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The 4 phases of the project lifecycle

IT project management is a pure dichotomy of the states of mind — at times sheer joy, sometimes absolute chaos. Managing IT projects is no cakewalk, but it gets easier with intuitive project management SaaS tools. Tools do help you in IT project management, but a tool can only be as good as the person using it. You can make the best use of IT project management tools if you understand the entire project lifecycle. And then you may devise intuitively, which tool you need at what stage of the project lifecycle. Read this insight to dive deeper & understand the ins & outs of the 4 phases of the project lifecycle  — Plan, execute, monitor & iterate, and closeout.

What’s a project lifecycle?

In information technology projects, irrespective of whether you are involved with simple software development, on-premise hardware installation, architecting solutions in the cloud, or designing an ETL solution — at a granular level, the project progression includes

  • Research
  • Planning
  • Gathering resources
  • Doing the mathematics of costs & profits
  • Delineation of responsibilities,
  • Execution of plans,
  • Monitoring & revision, and
  • A bunch of other operational, regulatory, and compliance things

A project lifecycle is a sequence of phases grouping together aforementioned granular-level project tasks into individual phases based on the task’s characteristics & dependencies.

Why do we need project lifecycle phases?

While IT projects are quickly moving through iterations of different project phases, they may fall prey to the risks of the continuously changing technology landscape and unpredictive business scenarios. Project lifecycle phases make you better equipped to take on surprises — make you resilient.

There are multiple ways to go about managing an IT project. The route you take impacts the project lifecycle. Project managers are recommended to choose from tried and tested project lifecycle management techniques to

  • Reduce the cost of the project by avoiding extensive rework,
  • Keep the project on track,
  • Improve inter-team communication, and
  • Build solutions in rather less risky and more controlled environments.

What are the different project lifecycle types?

Project Lifecycle can either be predictive i.e., plan-driven , or adaptive i.e., change-driven.

Predictive Lifecycle

This is rather a traditional approach to project lifecycle management but is still used by many organizations. Commonly known as the waterfall approach. In this, the requirements and project flow is defined precisely at the very beginning and there is a minimal deviation from the charted plan during the course of project execution. Change of scope is accepted but only after strict scrutiny and assessment.

Adaptive Lifecycle

This is a modern style of project lifecycle type. More popularly known as the agile approach in the project management community. This too makes use of project planning & execution, but more so in an iterative style than a linear one. Change of scope is more generously embraced in this type of project lifecycle.

Is Project Lifecycle only applicable to software development?

Nope. In fact, it won’t be wrong to generalize the concept of project lifecycle phases to just any other project from any other industry. From architecting a smart city to designing an autonomous car — the project lifecycle can be segmented into the same four phases, with of-course industry & project-specific distinctions.

What are the 4 project lifecycle phases?

As mentioned earlier, a project lifecycle is a structured framework laid down in four phases to take a project from idea to market:

Initiation: Project Lifecycle Phase I

This is the fundamental & critical project lifecycle phase. You, the stakeholders, and the team developing the software/hardware solution need crystal clear clarity about WWWWH.


  • What you are building?
  • Why are you developing?
  • Who is going to be part of the project development?
  • When it will be released to the market or put to use if an internal org tool?
  • How the project development team will build it?

What’s the recommended step-by-step approach to project initiation?

The below-mentioned steps for the initiation phase of the project lifecycle can be pursued linearly or in parallel as it may feel appropriate-

  • Absorb the high-level project idea/objective/brief.
  • Identify the key data points you need to bridge any gap in understanding the WWWWH of the project.
  • Identify the key stakeholders of the project i.e., the clients & the customers.
  • Find out the pulse of the problem at hand by extensively interviewing the stakeholders.
  • Precisely define project goal/idea/objective/brief in a non-jargon lingo.
  • Determine scope, resources, and deliverables.
  • Assess feasibility with cost, resources, time, and quality constraints.
  • Adjust the project plans in line with feasibility.
  • Communicate the updated plan & expected deliverables to stakeholders (mostly clients) to take their approval/feedback.

What’s the outcome from the Initiation phase of the project lifecycle?

A detailed Scope of Work (SoW) with project objective, stakeholder information & their involvement details, project risks & benefits, cost, resource, and time constraints, etc. RACI chart with tentative roles and responsibilities can also be prepared in the project lifecycle initiation phase.

