adjustment of the underlying planning, or a subsidiary plan on how the deviation can be corrected quickly. This makes it clear that planning, execution and monitoring blend into one another, are repetitive and take place continuously until the implementation of the project is complete.
Upon completion of the project product the project is not yet over. The last phase of the project is closing it out. Activities in this phase among others include
- Final acceptance of all deliverables,
- Completion of hand-over documents,
- Handing over the product,
- Repairing defects that occur during the defects liability phase,
- Training users,
- Preparing and submitting final accounts,
- Formally closing out outstanding contracts,
- Reviewing the entire project,
- Settling pending disputes,
- And more...