What Is the Project Life Cycle?


There are many different types of projects, but interestingly, they all have one thing in common. They all go through the same cycle, known as the project life cycle, or project management life cycle.

The 5 Project Life Cycle Phases

The project life cycle is made up of five project stages: project initiation, project planning, project execution, monitoring & control and project closing. Each of these phases is necessary for the effective delivery of the project.

Here’s a general description of the phases that make up the project life cycle and what can you do in each for successful project delivery. For example, you’ll need to produce important project documentation at each step in the process.

1. Project Initiation Phase

This is the start of the project for the project manager, who is responsible for defining the project at a high level. This usually begins with a business case, feasibility study, cost-benefit analysis and other types of research to determine whether the project is feasible and should or shouldn’t be undertaken. Stakeholders provide input. If the project is approved, then a project charter is created, which provides an overview of the project and sets up the stage for your project plan.

Project initiation template for the project lifecycle
ProjectManager’s free project initiation template. Download now

2. Project Planning Phase

This is where the project plan is created, and all involved in the project will follow it. This phase begins by setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals. The scope of the project is defined and a project management plan is created, identifying cost, quality, resources and a timetable. Some of the features of this phase include a scope statement, setting of milestones, communication, risk management plans and a work breakdown structure.

project plan template for project life cycle
ProjectManager’s free project plan template. Download now.

3. Project Executing Phase

Now begins the part of the project that most people think of as the project: executing the tasks, deliverables and milestones defined in the project scope. Some tasks that make up this phase include developing the team and assigning resources using key performance indicators, executing the project plan, procurement management and tracking and monitoring progress. If needed, you can set status meetings and revise the schedule and plan.

4. Project Monitoring and Controlling Phase

The project monitoring and controlling phase consists of setting up controls and key performance metrics to measure the effectiveness of the project execution. The monitoring and controlling project phase is very important to make sure the execution goes as planned in terms of schedule, scope and budget baselines.

Project Dashboard Template for tracking project lifecycle
ProjectManager’s dashboard template for Excel. Download now.

5. Project Closing Phase

It’s not over until the project closure phase it’s over. Completing the deliverables to the satisfaction of your stakeholders is key, of course, but the project manager must now disassemble the apparatus created to fulfill the project. That means closing out work with contractors, making sure everyone has been paid and ensuring that all project documents are signed off on and archived to help with planning future projects.

Once this has been done, the project manager often has a post-mortem with the project team to highlight what worked and what didn’t work, so that successes can be repeated and mistakes avoided.

Understanding the Project Management Life Cycle

Jennifer Bridges, PMP, is our resident project management expert. She hosts hundreds of our training videos, including this one explaining the project management life cycle.


ProjectManager Helps Manage the Project Life Cycle

ProjectManager is a robust project management software that offers multiple project views and features for each step of the project management life cycle. Here are some of its key project management tools.

Plan, Schedule and Track with Gantt Charts

Our online Gantt chart helps you plan the project, collecting your task list into a timeline. The duration for each task can then be set and each task assigned to a team member. Collaboration happens at the task level on the Gantt chart, where team members can comment and add relevant documents and images. They can even tag those not assigned to the task and they’ll be notified by email.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart

Multiple Project Management Tools

The Gantt chart is just one of ProjectManager’s project management views. You can also use the kanban view, dashboards, workload charts, timesheets and other tools. Use kanban boards to visualize the workflow, where cards represent the tasks, keeping team members focused on what they’re working on and project managers get a bird’s eye view. Resources can be reallocated and important dates, such as holidays and vacation days, are marked to know who can work when.

Workload chart in ProjectManager

Create Project Reports in Minutes

One-click reporting gives project managers the data to present to stakeholders on various aspects of the project. These reports can be filtered to show the information you want and allow for deeper dives as necessary. The real-time dashboard shows project metrics in colorful and easy-to-read graphs and charts, giving you the most accurate picture of your project’s progress.

Dashboard in ProjectManager

More Project Management Templates Can Help Manage the Project Life Cycle

We have created dozens of project management templates to help project managers manage each phase of the project life cycle. Here are some of them.

Project Charter Template

The project charter is the main outcome of the project initiation phase. Our free project charter template is a great place to start building your project and get it approved by stakeholders.

Project Plan Template

A project plan is a thorough project management document that guides the project execution. Our free project plan template is fully customizable, so you can include what matters most to your project.

Project Budget Template

Our free project budget template is a great starting point to gather your project tasks, estimate their costs and create a basic project budget. However, if you truly want to use advanced project management features and have full control over your project portfolio, you should try ProjectManager.

Related Content

ProjectManager is an award-winning project management solution that assists you in all aspects of project management. Online planning tools and web-based task management features let you collaborate on the go and make adjustments. Then, create comprehensive reports from the data with only a few clicks. Try it for yourself by taking this free 30-day trial today.