Project life cycle

The project life cycle can be defined as the set of successive stages that make up the execution of the project.

Although terminologically similar, it should not be confused with the schedule, since we are not talking about tasks; nor with the phases into which project management is divided, which I will explain in the next chapter.

A stage could be defined as a set of tasks that allow to generate a result with its own meaning, and that supposes an advance in the achievement of the final objective of the project.

In this way we can have the stages of feasibility analysis, preliminary project, prototyping, etc., always depending on the type, size, and final objectives of the project.

Generally speaking, there are a number of common characteristics between the life cycles of different projects:

  • The life cycle is only applicable to large projects, as it is rarely an advantage in small projects (perhaps with the exception of software development projects)
  • The life cycle follows an iterative development approach, so that the result of each stage is a step towards the achievement of the project's final objectives.
  • The life cycle introduces flexibility to the project, since each stage can affect the objectives or the planning of the next one, or the whole project, and even cause the premature closure of the project.
  • The division of the project into stages makes it possible to reduce the risk of the project (seen from the point of view of the opportunity that supports it), since it makes it possible to subordinate new investments to the achievement of certain objectives, closing the project when it is demonstrated that it is no longer possible to achieve them.
  • The definition of objectives at each stage allows the project team to focus on the project, increasing its efficiency and facilitating its management.

Different project life cycles:

Construction project

Development project of a new product to be manufactured in series, including different development batches.

At this point you may wonder what effect the life cycle has on project management. The most significant thing is that a project is usually managed at two different levels: at the level of the complete project and at the stage level, applying in each of them the phases defined by the project management methodology to be used (the same for both levels). 

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