Project management can be difficult because it can be so diverse. There are many different types of projects, and within that there are different stakeholders, budgets, expectations, goals, resources and so forth.

A large part of project management is identifying these variables and figuring out a way to make it work in a way that pleases everyone involved. A project manager’s task is to ensure goals are met to standards, in a specified amount of time, within a set budget.

To be an effective project manager, it is important that you are able to understand the scope of the project, multi-task, manage your time, and document the steps of the project. In addition to this, you must be able to balance competing demands, multi-task, be able to work with a mixture of people and technologies.

So you see, project management consists of many variables and expectations, but what we’ve found is that whether you’ve been tasked with managing a small 2-3 day project, or a large project that spans over several months, the sequences of activities from the beginning of the project to completion is very much the same.

In our project management courses, we’ve grouped these activities together into four phases called The Project Life Cycle:

Phase one: Initiating/Conceptualizing

The main purpose of this phase is to provide direction, identify stakeholders (this could be your organization, a customer, or whomever tasked you with the project) and determine the requirements. In this phase you’ll shape the project and the preparation that needs to be done.

You, or your project management team, may want to look at feasibility of the project, research alternatives, develop a process, and determine the budget and timeline.

This will be your Project Charter or Project Statement of Work, which identifies the scope of the project, gives the project manager authority over the project, provides a summary of milestones and states the budget and funding sources.

Phase Two: Planning

The objective of this phase is to identify the steps and develop a plan for how and when the project will be accomplished. This is a necessary and important phase of project management that often gets neglected.

This phase should result in a project plan document that presents a holistic plan for how the project will be carried out.

Be sure to include a budget and schedule, the team, standards, what needs to be purchased, a work breakdown structure, and a solid communication plan for throughout the project.

Phase Three: Executing

Once the project plan has been approved, it’s time to begin executing it by putting the plan into action. In this phase, it’s important as a project manager to revert back to the proposed schedule and to monitor progress.

To ensure progress is being met, tasks include making the time necessary to get the work down, obtaining and using the resources necessary, meeting with the team regularly, and providing progress reports to stakeholders.

Monitoring progress will make sure that the project is completed in a timely manner, and within the set budget. At the end of this phase, the final project is submitted.

Phase Four: Closing

In this final phase, the project has been submitted, and the stakeholder, or customer will decide whether they are satisfied with the project.

Meanwhile, the project management team should do their own evaluation of the project by producing a report or checklist upon completion, discussing lessons learned and how the next project could be improved.

Then, depending on the type of project – the team may need to submit manuals, and procedures for the stakeholder, as well as hold any necessary training for the future of the project. Of course, this step all depends on the nature of the project.

There you have it, as we established at the beginning of this blog, project management is a diverse task – in terms of longevity, scope, budget, time and stakeholders. Hopefully these four phases can help you with planning your next project and help to put all those variables into place.

To get a more in-depth look at project management, you can check out our courses – we have several project management courses but our latest release “Project Planning – All you need to know” offers a great overview on project planning.