Project Managers: Product Life Cycle

According to the Pmi’s guide to the body of knowledge

      “Because projects are unique and involve a certain degree of risk, companies performing project will generally sub-divide their projects into several project phases to provide better management control. Collectively these project phases are called the project life-cycle”

According to PMI Body of Knowledge Third edition

      “Project managers or the organisation can divide projects into phases to provide better management control with appropriate links to the ongoing operations of the performing organisation. Collectively, these phases are known as the project life. Many organisations identify a specific set of life cycles for use on all their projects”

Patel and Morris have stated that

      “The life cycle is the only thing that uniquely distinguishes projects from non-projects”.

      Therefore from these various definitions a project lifecycle could be described as; the various defined stages that a project goes through in order to get completed from the initial conception. However not all of the project life cycles are the same, they will differ from one sector of industry and business to another. For example you could have a project on a construction site building a new building, and in an organization a new IT project could be being planned and implemented. The reason for a project lifecycle is that the project can be broken down into different phases which will provide a structure and a way of delivering the required outputs for the project.

As you can see there are four phases in the project lifecycle, they are

  • Phase concept and initiation Phase
  • Design and development Phase
  • Implementation Phase
  • Commissioning and handover Phase

Concept and initiation phase

      According to Burke “the first phase starts the project by establishing a need or opportunity for the product, facility or service.” (Burke, 2007) meaning that the project is born and given an identity and the purpose of it is established. A feasability study will be carried out here, that will be discussed later in the report.

Design and development (Planning) phase

      Once proposals of the project have been accepted, detailed plans and specifications for the project will be drawn up. Also the base-line plan will be devised here. See appendix1. This phase helps team members establish their roles and responsibilities and what is expected of them, in respect to the project.

Implementation or Construction Phase

      Once again according to Burke “on acceptance of the baseline plan, the third phase allocates a budget to implement the projects baseline plan facility or solve the problem” (Burke, 2007). This phase gets all the team members to execute the baseline paln that was devised in the previous stages. However if problems occur and are left unnoticed for whatever reason, it can have major effects on the project in terms of costand time.

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Commissioning and Handover Phase

      The fourth and final stage is the commissioning and handover. This is what it states, the project is done and you hand it over to the client, if they are satisfied. A range of techniques will be used to verify the project against the baseline plan.

PRINCE 2 and Generic Product Lifecycle

      In business companies use different ways (methodologies) to manage projects. An example of one of these is a program called PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments). This is a government scheme. It is based on the generic project lifecycle described in brief previously. The problem with the generic is that it is just too basic. There are no defined systems in place or notice of what documentation is required to complete various tasks. Whereas when you use a methodology as PRINCE 2, you are able to see what documents that has to be produced in order to complete phases. This will be discussed in the next section of the report.

“PRINCE2 is a process-based approach for project management, providing an easily tailored and scalable project management methodology for the management of all types of projects. The method is the de-facto standard for project management in the UK and is practiced worldwide”.

Concept and initiation phase

      This starts by assessing the need or the opportunity for the product or service. In this stage a document called a Project charter (see appendix 2) is drawn up. The project is given an identity which usually consists of a name and number for easy reference. Also in this document the scope, objectives of the project are also defined. In order to initiate the project roles and project budget have to be defined. In this stage all ideas are looked at and tested, the reason for this is so an understanding of risks and opportunities of undertaking the selected project. There are many different tools within Prince 2 that enable you to draw up a project charter (see appendix 3).

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Design and development (Planning) phase

      This is the phase that occurs when the project idea has been approved and accepted. A budget is allocated in order to produce detailed designs and specification for the project. At this stage of the project, the requirements of the business are established, the cost and dates of deliverance are also discussed and finalised. This phase includes documents like the project scope management plan, this contains various forms such as; scope definition, which defines the scope of the project. It will also contain a description of the WBS (work breakdown structure); it will say how changes in the scope will be dealt with. At this stage the project manager may also rely on expertise of professionals within a certain filed. The budget will be discussed and finalised at this point ready for the next phase of the project. All these forms are available in some kind of style in Prince2.

Implementation or Construction Phase

      On acceptance of the baseline plan, another budget will be allocated for the implementation of the required baseline plan. This section of the project lifecycle has the highest rate of effort compared to the other stages, it is also the phase that requires the most amount of the budget. The reasons for this are the resources are ordered and managed; the construction of the project is managed by the project manager. As with all projects, large or small, they will encounter problems, which in turn effects the time and costing of the project. Other factors at this phase could be things like better information in terms of getting the project completed earlier. Also in this phase change control processes will have to be implemented. This document will define what procedure has to be in place if any changes of the baseline plan are introduced. On the generic you are not able to do any of these because you are not made aware of them, that’s an advantage that Prince 2 methodology has over this.

Commissioning and Handover Phase

      The commissioning and handover phase is the final stage of the lifecycle. This confirms the objectives of the have been implemented. In order for this to be confirmed, they use a variety of inspection and testing techniques. With these techniques it will confirm that it complies with what was asked for. If you were installing new IT software for a company, then the possibility of having to train the clients in the use of it would come at this stage. Once the client has accepted the quality of the project and is happy, the project then ends. The client will then file a close out report.

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      For best results a structured report format is recommended-consider the following steps:

  • A comprehensive questionnaire (“in order to quantify what actually happened on the project”)
  • Analyse responses and debrief the key managers
  • Compile draft closeout report for comments. This can be used as an agenda for a formal closeout meeting
  • Hold a formal closeout meeting
  • Compile a final closeout report, circulate and file in the project office library.

      From the reading in the closeout report, the project manager will look for recommendations for future projects. The reasons for this are you learn from things that went well and things that went bad. The things that went bad, you had to come up with solutions in order to complete the project.

      Another advantage of Prince 2 as in relation to the generic and possibly other methodologies is that once one person has logged onto a particular project, then no-one else can. This means that changes to the project can only be done by one person, so any problems it can be traced to the individual. Also when the project is saved in Prince 2 it will be archived for future reference, so if the project had any problems or even successes then they are there for reference. It also can act as a portfolio for future projects. That’s why companies use methodologies such as Prince 2, however there are many out there, it all depends on what the project is, and what it requires.

      In a project there are many different triggers that can and will change the baseline project plans. Changes to the baseline are easier to anticipate then changes to the scope. Changes to the baseline plans, can include things such as according to Verma “client-driven, regulatory-driven, externally driven and internally driven (with a number of sub-divisions)” (Verma, 1997)

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