Exploring trends and developments in project management today

The Stages of a Project

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21 Ways to Excel at Project Management

Good Practice: Typically, the first few weeks of the project will consist of a small team of people working on a Project Definition document. During the 'Definition,' 'Initiation' and 'Planning' stages, questions 1 to 10 should be answered.

Projects are divided into six stages:

  1. Definition.
  2. Initiation.
  3. Planning.
  4. Execution.
  5. Monitoring & Control.
  6. Closure.

Each project stage is characterised by a distinct set of activities that take the project from the first idea to its conclusion. Each stage is of equal importance and contributes to the overall success of the project.

1. Definition

Before a project starts the project manager must make sure the project goals, objectives, scope, risks, issues, budget, timescale and approach have been defined. This must be communicated to all the stakeholders to get their agreement. Any differences of opinion must be resolved before work starts.

2. Initiation

This is perhaps the most important stage of any project as it sets the terms of reference within which the project will be run. If this is not done well, the project will have a high probability of failure. The initiation stage is where the business case is declared, scope of the project decided and stakeholder expectations set. Time spent on planning, refining the business case and communicating the expected benefits will help improve the probability of success. It is tempting to start work quickly, but a poor initiation stage often leads to problems and even failure.

3. Planning

The key to a successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is the first task you should do when undertaking any project. Often project planning is ignored in favour of getting on with the work. However, many people fail to realise the value of a project plan in saving time, money and for avoiding many other problems.

4. Execution

This is where the work to deliver the product, service or wanted result is carried out. Most of the work related to the project is realised at this stage and needs complete attention from the project manager.

5. Monitoring & Control

Once the project is running it is important the project manager keeps control. This is achieved by regular reporting of issues, risks, progress and the constant checking of the business case to make sure that the expected benefits will be delivered and are still valid.

6. Closure

Often neglected, it is important to make sure the project is closed properly. Many projects do not have a clear end-point because there is no formal sign-off. It is important to get the customers’ agreement that the project has ended, and no more work will be carried out. Once closed, the project manager should review the project and record the good and bad points, so that in the future, successes can be repeated, and failures avoided. A project that is not closed will continue to consume resources.