Planning: Project Lifecycle Phase II

The planning phase of the project lifecycle is all about laying down a model (document) that guides the project from initiation to its completion. It essentially involves outlining a comprehensive project plan document, or a blueprint written clearly highlights:

  • Project backlog (features list)
  • Project timelines & milestones
  • Enhanced RACI charts
  • Dependencies of project components on other project components
  • Dependencies of team members on fellow teammates to complete a task
  • Security threats
  • Cost estimates
  • Criticality of milestones or project components
  • Protocols for change processes i.e., how the responsibilities transition happen if a member has to leave the project during its development
  • Protocols for communication between team members, and with clients
  • Quality testing of the product being developed or services rendered

What’s the recommended step-by-step approach to project planning?

In the project lifecycle planning phase, the following steps can be pursued in a linear fashion or in parallel as necessary:

  • Assess the skills you will need to complete the set project backlog, cost, and timeline goals.
  • Gather your troops (team members) & let them know about the mission using simple, succinct, clear words.
  • Breakdown roles & responsibilities for each member of the team
  • To bridge any skill gap, invest in training respective members.
  • To stay on the timeline, augment your team temporarily with external staff if need arises.
  • Establish the best practices to be followed during the course of the project.
  • Establish communication protocols & daily meetings or sync-ups to avoid violating the agreed timeline.
  • Schedule your calendars for finishing deliverables, reviewing deliverables, fixing bugs, etcetera.
  • Hold a Kickoff meeting & revisit all the aforementioned points, esp budget, time, and resources.
  • Update other stakeholders to keep them in loop.

What’s the outcome from the planning phase of the project lifecycle?

A detailed project plan, of course. This includes product backlog, team member details, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), request for proposal (RFP), DOs and DON’Ts, Gantt charts with milestones & timelines mapped to individuals, and a risk register that highlights security threats and risks associated with the project and potential risk mitigation methodologies.

Execution & Monitoring: Project Lifecycle Phase III

Plans are an utter waste without action. The 3rd phase of project lifecycle is all about high-octane action — implementation of the plan. In the project lifecycle execution & monitoring phase, actual product development starts. This project lifecycle phase includes:

  • Meetings & discussions to track project progress
  • Development sprints
  • Quality assessments
  • Risk identification & management
  • Bug identification & fixing
  • Incorporating change requests
  • Playing with Gantt charts, aka burndown charts

What’s the recommended step-by-step approach to project execution & monitoring?

  • Put the development team into action — one deliverable at a time.
  • Track, track, track like a maniac. It saves a lot of time, cost, and pain.
  • Track the schedule of deliverables.
  • Monitor workflow progress.
  • Monitor the change requests flowing in and their impact on the planned course of action.
  • Track the cost of the project, esp how it gets influenced when external factors sneak up in this project lifecycle phase — like consultant charges to fix an unforeseen challenge or resource costs.
  • Track project KPIs to measure performance.
  • Hold regular meetings with the team, and with stakeholders to keep them in the loop and aware of the advancements or challenges identified.
  • Anticipate challenges ahead of time, and prepare accordingly.
  • Keep execution engines all fired up!

What’s the outcome of the Execution & monitoring phase of the project lifecycle?

Project deliverables are the obvious outcome of the project lifecycle execution & monitoring phase. To be precise, actual beta product. Additionally, we get extensive documentation of the project developed, the challenges faced, and a log of bugs with their fixes and future threats that might arise. Also, the cost reports.

Closing: Project Lifecycle Phase IV

Celebration phase. Though some projects do feel like going on till eternity, ultimately now or later, every project comes to an end. In the closing phase of the project lifecycle:

  • The product is rigorously tested for quality and performance
  • Reports are submitted
  • Closeout meetings are hold
  • Team is dismantled

What’s the recommended step-by-step approach to project closing?

  • After the final deliverable, hold a meeting to see if all the boxes are ticked in the project backlog and change request log.
  • Revisit cost reports to bill the respective stakeholders.
  • Test the product rigorously to see if there are any issues left which are critical and need immediate attention.
  • In the retrospectives, list down what future enhancements can be done. Send a copy of this to the stakeholders and keep one with you.
  • Revisit the learnings and help them make their way into the organizational knowledge base.
  • Prepare the project closeout report.
  • Terminate the project.
  • Party time!!! — your partner in all the Project Lifecycle phases

The 4 phases of the project lifecycle simplify things and undoubtedly boost efficiency & profitability. It also helps streamline processes, establishes effective communication channels, and improves visibility into project workflow for all stakeholders.

ONES Project is an advanced software development project management tool for enterprises. It helps in all the project lifecycle phases and seamlessly connects with extensive world-class integrations like Zapier, Google Workspace, etcetera. It can also be easily connected to native internal products of your enterprise.

Explore ONES Project now!

Originally published at on January 17, 2023.

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