Project Life Cycle: A Guide to What it is and the 5 Life Cycle Stages

Project management process groups

Complex projects that are far-reaching in scope, resource-heavy, and are high in strategic importance will require higher levels of project management knowledge.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) created the project management life cycle to help. It’s a framework to help project managers run their projects smoothly and effectively.

For project managers, the life cycle can bring more cohesion to the project and ensure that all the team members, especially if there are multiple departments involved, are all on the same page and can work together with relative ease.

Let’s go through how it works.

In this project life cycle guide you will discover,

What is the project life cycle?

The project life cycle includes the steps required for project managers to successfully manage a project from start to finish.

There are five phases to the project life cycle. Each of these project phases represents a group of interrelated processes that must take place for a successful project.

What are the five stages of the project management life cycle?

Initiating phase

The initiating phase of the project life cycle consists of two separate processes: the project charter and stakeholder register. This phase is to determine the vision for your project, document what you hope to accomplish through a business case, and secure approvals from a sanctioning stakeholder. The key components of the project charter include:

Taking the time to get your goals and objectives clearly defined will mean that the project will be easier to work on.

Everyone involved will be able to discuss their own suggestions or concerns and the budget and costs can be agreed and signed off upfront. Having this initiating phase is important not only for the project, but for all the teams involved to have their say on what is needed for the project.

Planning phase

During the planning phase, it is important that the first thing to do is outline and define the reason for the project. By answering the following questions, you can clearly see what the project needs to achieve.

  1. What exactly are we going to do?
  2. How are we going to do it?
  3. When are we going to do it?
  4. How will we know when we’re done?

As part of the planning phase, you will need to work with the team to put the full infrastructure in place and delegate certain tasks. This plan should include:

Getting the plan in place, with the whole team’s involvement can be tricky to work out. But giving every department a chance to be involved in the plan will mean that there are fewer issues further down the line.

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Executing phase

The executing phase should involve the following vital parts:

This phase is where the magic happens — where most of the budget is allocated and most of the project deliverables are produced. You take your project plan and put it into action, whether that takes weeks, months, or even years.

Villanova University defines the goal of this phase as, “managing teams effectively while orchestrating timeline expectations and reaching benchmark goals.”

During this time, communication is important, there will be times where the client or stakeholders will want to updates and progress reports.

Having a reliable project management system in place will save a lot of headaches for you and your team. It will be easier for tasks to be crossed off, see where deadlines and deliverables are up to and give you and the team insight into what still needs to be done.

With Adobe Workfront, you can keep the whole project team updated and make reporting to clients and stakeholders easier.

Monitoring and controlling phase

When in the monitoring and controlling phase you will need to make sure that you can keep an eye on the overall progress of the project as well as individual aspects.

You will always need to stay vigilant and keep up to speed with tracking and reporting with the team, so you are aware of any potential problems before they get out of hand.

It is also worth having another member of the project team (or one from each department) to act as another quality controller or reporter, they can help you keep track of everything in their team and have regular meetings to update on all aspects, so everyone is kept on track.

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Closing phase

The final phase of the project life cycle is the closing phase. It is more than simply checking off the project as done and closing the project down. It’s essential to formally close the project and secure a sign-off or approval from the customer, stakeholders, and/or project sponsor.

This process might include:

The importance of this final step of the project life cycle can’t be overstated, especially as more organizations are adopting the Hollywood model of work, where temporary teams come together around a specific project, and then disband and regroup for another project. This is important for project management teams, especially those that involve freelancers or consultants.

The complete project life cycle.

Below is a chart of the complete project life cycle, including the five process groups of project management in order and the steps required in each phase across all knowledge areas.

Being able to effectively project manage using this life cycle is great but having Adobe Workfront behind you to take off the pressure of knowing where everything is up to and what still needs to be done, will be the ultimate tool in your belt.

The 5 project management process groups

Frequently asked questions about project life cycles.

What are the five stages of the project life cycle?

The five stages of the project life cycle are:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring/controlling
  5. Closing

By working through each of these phases in turn, project managers can successfully progress their project from start to finish.

What is the importance of the project life cycle?

The project life cycle was developed by the Project Managers Institute (PMI) and is seen as the most effective strategy of delivering a successful project. The five phases can be challenging, but by working through the phases as a team, the project will be able to be completed effectively.

What is project initiating process?

In the project life cycle, the initiating phase gives you the opportunity to get everything down on paper before going to the stakeholder/sponsor/client with the information. It involves the project charter and the stakeholder register.