Home » What are the five phases in project management?

What are the five phases in project management?

Irrespective of the size and scope of a project, managing it is not an easy task. Chances of error always exist and from planning the minute details to guaranteeing the final product’s quality or shipping and handling, there are always chances that one or another mistake might happen.

However, managing the project and the quality of the final output becomes easier when the project is divided into various stages. It is important for project managers to understand the importance of each of these stages so they can manage each stage without much difficulty. The pressure on project managers can be overwhelming and it is why they should learn about the distinct importance of each stage and the various challenges involved. 

The PMBOK guide notes that there are five phases in the project management process. From initiation to closure there are five stages the project passes through each stages until the final product is ready. 

According to PMI :

“Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people. The development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building, the relief effort after a natural disaster, the expansion of sales into a new geographic market—these are all examples of projects.”

In this article, we will discuss the five basic phases of project management. These five basic phases are as follows:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Monitoring and control
  • Closure


Project Initiation:

The project initiation phase is the first phase of the project management process before which the product is in the form of an idea. The journey of turning an idea into a final product begins from here.

This phase involves several things like broadly defining the goals, and scope of the project as well as determining the constraints, budget etc.

Project managers first need to determine the need for the project and create a project charter. The charter is a crucial document that outlines various details related to the project like its budget, constraints, goals, timeline etc. Once the goals of the project and its scope have been outlined, it is the time to identify the key stakeholders or the main people who are involved with or impacted by the project.

Project managers need to communicate with the key stakeholders and keep them updated during the project and therefore they must maintain a register that includes the names and contact details of main stakeholders. The project charter includes mainly the basic details and there are no technical details to be included at this phase. For example, technical details related to the creation of the final product will not be included at this phase. The focus during the initiation phase will remain mainly on the timeline and budget of the project. 

Project Planning:

The planning phase of a project requires a lot of careful effort. During this phase, the roadmap of the complete project is laid out. In most cases, this is the lengthiest of all the phases and unless the project manager is using some modern project management methodology, this phase might take around half of the complete project’s time.

The main tasks that need to be completed at this phase include laying out the technical requirements of the project, creating a project schedule, setting up a communication plan and setting up the goals/deliverables of the project.

Project managers generally use the SMART criteria to set goals/objectives of the project. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. These are five important characteristics of SMART goals. Project managers need to set clearly defined and achievable goals. While it reduces various risks related to project management, it also has a positive impact in terms of budget and time.

The project managers define the scope of the project during the planning phase. However, as the project proceeds, the scope can be changed based on the demand of the customer or if a need arises for any other reason. However, the project managers must note and approve the change before it can be implemented.

For the sake of team management, the project managers also develop a work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS visualizes the entire project in terms of various sections for the purpose of clarity and team management.

Another important thing to be developed during the planning stage is the project timeline. Project managers must develop a detailed project timeline with each deliverable. This later helps at the development of the communication plan and developing the schedule of communication with important stakeholders.

The focus of the planning process is also on the risks related to the project. The project managers need to focus on risk mitigation during this phase using past data to identify potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them.

However, smart project managers also keep a change management plan ready to implement any urgent changes into the schedule of the project. This can sometimes become necessary to avoid delays or any performance bottlenecks. If the managers do not keep a workable change management plan ready, difficulties might arise at later stages in the course of the project. Scope management, change management and risk management are crucial to avoid scope creep in the course of any major project. Unforeseen changes can always happen in the course of a major project and managers need to remain ready by having a workable change management plan ready.

Project Execution:

The actual work of the project takes place during the project execution phase. It is the project manager’s responsibility to establish efficient workflows and monitor his team’s progress. Another important responsibility of the project manager is to maintain effective collaboration and communication with the important stakeholders. It is done to ensure that everyone is updated about the project flow and no issues arise during the flow of the project.

Project managers can use one of the several collaboration tools that are available in the market for this task. It makes the project manager’s task easier and also ensures that the efficiency and productivity of the team is improved.

Project Monitoring and control:

The third and the fourth phases of project management generally run simultaneously. Monitoring and control run simultaneously as the project work is being done. It ensures quality and that the project goals and deliverables are being met.

At this stage, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and CSFs (Critical Success factors) help make sure that people are sticking to the original project plan.

Apart from these things, the managers need to keep track of the budget and the timeline of the project to make sure that tasks are being accomplished within the given budget and the right timeframe. The project manager must keep track of the efforts and costs. It will serve the current project and the future projects as well.

Project Closure:

The final stage of project management is project closure. At this stage, the objectives of the project are accomplished and the project has been effectively closed. It is the responsibility of the project manager to close the contract and complete the necessary paperwork. Sometimes, companies also hire external contractors to help during this phase.

Project teams also hold meetings at the end of the project to contemplate their successes and failures during the project. It helps make continuous improvements to project management inside the company. The project managers can use this information in future on next projects. It helps improve the efficiency and productivity of the project team.

Once the project has been completed the only task that remains is to complete a detailed report covering every aspect of the project including all the critical successes and failures. The company can store this information for use on future projects.

A few last words:

There are five stages in the project management process that project managers need to be aware of to successfully complete projects. Project managers must be aware of their role and responsibilities during each stage including collaboration with the project stakeholders.  

From the planning to the closure phase, there are several things that the project managers need to manage carefully. The chances of error exist at each stage. The project managers have a project roadmap and other several tools to manage projects effectively. There are now cloud based project management tools available to make the task of the project managers easier. However, the key thing for the project managers is to understand the relevance of each stage in terms of achieving project goals. By dividing a project into stages, you can simplify project management. At the end, they must reflect on their achievements and failures so that they can improve for the projects coming on later.