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Jan 20, 2013
Expert Reference Series of White Papers An Introduction toPMI’s Project Life Cycle1-800-COURSES www.globalknowledge.com
An Introduction to PMI’sProject Life CycleBrian Denis Egan, Global Knowledge Instructor, PMPIntroductionThis paper provides a review of the steps and stages associated with project management according to theProject Management Institute® (PMI). It is a primer for anyone new to the Project Management Body ofKnowledge® (PMBOK®) and who is preparing to take the PMP exam.In order to understand how the PMI recommends that projects be run it is necessary to understand the projectlife cycle (PLC). The PLC is the framework around which project management activities are structured. It is akey concept in formal project management according to PMI.In this paper the structure and function of the PLC is introduced along with a number of related terms that arecommonly confused.What Is a Life Cycle?The term ”life cycle” implies two things: that a process is perpetual and that the sequence of events is obliga-tory or uni-directional.A typical life cycle is depicted below. There is no beginning or end to a life cycle and the sequence of eventscannot change. A seed cannot go directly to being a mature plant nor revert back to the blossom stage. Seeds Blossoms Seedling Mature plantCopyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Training, LLC. All rights reserved. PMI, PMP, CAPM, Page 2and PMBOK are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
The Project Life CycleThe term “project life cycle” is misleading, because it is neither a perpetual circle of events nor the sequenceof events rigidly fixed.There are five stages to the project life cycle:The five stages usually occur in sequence. If the project is relatively simple and there is no need to rethink orre-plan the project, the sequence of stages may be as simple as that depicted above.If there are problems with the original project plan, then the controlling function leads back to planning.Execution may be delayed while additional planning takes place or may continue during re-planning. The newor modified project plan is then executed. During execution controlling processes are undertaken to ensurethat the correct work results are being achieved.Below is a project life cycle that has been forced by problems to return to planning.During large complex projects it is often necessary to return to planning several times. In this case, the projectlife cycle can become very complex with multiple repeats of planning and even initiating processes.The following is an illustration of a complex project life cycle involving multiple returns to the drawing board.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 3
Project Life Cycle vs. Project Management Life CycleThe ”project management life cycle” is different from the project life cycle. But the terms are often confused.The project management life cycle refers to the development phases that a project can go through. For example: • Evaluate – Design – Build – Test – Launch • Design – Code – Test – Train – ReleaseThe phases that a project goes through are determined by the nature of the project. The project managementlife cycle is tailored to suit individual project needs.In contrast, the project life cycle stays the same for all projects.Relationship of Project Life Cycle to Phases of theProject Management Life CycleThis is where things can become confusing.Each phase of the project management life cycle (such as Design or Code) can go through the entire projectlife cycle. In other words, each phase can be thought of as an independent project that has its own completeproject life cycle.Stages of the project life cycle, for the design phase of the project management life cycle, are illustrated below.The design phase is essentially an independent project that produces a deliverable. This deliverable becomesan input to the coding phase, which in turn can go through the entire project life cycle.Each phase of a project does not necessarily go through the entire project life cycle, but it can.It is best to think of phases in the project management life cycle as independent little projects. What we origi-nally thought of as a “project” would best be referred to as a program consisting of several phases that areactually sub-projects.Back to the Project Life CycleAs explained, the project life cycle has five stages (initiate, plan, execute, control and close). The PMI refers tothese stages as “process groups” for reasons that will be explained.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 4
In order to understand project management according to PMI, it is necessary to understand the boundariesbetween the project-life-cycle stages or process groups. For example, it is necessary to know when initiating isover and what documents must be ready in order to begin execution.In order to understand the boundaries between the stages, it is necessary to know what management activi-ties (called processes) are included within each of the stages (called process groups).Project Life Cycle and Management ProcessThe five stages in the project life cycle are subdivided by PMI into 44 management processes as illustrated inthe table below. Each column represents a stage. Within each column are a number of management activitiesthat PMI refers to as processes.To know what management activities are included in each of the columns is to understand PMI’s version ofproject management.Process GroupsPMI uses the term “process groups” to refer to stages in the project life cycle, which appear as the columns inthe above illustration. Each column is therefore referred to as a ‘process group’. Each stage of the project lifecycle is referred to as a process group rather than a stage or step in the life cycle.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 5
Knowledge AreasPMI divides the management processes within each process group (column in the table above) into knowledgeareas.What are knowledge areas? They are areas of expertise or specialization. Every project needs to have skills andknowledge in each of these areas.In the next figure, each row of the table represents a unique knowledge area.Knowledge Areas, Processes, and the PMBOKThe PMBOK is structured according to knowledge areas. Each chapter of the PMBOK (after the three introduc-tory chapters) covers a separate knowledge area.Chapter 4 of the PMBOK discusses all the process within the Integration Management row (knowledge area).Each of the processes is discussed in order from top to bottom (within cells of the table) and left to right.Chapter 5 of the PMBOK discusses all the Scope Management processes. And so on.The point is that the discussion of processes within the PMBOK is not ordered so as to follow a logical pro-gression through a project. Processes are discussed in an order other than execution order.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 6
