The 5 Stages of Project Management – Understanding a Construction Project’s Life Cycle
Project managers serve as the backbone of successful construction projects, dealing with a vast number of complexities on a daily basis. Juggling various tasks and ensuring a project meets its deadlines takes a great deal of expertise. The Project Management Institute (PMI), defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities to meet the requirements of a particular project.” With so many details and steps going into a project, it is essential that project managers understand a construction project’s life cycle. Breaking up a project into these five logical steps outlined by the PMI can help ensure your project is organized and successful every time.
1. Project Conception and Initiation
The first step in a construction project’s life cycle is deciding whether or not a project is feasible and if it can realistically be completed. This means doing your meticulous research to determine if a project is worth pursuing. Two ways that managers can evaluate and determine this is through a feasibility study and/or business case document. A feasibility study looks at the goals, costs, and timeline of a project to determine if the project manager thinks they have enough resources to pursue the project. A business case document defines the reasoning for starting a new project and what the financial benefits will be. If after further research and discussion a project is found to pass these evaluation tests, the project will move on to create a project charter or Project Initiation Document (PID). On the contrary, if it is deemed unprofitable or unachievable, it will be dropped.
Tip: Carry out a high level of risk analysis during the initiation phase. Identifying key risks at the beginning will help prepare your team for anything that might come up during the project.
2. Project Definition/Planning
Once a project is approved and given the thumbs-up, a plan needs to be outlined and put into writing. Having a written plan helps ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page and understands the steps that need to be taken to complete the project. During this step in the construction project’s life cycle, the cost, scope, duration, quality, communication, risks and resources are summarized. Hitting on each of these areas gives your team a well-rounded idea of what will go into a project. This phase is imperative in preparing and executing a successful project.
Tip: Give some thought to who you want on your team. Do they have the skills required to carry out the role? If not, make sure they receive the proper training!
3. Project Launch/Execution
The next step in a construction project’s life cycle is the actual execution based on your comprehensive plan developed in the previous step. This stage is where deliverables are developed to satisfy the customer. An initial meeting is usually held to mark the beginning of a project and to communicate responsibilities to teams. Team members are assigned specific tasks that they are expected to complete, and resources are allocated accordingly. Some of the specific tasks during this phase include: assigning teams, executing project management plans, conducting status meetings, updating project schedule, and modifying project plans.
Tip: Consider using a cloud-based construction software so that you can track and share every aspect of the project’s life cycle. Software to help keep the whole team organized and on track!
4. Project Performance/Control
This stage of the project cycle is all about monitoring. Project performance and control goes hand in hand with the previous step because they occur simultaneously. During this phase, project managers track a project’s progress, often having to adjust to keep a project on track. Specific key performance (or project) indicators(KPI’s) for cost, time and quality are selected and utilized to determine degrees of variation from the original project goal. Some examples of specific KPI’s include project schedule, estimate to project completion, effort and cost tracking, and project performance. Calculating these KPI’s keeps projects on track to prevent any project failures.
Tip: Communicate and stay flexible. Go into a project with the mindset that things are going to change because they will! Successful project managers know how to adapt and modify.
5. Project Close
After a project is officially completed, we move into the final stage of the construction project’s life cycle. This last step is vitally important because it allows team members to evaluate, document and learn from the project. Project Close helps members determine what issues they had so that they can make improvements in the future. A final team meeting is usually held and led by a project manager to officially mark the ending of the project. Valuable team members are rewarded and recognized, contractors are terminated, and project successes and failures are identified. Also, project managers must create a final project budget and final budget report to close out the project.
Tip: Prepare a list of anything left unfinished and identify who will complete these items. Make sure to communicate this information to any stakeholders so that they stay informed.
Project managers go through a lot to create and deliver a highly successful end-product, but understanding and above five stages can ensure that the process is easier and more efficient.