Of the more than 2,200 prospective project management software buyers GetApp interviewed from 2016 to 2018, 64 percent said that “inefficient and unorganized management of projects” was their biggest pain point.
If your small business also struggles with project management and poor performance resulting in revenue loss, it’s time to re-evaluate your project management processes.
Project managers can tackle project mismanagement by using a standardized, step-by-step project lifecycle methodology. Embedding standardized project management practices throughout the organization reduces the risk of project failure and delivers better project outcomes.
This article aims to help you achieve successful project deliveries using the following five steps for project lifecycle management. We’ll discuss each in detail.
5 steps for project lifecycle management
1. Initiating: Determine a high-level project agenda
A successful initiation increases the chances of a project’s success. Project initiation is the first step in a project lifecycle and involves building a strong business case. The business case is a document that explains the need for the project, its scope, and its vision to the team. A detailed business plan also helps in soliciting funding for the project.
Here’s what you need to do to successfully initiate a project and ensure that it performs well:
- Create a project charter/business case: The charter/case is needed to explain the project vision, objectives, scope, stakeholders, roles, and responsibilities, as well as the high-level project plan and budget.
- Undertake a feasibility study for a business case: Here, you need to identify a business problem that your project will solve.
- Identify project stakeholders: You should know how the project will impact your teams. You also need to understand your teams’ expectations from the project.
Include the scope of opportunity management in the project initiation phase. This way, you can avoid loss of opportunity and plan resources ahead of time.
2. Planning: Build a project road map and team
The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful project depends on how good, or how bad, the plan is. To ensure you have a good plan, this phase is essential.
In this phase, a project plan document, or a set of documents, is created. The project plan explains what the project team will do and how they will do it. It lists all the processes (financial, quality, project development, etc.) required for the project to be successful.
The following steps will ensure that your project planning is successful:
- Create a project road map: First, identify the project goals and timeline. Draw a chart and visualize the significant milestones that should be achieved. Also, create a scope statement based on the project objectives and key milestones.
- Estimate budget for the financial plan: It’s important to understand the capital that you’ll need for the project and the return on investment that’s expected from it.
- Form a functional project team: You should evaluate the resources in your organization and form a project team to complete all the project tasks.
- Identify potential roadblocks: Making a list of foreseeable risks will help you mitigate these risks successfully and ensure project quality through a project’s lifecycle. Common risks could include budget cuts and resource crunch.
- Develop a communication plan: You need the right messaging to communicate with your stakeholders—both internal and external—about the project initiation. Also, create a schedule to effectively deliver this communication.
Create a schedule for regular collaboration meetings with other departments such as business intelligence, product, and marketing. This will give you buffer time for the discussions, while ensuring that you maintain realistic project timelines.
3. Executing: Put your plans to action
This phase is the longest in a project lifecycle and requires putting into action the project plans you made in the earlier stage. In this stage, the deliverables are constructed and presented to the clients. During the project execution stage, a project manager would be involved in managing the people, processes, and communication.
Here are a few pointers to ensure successful project execution:
- Organize workflows: You should assign tasks to the appropriate team members. Explain their responsibilities, dependencies, and project processes for the smooth functioning of the project.
- Hold regular status team meetings: Regular team catch-ups will help you track the team’s progress on the assigned project tasks. This will ensure that team members are meeting their goals, while giving you the opportunity to address any risks or concerns.
- Communicate with clients: It’s vital to keep your clients updated about all kinds of developments in the project during this phase.
Discuss how you’d like to incorporate client feedback in this phase, how often you’ll solicit the feedback, and define the turnaround time for incorporating the feedback. This will help you reduce the cost of conflicts later, as there won’t be any rework in the final stages of the project.
4. Monitoring and controlling: Evaluate using key metrics
This phase is about measuring project progression and performance to ensure that the project is going as planned. Project managers can review and track progress at any time during a project to make adjustments to the plan, so that things runs smoothly.
Here’s what this phase involves doing:
- Measure the project’s progress: The key performance indicators will track project progress and ensure that tasks are on schedule. Tracking them will ensure that you meet the deadlines of the deliverables. To ensure the project budget doesn’t overrun, the project manager should track the cost of all the resources being spent.
- Evaluate project risks and find solutions: You should be monitoring any risks arising in the project. Make adjustments and find solutions to ensure that despite these risks, the project scope and budget don’t undergo extensive alterations. You should document the solutions for reference in future projects.
Sit down with your team once in a while to discuss additional financial opportunities in this phase. Monitoring the project will help you accurately understand the total resources being spent and identify areas in which you can save to create extra profit.
5. Closing: Prepare a project report
This phase indicates that the project has been completed. It’s the final stage that involves a postmortem and follow-up. A project manager identifies the strengths and weakness of the project in terms of the time taken, processes followed, and resources used in this phase. The weaknesses are assessed so that project managers can develop strategies to overcome them.
Here’s what you need to do to successfully close a project:
- Re-evaluate resources: You need to analyze your team members’ performance in terms of the timely deliveries and quality of work. You’ll be required to terminate the contractual resources at this time and retain the full-time resources for the next project.
- Hold a team meeting: This involves getting the team together and formally closing the project with a discussion about its achievements, misses, risks, and failures. This will help you compile learning for future projects.
- Document project completion and prepare final project report: You’ll need to document all the aspects of the project once it’s complete. Perform a final analysis of the overall performance. Conduct an audit of all the project phases and prepare a report for stakeholders to discuss the goals achieved, tasks completed, on-time deliveries, final budget spent, total resources spent, risks encountered, etc.
Hold a project closing meeting with your client and understand their perspective on the overall project performance. You can incorporate their feedback in areas pertaining to project management and improve your team’s efficiency. This can help you win client trust and boost your brand image as a trusted service provider in the market.
Armed with this step-by-step project lifecycle methodology guide for your small business, here’s what you should do next:
- Identify a project management platform that works with your preferred lifecycle model and offers features such as task management, Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and documentation.
- Get your team’s feedback on the project lifecycle methodology and incorporate their opinions when tweaking the methodology. It’s vital to ensure that the methodology works for your unique business needs when following the steps we’ve mentioned in the article.