What Is the Project Management Life Cycle?


Jennifer Bridges, PMP, explains each step in the project management life cycle, which consists of distinct phases used in traditional project management.

In Review: The Project Management Life Cycle

For project managers seeking to understand their process and work according to best practices, they are often guided by the PMI standards of practice which outlines the project management lifecycle.

The lifecycle of any project can get confusing. There’re a lot of activities going on at different phases of a project. Plus, those phases tend to overlap.

This is where many people might get confused. To clarify, Jennifer explained the the difference between the delivery process and the project management process.

The delivery process is what your team members are primarily engaged in. Usually, that’s the nuts and bolts of the project in action. That’s distinct from project manager’s process for running a project from start to finish. That’s called the project management lifecycle, outlined in PMI’s Project Manager’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®).

There are five key phases the team is responsible for as part of their delivery process:

  • Definition
  • Design
  • Development
  • Deployment
  • Departure

Then there’s the different phases of work the project manager is doing as part of the project management lifecycle process:

  • Initiation: Developing Project Charter
  • Planning: Creating Project Plan
  • Executing: Monitoring and Controlling (includes reporting and risks, issues and changes)
  • Closing: User acceptance, final reports, handoffs, etc.

Jennifer noted the complexity of the project management life cycle, particularly when it overlaps with the different phases of delivery for the team.

Take it further: Check out Jason Westland’s book, The Project Management Lifecycle. It breaks the lifecycle process down into discreet steps to help you put the process in action.

Thanks for watching!



Hello. I’m Jennifer Bridges, Director of ProjectManager.com. Wecome today to our white board session on the project management lifecycle. So we get many from the questions from the forum on this and a lot of people tend to get different life cycles confused on a project, which makes sense, there’s several things going on at one time.

So we want to clarify today the difference between the delivery process and the project management process and who’s doing what. So if we first take the delivery process, the delivery process is what your team members are primarily engaged in and the team members are doing the definition, they’re doing the design, they’re doing the development, deployment and departure of the main parts of the project. So that’s the delivery. Then you are doing the rest of the stuff, so there’s a lot going on for the project manager.

So this is the project management life cycle as documented from the source of the Project Management Body of Knowledge produced by PMI, the Project Management Institute. So if you look on this cross section this is the delivery phase, the project management phase and the trims are the level of activity going on.

So for the delivery of the project you can see it starts and then begins to build and then it tapers off towards the finish,but for the project management they’re doing different things going on so as the delivery process starts the initiating of the project because within initiating remember we have the project charter, which is the main deliverable from initiating so you get the approval and the sign off for the project so it makes sense that that’s here at the start.

So the initiating begins and then at the same time, other activities can also begin as well. So with the planning remember the main deliverable is the project plan so you’re coming up with the process of the schedule, the milestones, all of the main deliverables to be produced in that project.

And so the planning begins throughout the project through the departure and then also the executing, monitoring, and controlling of the project begins so you can see as the delivery starts the executing, monitoring and controlling so what’s going on there so there you are, you as the Project Manager, you’re producing the performance reports for the project, you’re gaging where are we now and where should we be and what are the things that we have to do to control the project to get it back on track.

You’re also managing issue logs, risk logs, change logs and also monitoring the deliverables being produced from the project. And then ultimately it’s the closing. So the closing is at the end, as the departure so the team members begin departing from the project so you’re closing things out. So the main deliverables there are the user acceptance, the approval of the project, any kind of final reports that go out to different team members, the stakeholders, the change control board and the project documents and also the lessons learned.

So just wanted to clarify because again these are some of the questions that come from the forum when clarifying the difference between the project management life cycle and the delivery lifecycle that go hand in hand but remembering these are the things the project manager’s responsible for and this is what you’re gauging for your team members.

So I hope that helps. Again it’s one of the main questions coming from the forum and we at ProjectManager.com have tried to integrate this into our software. So if you need some tips, tools and techniques and better yet software to help you manage your project management lifecycle, then sign up today for our software at ProjectManager.com.

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