Understanding the Project Management Processes and Phases

Updated November 30, 2023

Teams usually complete large-scale projects in phases to finish tasks in a specific order. As the project manager of your team, you can use the different phases of project management to track and organize your group’s progression toward its goal. In this article, we explore the project management process, its various phases and how teams can use these processes to complete a project thoroughly and on schedule.

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What is a project manager?

Project managers are responsible for meeting with clients and stakeholders to understand and oversee the requirements of each aspect of a project. They communicate with stakeholders who have an interest in the outcome of a project, including customers, managers, sponsors or board members. If you are a project manager, you may develop plans based on budget requirements, deadlines and resources. Project managers work with teams to track the project's progress and otherwise contribute toward the project's completion.

Project management process

Project managers use a variety of processes to guide a project toward completion. As a project manager, you are likely to use many of the following processes:

  • Phase management: The teams, stakeholders and project manager frequently revisit the project initiation document to make sure each phase follows the goals established during the strategy and planning stages. Each team member checks their understanding of the project's goals and their individual role in each phase. Once all of the deliverables, or planned products or results, that teams scheduled for the phase are complete, the teams can move on to the next phase.

  • Planning: At the beginning of each phase, you can revisit the necessary resources to make sure they are available. When you start each phase in the planning stage, you can increase the likelihood of your team meeting their budget and timeline requirements.

  • Control: Tracking the project's metrics and utilizing reports to analyze each phase allows you to control the budget, scope, time and problems that arise within each phase.

  • Team management: As a project manager, you help train and support various team members throughout a project. This process might include ensuring you provide the tools they need and at the right time, or provide training to use those tools before a phase begins.

  • Communication: Project managers can delegate communication responsibilities to a person or team to keep all a project's team members, resources and stakeholders informed throughout each phase. Delegating communication enables the project manager to focus on other planning, procurement and integration tasks. 

  • Procurement: To procure resources, you and your team should identify what resources the project requires, seek contractor bids and manage the contractors' budget and timeline. You should also close out completed contracts as soon as they are done to ensure that you maintain the project's workflow.

  • Integration: As project manager, you ensure all of the many processes and teams coordinate. Some processes may overlap or compete. For example, a team may require the result of a contractor's work to begin its work within the current phase. You can plan coordination strategies and use communication such as regular meetings to update team members on progress in other processes that affect their work.

Read more: Learn About Being a Project Manager

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Phases of project management

Project managers consider the project’s progression in terms of phases to ensure their teams produce target deliverables and meet requirements. In some cases, companies develop their own versions of the project phases. 

  1. Strategy and initiation

  2. Design and planning

  3. Execution and testing

  4. Launch and training

  5. Support and benefits realization

  6. Project close

1. Strategy and initiation

At the beginning of a project, team members fully develop an idea before pitching it to relevant stakeholders for approval. At this stage, you define the requirements for the project and demonstrate how the team can achieve the goals within your budget and timeframe. 

The stakeholders decide if the benefits of your project justify the costs. During the development phase, the steps your team takes to complete the project may change as they seek advice from experts and conduct research on each step. You and your team members should revisit the goals you develop during this strategy stage throughout the project to make sure the result matches the original idea and goals agreed upon by the stakeholders and team members.

2. Design and planning

During this stage, stakeholders determine a work breakdown structure, recruit team members, secure resources and approve a project initiation document. They outline SMART goals, assign tasks, set budgets and predict problems and solutions. 

SMART goals are useful for project teams because they are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-based

Teams, managers and stakeholders can use extra tools to solve problems during this planning phase, or they may make changes if necessary. Project managers and teams should seek approval from stakeholders with each change or new plan. At this time, they can set a project schedule.

Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

3. Execution and testing

Projects often move from the planning phase to the execution phase with a kickoff meeting to distribute resources and make sure everyone understands their role. Teams execute their project components and test each deliverable as they complete their tasks. For example, if your team is working on software or design components, you can test these elements throughout each phase. 

Project managers establish communication systems and regular meeting times if they are relevant to the project or phase. It is necessary for project managers to stay organized, watch for risks or issues and revisit the project goals. For high-risk projects, some managers might choose to incorporate a point in this phase to check that the goals, timeline and budget are realistic. Depending on the situation, a project manager may decide to push the project back to the planning stage. 

4.  Launch and training

After the team completes the execution and testing phase, they can launch the project and make it available to users. The teams can provide training if necessary, such as how to use a new system, tool or product. During this phase, project managers often use key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate teams' performances and make adjustments to the project's resources and budget if they need to.

Some examples of KPIs are:

  • Meeting objectives

  • Meeting quality standards

  • Keeping track of budget and timeline 

  • Being able to determine a completion date

Read more: Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) To Achieve Goals

5. Support and benefits realization

Stakeholders and managers determine if the project result meets the goals. Project managers put additional support systems in place that may continue long-term, such as a button to ask for help if the project implemented new software. Stakeholders and project managers can choose how to analyze and maintain deliverables with metrics and methods. For example, project managers may implement quality control methods or customer retention protocols, depending on the industry and project goals. This step ensures the continuing quality of the project results.

6. Project close

During a project closing, project managers, teams and stakeholders can review and document whether the outcomes match the original goals. Evaluation and analysis are important at this stage, and stakeholders can choose to close the project based on the results or revise elements that need improvement. 

As a project manager, communication and efficiency are essential. Taking the time to understand and consciously strategize about the processes and phases of a project can help you to stay organized. You can use these methods with your teams to complete projects efficiently.

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