Project life cycles

Most, if not all, projects go through a life cycle which varies with the size and complexity of the project. On medium to large projects the life cycle will generally follow the pattern which has been set out in BS 6079. This is:

1 Concept

2 Feasibility

3 Evaluation

4 Authorization

5 Implementation

6 Completion

7 Operation

8 Termination

Basic ideas, business case, statement of requirements, scope;

Tests for technical, commercial and financial viability, technical studies, investment appraisal, DCF, etc.;

Application for funds, stating risks, options, TCQ criteria; Approvals, permits, conditions, project strategy; Development design, procurement, fabrication, installation, commissioning;

Performance tests, hand-over to client, post project appraisal; Revenue earning period, production, maintenance; Close-down, decommissioning, disposal.

Items 7 and 8 are not usually included in a project life cycle where the project ends with the issue of an acceptance certificate after the performance tests have been successfully completed. Where these two phases are included, as, for example, with defence projects, the term 'extended project life cycle' is often used.

The project life cycle of an IT project may be slightly different as the following list shows:

1 Feasibility

2 Evaluation

3 Function

4 Authorization

5 Design and build

6 Implementation

7 Operation

Definition, cost benefits, acceptance criteria, time and cost estimates;

Definitions of requirements, performance criteria, processes;

Functional and operational requirements, interfaces, system design;

Approvals, permits, firming up procedures;

Detail design, system integration, screen building, documentation;

Integration and acceptance testing, installation, training;

Data loading, support set-up, hand-over.

Running through the period of the life cycle are control systems and decision stages at which the position of the project is reviewed. The interfaces of the phases of the life cycle form convenient milestones for progress payments and reporting progress to top management, who can then make the decision to abort or provide further funding. In some cases the interface of the phases overlap, as in the case of certain design and construct contracts, where construction starts before the design is finished. This is known as concurrent engineering and is often employed to reduce the overall project programme.

As the word 'cycle' implies, the phases may have to be amended in terms of content, cost and duration as new information is fed back to the project manager and sponsor. Projects are essentially dynamic organizations which are not only specifically created to effect change, but are also themselves subject to change.

On some projects it may be convenient to appoint a different project manager at a change of phase. This is often done where the first four stages are handled by the development or sales department, who then hand the project over to the operations department for the various stages of the implementation and completion phases.

When the decommissioning and disposal is included, it is known as an extended life cycle, since these two stages could occur many years after commissioning and could well be carried out by a different organization.

Figure 11.1 shows three typical life cycles prepared by three different organizations. The first example from BS 6079 is a very simple generic life cycle consisting of only five basic phases. Some of these phases are subdivided in the next (APM) life cycle where 'implementation', shown in BS 6079, has been replaced by 'design, contract and implementation'. The third life cycle shown as formulated by the Ministry of Defence clearly shows the phases required for a typical weapons system, where concept, feasibility and project definition are the responsibility of the MoD, design, development and production are carried out by the manufacturer, and in-service and disposal are the phases when the weapon is in the hands of the armed forces.

The diagram also shows a calendar scale over the top. While this is not strictly necessary, it can be seen that if the lengths of the bars representing the phases are drawn proportional to the time taken by the phases, such a presentation can be used as a high level reporting document, showing which phases are complete or partially complete in relation to the original schedule.

The important point to note is that each organization should develop its own life cycle diagram to meet its particular needs. Where the life cycle covers all the phases from cradle to grave as it were, it is often called a programme life cycle, since it spans over the full programme of the deliverable. The term project life cycle is then restricted to those phases which constitute a project within the programme, e.g. the design, development and manufacturing periods.

Calendar

Conception

Feasibility

Implementation

BS 6079

Operation

Termination

Prefeasibility

Feasibility

Design

Business case

APM'S BoK

Contract

Implementation

Commissioning

Handover

Operation

Concept

Feasibility

Project definition

Design and development

Production

In-service

Disposal

-Project management plan—

Figure 11.1 Examples of project life cycles

Concept

Feasibility

Project definition

Design and development

Production

In-service

Disposal

Project life cycle

Product life cycle

Extended life cycle

Figure 11.3 Life cycle of MoD project

Figure 11.3 Life cycle of MoD project

Figure 11.2 shows how decision points or milestones (sometimes called trigger points or go, no-go gates) relate to the phases of a life cycle.

Figure 11.3 shows how the life cycle of the MoD project shown in Figure 11.1 could be split into the Project life cycle, i.e. the phases under the control of the project team (conception to production), the Product life cycle, the phases of interest to the sponsor, which now includes the in-service performance, and lastly the Extended life cycle, which includes disposal. From the point of view of the contractor, the Project life cycle may only include design and development and production. It can be seen therefore that there are no hard and fast rules where the demarcation points are as each organization will define its own phases and life cycles to suit its method of working.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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.

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