While this structure makes perfect sense for a reference manual (which is what the PMBOK is) it is very con-fusing for anyone trying to understand how projects are managed. As a consequence, the PMBOK is not aneffective study guide. It is a dictionary not a training tool.Understanding the Process Groups (Stages of Life Cycle)Process groups are defined by the activities they include. It is helpful to have a big picture view of where eachof the process groups begins and ends.InitiationInitiation begins with a project idea. The idea may be internally generated or may be the consequence of acontract with outside customers. There may be a statement of work outlining what is required. There may onlybe a vague idea based on the musings of senior management.Overlaid over the need for a project are the rules, regulations, and practices that determine how an individualcompany manages and selects projects. Initiation is complete when a project charter and preliminary scopestatement have been prepared and a project manager has been assigned to the project.A project charter is an outline (with varying degrees of detail) of what the sponsors of the project expect theproject to accomplish. It should define constraints and identify the major stakeholders involved.A preliminary scope statement is a detailed look at what exactly the project is expected to deliver. At this pointthere is little or no discussion of how—just what and why. The scope statement may include a review of con-straints and their priority, such as a completion date and proposed budget.The preliminary scope statement is often prepared under the direction of the project manager. However, it maybe prepared by the sponsors before the PM has been named. It is possible for a contract or statement of workto include all the necessary details that a preliminary scope statement requires.Initiation ends when there is a project manager and that project manager has been given the authority anddirection necessary to begin planning.PlanningPlanning begins with the outputs of initiation (charter, preliminary scope statement, and project manager).Planning starts with a detailed idea and ends when the entire project has been completed on paper. That is,the entire project is dismantled into numerous discrete activities, and those activities have been budgeted andscheduled. At the end of planning, the entire project has been thought through: what will be done; how; inwhat order; and at what cost.The planning process is directed by the project manager and completed by the project team and stakeholders.Planning is complete when there is a project plan. The act of creating a project plan involves 21 separate man-agement process incorporating all of the knowledge areas. For each knowledge area there is a managementplan prepared as well as documents that detail what will be accomplished and how.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 7
Formal project management plans are thick. They describe how and when activities will be undertaken as wellas the procedures that will be followed to ensure the correct work is done in the correct order.The project plan states how the project will be run. Plan the work and then work the plan.ExecutionExecution cannot begin until there is a plan. Executing is the act of doing what it says to do in the plan. It iscompleted when all the work is completed.ControllingControlling is the act of making sure that the work being executed complies with the plan. The objective isacceptance of deliverables by the customer.Controlling cannot start until there are work results generated by execution. Controlling involves monitoringcompleted work results to ensure that they match the plan and meet stakeholder expectations. If they do not,information is fed back to the execution processes so that corrective actions are taken.Controlling is complete when the final outputs of the project (deliverables) meet the prescribed quality stan-dards defined in the plan and are accepted by the customer. It ends at the same time as execution.ClosingClosing ensures that an organization learns from its experience. An organization cannot get better at projectmanagement if it does not learn. Organizations learn by documenting what was learned--what went right andwhat went wrong--and making these documents available for reference on future projects.Closing begins when deliverables are accepted. It involves making sure that all the necessary paperwork is com-pleted in terms of contract administration and sign off. It continues until a project archive has been compiled.This archive includes not only a complete set of project records but also a critical review of lessons learned.Proportions of StagesThe figure below roughly illustrates the proportions of each stage in the project life cycle.Initiating and closing are relatively brief. Planning involves the most management processes but takes up rela-tively little time compared to executing. Controlling is performed in proportion with execution activities.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 8
ConclusionThe PMBOK uses terminology that can be confusing. Understanding the working definitions of a few funda-mental terms makes the PMBOK a much more useful reference tool.The project life cycle is a fundamental concept of project management according to the PMI. It is not the sameas the project management life cycle.The PMBOK divides the project life cycle into five process groups. Process groups are made up of 44 separatemanagement processes. Processes are further subdivided into nine knowledge areas.Armed with this information it is possible to put the structure of the PMBOK into perspective. The PMBOK isnot organized so as to explain in logical sequence the processes as they would occur in a project. It is organ-ized according to knowledge area, making it a very poor training tool and very confusing for those readerswho are not warned.Consider yourself warned.Learn MoreLearn more about how you can improve productivity, enhance efficiency, and sharpen your competitive edge.Check out the following Global Knowledge course:PMP Exam Prep Boot CampFor more information or to register, visit www.globalknowledge.com or call 1-866-925-7765 to speak with asales representative. Our courses offer practical skills, exercises, and tips that you can immediately put to use.Our expert instructors draw upon their experiences to help you understand key concepts and how to applythem to your specific work situation. Choose from our more than 700 courses, delivered through Classrooms,e-Learning, and On-site sessions, to meet your IT, project management, and professional skills training needs.About the AuthorBrian Egan is CEO of a manufacturing company (Book Box Company) and a management consultant. He haswritten three professional development manuals and several white papers on aspects of management science.Since 2000, Brian has been a part-time instructor for Global Knowledge within the Management product line.Copyright ©2006 Global Knowledge Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 9