Portfolio and Project Management IT Project Lifecycle

The Project Management Framework, initially deployed in 2010, is undergoing process and template revisions with a planned release date of June 2019. For further questions, please contact pmo@gmu.edu.

The following is an overview of the Project Management Lifecycle. For a detailed view of the Project Lifecycle, see the full IT Project Management Framework.

Phase One: Identification

Identification, or phase one of the project life cycle, includes activities related to the development of a business case and proposal. This phase often is triggered when an individual identifies a project-worthy need, demand, or opportunity. During this phase, a sponsor requests and/or receives a business case that includes cursory information on the purpose and need for the project, a cost estimate, timeframe, and any associated major risks. The sponsor evaluates the case and determines if the project should be undertaken. Projects receiving formal sponsorship progress to the second phase of the life cycle.

Phase Two: Initiation

The Initiation phase is the second phase of the project life cycle. The phase begins with the sponsor assigning a project manager. The project manager proceeds to fully describe the project scope and prepare the project charter. The major deliverable of the phase is the project charter, which (1) identifies the stakeholders, (2) defines the project timeframe, (3) describes the rationale for the project, and (4) establishes measures of success. The phase concludes when the sponsor signs off on the charter, signaling that the project manager may begin the detailed planning work required in the next phase.

Phase Three: Planning

The Planning phase builds on information captured in the Initiation phase and is traditionally considered the most important. Unfortunately, project teams often minimize or overlook phase three planning activities, anxious to begin the development activities of the Execution and Control phase as soon as possible. A well-developed and holistic plan, however, helps ensure that the project team completes a project successfully, on time, and on cost with fewer surprises and deviations from the originating charter. The project plan must consist of the schedule and resources for the project, budget requirements, performance measures, and clear actions for managing change, risk, and communications. The phase concludes with a sponsor-approved project plan.

Phase Four: Execution

With an approved plan, a project can move into the fourth life cycle phase referred to as, Execution. This is where "the work gets done"; where the project team completes the tasks outlined on the project schedule and develops the project deliverable(s). To track the work, the team also delivers status reports, monitors and reports on issues and risks, creates change requests, and conducts procurement activities. The Execution phase concludes with the project deliverable(s) achieved and accepted by the users and the sponsor.

Phase Five: Closeout

Projects are temporary in nature and a project team must complete the activities of the fifth and final phase–the Closeout phase–in order to complete the project life cycle. Conducting the activities of this phase is vital to continuous improvement efforts and successful transition of the project deliverable(s). After achieving acceptance of the deliverable(s), the project team documents lessons learned and archives project documentation for future use. The project manager transfers the project deliverable(s) to operations and support staff or unit, who will maintain it as an operational activity. Finally, the project team disbands.

Major Project Activities

Each project phase has a specific set of activities that correspond to the work to be completed in each phase. The following table shows the project activities identified for each project phase.