Project Phases, What are they?

Phases in a projectProject phases constitute of a bunch of logically related project management activities, and in accordance with and to facilitate the required the outcome.

Recall the definition of project from the first post in this series of lessons – “A Project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result“.

Although the definition states the project to be ‘temporary in nature’, it can span from days, to weeks, to months, to years, to decades, to even centuries and more.

Only the duration of project is temporary, the result can last centuries.

For instance, the Colosseum – an elliptical amphitheater in the center of the city of Rome – took 10 years to build, the pyramid of Giza, built almost 4500 years ago took about 20 years to build, York Mister Cathedral of England took 252 years, Petra in Jordan took 450 years to build, and the Great Wall of China took 2,000 years!

Let us see what constitutes a project.

A project can be looked at as a bunch of processes and as you know they are grouped into 5 Process Groups

Project process groups explained

Figure 1: Process groups, and how they are connected

Process groups in Project or Phase

Figure 2: Anatomy of a project

As you can see, Initiating processes start upfront in a project, and Closing process are conducted in the end of a phase or project. Planning processes and Executing processes pretty much run iteratively. Monitoring and Controlling processes encompass the whole cycle in order to keep everything on track.

This may represent a single phase of a project. This does not mean that a phase must have all these process groups.

Do all projects have single sequence of these phases?

Not really. Very few projects have single phase, many of the smaller projects may. Usually projects have several phases, and they can be overlapping or sequential, depending on the nature of the project.

Overlapping project phases

The example below shows how phases of a project can overlap.

Imagine that you are building your dream house (a second one if you already have one :). Your first ‘phase’ of work would be to get the blueprint done, identifying vendors for the building materials, choosing a builder, selecting colors for walls, deciding on the type of flooring and so on. However, as soon as you have figured out the blueprint and builder you can move on to the next phase of laying foundation of your house, and need not wait until every detail of the house is finalized. While interiors of the house are underway, you can start on the landscaping around the house.

Overlapping phases of a project

Figure 3: Most of the projects will have overlapping phases

Sequential project phases

Projects sequence phases only when there are hard dependencies between them.

In the above example, you would not start painting the walls until plastering work is all complete. You would not set up furniture and lighting until all painting work is complete. In such cases, you sequence the phases.

Sequential project phases

Figure 4: A project can have sequential phases

It is quite possible that a project does not same relationship between phases throughout its lifecycle. A project may have couple of sequential phases, and then few overlapping – driven by variables such as technology, external dependencies, availability of resources, or even effect of governmental, legal, or environmental regulations.

In the next lesson we shall see what is Organizational structure..

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