What is the Project Life Cycle?

What is the Project Life Cycle?

A project life cycle is the series of phases that a project passes through from its start to its completion.
A project phase is a collection of logically related project activities that culminates in the completion of one or more deliverables. The phases can be sequential, iterative, or overlapping. The names, number, and duration of the project phases are determined by the management and control needs of the organization(s) involved in the project, the nature of the project itself, and its area of application. 

Phases are time-bound, with a start and end or control point (sometimes referred to as a phase review, phase gate, control gate, or other similar terms). At the control point, the project charter and business documents are reexamined based on the current environment. At that time, the project’s performance is compared to the project management plan to determine if the project should be changed, terminated, or continue as planned.

The project life cycle can be influenced by the unique aspects of the organization, industry, development method, or technology employed. While every project has a start and end, the specific deliverables and work that take place vary widely depending on the project. The life cycle provides the basic framework for managing the project, regardless of the specific work involved.
Though projects vary in size and the amount of complexity they contain, a typical project can be mapped to the following project life cycle structure (see Figure 1-2):
  • Starting the project
  • Organizing and preparing
  • Carrying out the work, and 
  • Closing the project.
Project Life Cycle
Figure 1-2. Generic Depiction of a Project Life Cycle

A generic life cycle structure typically displays the following characteristics:
  • Cost and staffing levels are low at the start, increase as the work is carried out, and drop rapidly as the project draws to a close. 
  • The risk is greatest at the start of the project as illustrated by Figure 1-3. These factors decrease over the life cycle of the project as decisions are reached and as deliverables are accepted.
  • The ability of stakeholders to influence the final characteristics of the project’s product, without significantly impacting cost and schedule, is highest at the start of the project and decreases as the project progresses toward completion. Figure 1-3 illustrates the cost of making changes and correcting errors typically increases substantially as the project approaches completion.
Figure 1-3. Impact of Variables Over Time
Project Lifecycle from Agile Practice Guide, This video is based on PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition and Agile Practice Guide.
Reference: PMBOK 6 Edition

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