A project life cycle is a collection of generally sequential project phases whose name and number are determined by the control needs of the organization or organizations involved in the project. A life cycle can be documented with a methodology. While every project has a definite start and a definite end, the specific deliverables and activities that take place in between will vary widely from project to project. The life cycle provides the basic framework for managing the project, regardless of the specific work involved.
Projects can vary in size and complexity from a simple project to a more elaborate and complex endeavor, such as designing and producing a new aircraft. No matter how large or small, simple or complex, all projects can be mapped to the following generic life cycle structure (see Figure 2-1):
• Starting the project,
• Organizing and preparing,
• Carrying out the project work, and
• Finishing the project.
This generic life cycle structure is often referred to when communicating with upper management or other entities less familiar with the details of the project. This high-level view can provide a common frame of reference for comparing projects—even if they are dissimilar in nature.
The generic life cycle structure generally consists of the following characteristics:
• Cost and staffing levels are low at the start, peak as the work is carried out, and drop rapidly as the project draws to a close. The dashed line in Figure 2-1 illustrates this typical pattern.
• Figure 2-2 illustrates that the level of uncertainty and the risk of failing to achieve the project objectives are greatest at the start of the project. Uncertainty and overall project risk decrease over the life of the project.
• Ability to influence the final characteristics of the project's product, without significantly impacting cost, is highest at the start of the project and decreases as the project progresses towards completion. Figure 2-2 illustrates the idea that the cost of changes and correcting errors typically increases substantially as the project approaches completion.
Starting Organizing and the preparing project
Carrying out the work
Finishing the project
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.