Research, Tools, Templates

Project Phases in a Nutshell

In modern project management according to PMBOK, projects are divided into certain phases. This basically applies to all projects and is independent of the type of project.

1. Project Phase: Initiation

The initiation phase primarily is about establishing needs, identifying key-stakeholders, and justifying a project.

In the initiation phase, decision-makers identify the needs and benefits of a potential project. If they conclude that the expected project outcome serves the company's mandate, they will have the feasibility of the project evaluated and assessed.

If the evaluation is positive, the project can start formally. A project manager and other important people who should work on the project are nominated and empowered.

First of all, the project manager revises the mostly vaguely formulated project objectives. This means that he sharpens the goal, framework, and other parameters of the project in such a way that no misunderstandings remain about the delivery items to be created.

The project charter has the character of a contract and must be signed by the project manager and the sponsor. From the point of view of the project team, the project starts with the first official meeting, the kick-off meeting.

2. Project Phase: Project Planning

The project planning phase is very essential. In its course, the main focus is on assessing costs, timelines, and required resources, developing and agreeing on working methodologies, finding adequate sources for material and other resources, and establishing regular communication.

Detailed planning begins during the initiation phase and before the formal start of the project. The usual planning tasks include:

  • Scope
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Resources
  • Procurement
  • Communications
  • Risk
  • Stakeholders

The project manager and his/her team plan all tasks that are necessary to achieve the project goal.

Probably the most important aid of the project manager is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The work breakdown structure divides the project into its components. This makes it easier for the project manager to assign milestones to all tasks, identify predecessor and successor relationships and allocate resources.

The preparation of the project plan forms the starting point for all further planning. The project manager details the schedule estimates the budget and defines product and process qualities.

Professional project managers take possible risks into account as early as the planning phase. They develop avoidance strategies for those with the highest probability of occurrence and the greatest impact.

In terms of stakeholder management, the project manager creates an engagement plan, and for the quality of the deliveries, he creates a strategy to provide high-quality results.

The project manager assigns a person responsible for each work package. Activities that were not planned or forgotten in the planning phase are "out-of-scope", which means that they do not belong to the project. If they only appear after the planning phase, they can be integrated into the project process, but only with additional effort through change management.

I offer a comprehensive set of templates for planning and implementing your project.

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3. Project Phase: Project Execution

In the third project phase, the previously worked out plans are put into reality and the project goal is produced. It is now about acquiring, realizing, training, assuring, directing and managing, and maintaining records.

As soon as the execution phase has started, the part of the planning decreases drastically, because the anticipation of the work is fixed and the project team begins with the implementation.

Late change requests must go through a formal change process. First, the requirements are checked for feasibility, then the implementation effort is estimated. Depending on how the result turns out, the changes transition into the implementation that has already started.

It is an important task of the project manager to synchronize the content and organization of the old plan with the new one. Communication between team members is most intense in the execution phase. That is why the employees regularly exchange information about their work results. To do this, they report frequently, meet in progress, and status meetings.

The project manager keeps track of every project phase. With the help of status reports, he evaluates the progress of the project in comparison with approved baselines. He communicates the result to clients, sponsors, and important stakeholders.

The project manager spends most of his working time communicating. This includes consolidating work results, preparing and moderating team meetings, and presenting the project to the outside world.

If there are disruptions or deviations from the plan during the project, the project manager steers back to the original course.

The original plan is not cast in concrete. Unless otherwise feasible, the project manager will point out deviations and revise the planning figures based on the current circumstances. But he is only entitled to do so if the project client and important stakeholders have given their consent.

4. Project Phase: Project Monitoring and Controlling

Trust is good, control is better, that's what is said in German. There is a permanent comparison of the current situation in comparison to the various baselines. The most important baselines are cost, time, and scope.

In parallel to the execution phase, the project manager controls and monitors all relevant project parameters. He controls budget compliance, ensures timely delivery, prioritizes tasks, updates the project plan, and resolves resource conflicts.

5. Project Phase: Project Closure

Every project ends comes to an end. In the last phase, the client certifies that the result corresponds to the agreed requirements, and accepts and takes over the deliveries. There will be an evaluation of the course of the project and the team will disband.

The professional project manager completes the project in a controlled, structured, and planned manner. As soon as the desired project outcome item has been achieved, i.e. the customer has formally accepted it, the project manager ends the project work.

Ideally, a successful project completion includes the following activities:

  • Prepare a final project report
  • Call a project meeting in which the project team is formally dismissed
  • Evaluate and record lessons learned together with the team.
  • Release the resources so that they are available for follow-up projects
  • Extract relevant documents, especially those prescribed by law, and store them in an archive in a structured manner.
  • Appreciation, preferably in public, of the work of the project team and organization of a graduation ceremony.

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