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What are the 5 stages of project management?

By Simon Buehring on 27 Apr 2020

What are the 5 stages of project management?

Most project management methods have a lot in common. Every industry faces unique challenges and must adjust their methods accordingly but in general, every project requires that you manage people (teams and individual skills), resources (materials or equipment) and stakeholder requirements (budgets and deadlines).

If you’d like to know more about the 5 stages of project management, consider attending a project management course.

Here’s a list of 5 stages of project management and the duties of a project manager in each:

1. Initiation

This is the pre-planning phase. To ensure sure a project succeeds, even plans will need a little planning!

When businesses identify something they need, they’ll first approach project managers with a list of queries. As a project manager, you’ll have to do your best to come up with the answers to questions like:

What do stakeholders want?

Stakeholders (the people who are affected by a project) might approach you with a very broad goal like “I want to bring in more customers.” It’s up to the project manager to find a practical solution and narrow down the scope of a project by cutting away extraneous details that might slow development.

You need to figure out what stakeholders really want and what criteria you will measure a projects’ success by.

How can we achieve project goals?

Another seemingly simple question that has a very complicated answer. There are often multiple ways to achieve a single goal and as the project manager, you’ll have to use every bit of information available to deduce the best plan of action.

If for example, a call center wanted to reduce caller waiting times, the most obvious answer might be to hire more customer support specialists. More employees mean higher fixed costs however, so it might not be the best solution.

An alternate solution would be to improve the software used to manage calls. This could reduce the time customer support specialists spend helping individual clients, allowing them to answer more calls in a fixed period.

Should we do this?

Whether businesses should commit to a project requires a lot of different inputs. It usually means conducting specialist investigations such feasibility studies, budget inquiries, risk assessments and more.

Whether businesses should commit to a project requires a lot of different inputs. It usually means conducting specialist investigations such feasibility studies, budget inquiries, risk assessments and more.

To proceed to the Planning phase, it must be shown that the benefits outweigh the costs, timescales and risks of doing the project.

As the project progresses this information will be re-assessed to decide whether the project should either continue or be closed.

2. Planning

After the project has been initiated, it’s time to figure out exactly how to make the project succeed. Again, we’ll break this down into individual steps. Let's begin with:

Project scope

A large part of successfully planning a project involves defining the scope. This has just as much to do with what goals do need to be achieved as which goals don’t need to be achieved.

If we continue from the earlier example of a call center: The goal of reducing customer wait-time might include improving the software used, but it won’t include training customer support specialists how to use said software; that’s a separate project in itself that can be addressed later.

Work

After defining the scope, the project manager identifies the work required to complete each of the deliverables. A typical tool to use is a Work Breakdown Structure. This is a hierarchical breakdown of everything that will be produced.

From this breakdown, each piece of work can be estimated to understand what resources are required, how many, when, and at what cost.

Schedule

After understanding the work required, the tasks can be put into a schedule which shows who does what work and when. There will be logical sequence to the work and this is typically shown on a Gantt chart.

Roles and responsibilities

A project manager will need to look at the human resources required to complete a project. This is where industry experience plays a large role. Essentially, project managers will need to understand who can do what. This can help you figure out deadlines, costs and a lot of other factors key to successful project development.

Risk management

The final step is to ask, “what might go wrong” and plan accordingly. Projects often involve a lot of different moving parts. Inevitably, something things will go wrong. A key developer might call in sick, or a key component doesn’t work as planned. The key here is to try to understand what things might go wrong, how likely it is, and put plans in place to mitigate these risks.

Processes

So that everyone works in an efficient and consistent way, the project team must adhere to a set of project processes. How will changes be agreed and implemented? How will version control be performed? How will issues be escalated. It is for the project manager to document the project’s processes and ensure that all the team are familiar with them.

3. Execution

This is the ‘doing’ phase. By now everyone should know what needs to be done and what their role is. That doesn’t mean project managers can sit back and relax. You’ll need to keep a close eye on proceedings and iron out any problems that might occur.

4. Monitoring

Project managers form a bridge of sorts between stakeholders and project developers. They spend their time running back and forth between the two, passing on important information and updates. In addition, they must monitor the following project factors.

  • Budgets
  • Deadlines
  • Product quality
  • Risks
  • Issues and changes
  • Communication

All these factors (and a whole lot more) fall under the domain of project management. The only way to make sure everything is in check is by sticking to the plan.

The problem here is keeping everyone focused and reminding both developers and stakeholders what the initial goal was. It’s easy to get bogged down in the finer details of an individual task and lose sight of the bigger picture.

A good project manager knows when to put their foot down and wrangle developers back onto the right path.

5. Project closure

Phew! It’s finally over, or is it? The job of a project manager doesn’t end when the development stage of a project is over.

They’ll need to sit down and pour over the details of the project, seeing what when wrong and what went right. This is all to ensure that the next project doesn’t get held up by the same issues that slowed the previous project.

It’s all about efficiency and knowing how to play to your strengths (or avoid your weaknesses) can help make every successive project that much better.

Conclusion

There you have it, the 5 basics steps of project management. Keep in mind that each industry has unique features which may alter these or add additional steps. But this is a pretty good overview of what goes into managing a project, and what project managers do on a day-to-day basis.

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