Portfolio and Project Management IT Project Lifecycle

The Project Management Framework, initially deployed in 2010, was most recently updated in June 2019. For further questions, please contact pmo@gmu.edu.

The following is an overview of the Project Management Framework and Lifecycle. For a detailed view, see the full IT Project Management Framework.  Looking for quick tips, check out the Quick Reference Guide.

The Project Framework consists of multiple elements working together to help ensure successful delivery of projects. These elements are:

  • Project Types – help determine the adapt to the needs of different projects
  • Project Phases – the project lifecycle broken into specific blocks, each with its own purpose, deliverables, and gate required to progress
  • Project Gates – formal key decision points between each project phase where the elements of the project are reviewed and must be approved before the project can progress to the next phase
  • Templates – standardized forms or documents that collect and report consistent data about the project so that it may be effectively tracked through the project lifecycle

The Project Lifecycle

The IT Project Management lifecycle consists of five phases:

  1. Identification – capture the business need for the project and the ideal solution
  2. Initiation – document the project deliverables and resources needed to complete the project
  3. Planning – develop the project schedule, assign resources, clarify risks
  4. Delivery – do the project work (execution) and report on progress (monitor and control)
  5. Closeout – capture lessons learned, document project successes for future use

Phase One: Identification

Identification, or phase one of the project lifecycle, includes activities related to the development of a business case and proposal. This phase often is triggered when a department, team, or 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 lifecycle.

Phase Two: Initiation

The Initiation Phase is the second phase of the project lifecycle. The phase begins once the PCW (business case) is approved. During initiation, the project is more fully defined so that it may be properly resourced and realistically planned in the next phase. The sponsor assigns 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:

  • Identifies the stakeholders
  • Defines the project timeframe
  • Provides the rationale for the project
  • Identifies the core project deliverables, assumptions, and potential risks

The phase concludes when the sponsor signs off on the charter, signaling that the project may move to the Planning Phase and project manager may begin the detailed planning work.

Phase Three: Planning

The Planning Phase builds on information captured in the Initiation Phase and is traditionally considered the most important. Unfortunately, many times project teams often minimize or overlook planning activities, anxious to begin the development activities of the Delivery 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: Delivery

Delivery consists of two specific sub-phases that occur concurrently. It is when the actual project deliverables are completed and progress is reported. Specifically, it includes:

  • Execution – doing the work identified in the project plan
  • Monitoring and Control – keeping the plan and schedule up to date, reporting project progress, issues, etc. and ensuring the project is on track.

Execution:  With an approved plan, a project can move into the Delivery-Execution (Execution) Phase of the project lifecycle. 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). The Execution Phase concludes with the project deliverable(s) achieved and accepted by the users and the sponsor.

Monitor and Control:  The second portion of the Delivery Phase is Delivery-Monitor and Control.  Monitor and Control consist of the activities needed to track the work.  The team delivers status reports, monitors and reports on issues and risks, creates change requests, and conducts procurement activities. There are no specific deliverables or templates associated with the Monitor and Control activities; however, Project Status Reports and Briefings may be requested by the Project Sponsor or other stakeholders during Delivery.

Phase Five: Closeout

Projects are temporary in nature and a project team must complete the activities of the final phase – Closeout – in order to officially complete the project. Conducting the activities of this phase is vital to continuous improvement efforts and the 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, and often overlooked, the project team disbands.