Definition

Project life cycles consist of a number of distinct phases.  All projects follow a life cycle and life cycles will differ across industries and business sectors.  A life cycle allows the project to be considered as a sequence of phases which provides structure and approach for progressively delivering the required outputs.

General

Projects will always have a beginning and an end, as do phases, and how these points are defined will vary.  The project life cycle phases will follow a similar high-level generic sequence: concept, definition, implementation and handover & closeout.  In specific circumstances the project life cycle is replaced by an extended form.  This extended life cycle includes two further phases: operations and termination.

The concept phase establishes the need, problem or opportunity for the project.  The project’s feasibility is investigated and a preferred solution is identified.  If feasible, the project continues to the next phase called the definition phase.

The definition phase further evaluates the preferred solution and plans are prepared for the implementation of the project.

The implementation phase implements the project strategy and plan.  There can be two or more stages within this phase (e.g. Design and Build)

The handover and closeout phase delivers the project to the sponsor and the organisation.  The project is now complete in terms of delivery of capability that will allow benefits to be achieved.

In the extended life cycle the operations phase will include the ongoing support and maintenance of the project’s deliverables.  The termination phase concludes the operational life of the deliverables and completes their disposal in an effective manner.

On larger projects it makes sense to check the continuing viability of the project at regular points.  This is the reason a large phase, such as Implementation, is often broken down into stages with at gate at the end of each stage within the phase.

Key reviews in the project life cycle are:

  1. Project evaluation review: A documented review of the project’s performance, produced at predefined points in the project life cycle.
  2. Gate Review: A formal point in a project where its expected value, progress, cost and execution plan are reviewed and a decision made whether to continue with the next phase or stage of the project.  Effectively the Go/No Go viability check
  3. Post project review: Undertaken after the project deliverables have been handed over and before final closeout, this review is intended to produce lessons learnt that will enable continuous improvement.
  4. Benefits realisation review: A review undertaken after a period of operation to assess the effectiveness of project deliverables in meeting the planned benefits.