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When talking about project management, various definitions are used to explain several stages and procedures. Take for instance, Project Phases vs Project Life Cycle. Is there any difference between these two singular definitions and if so, what are their distinctive characteristics?

A project is more or less like a person. We tend to measure the life span of a project from the initial “conception” of the idea up to its delivery, meaning the creation of the final product or the completion of the project’s objectives. Following that concept, each project, just like a person, has its own life cycle which is marked by certain important stages, commonly known as project phases.   

Breaking down the terms:

The project life cycle defines the whole project from beginning to end, determining the flow and sequence of operations, activities or procedures that need to take place to bring the project to its conclusion. In spite of the fact that these processes may be called differently, they are very much alike in nature, are common in every project and are generally categorized in four major phases: Initiation Phase, Planning Phase, Execution Phase and finally, Closure Phase.

Note that the durations of each of these key phases are not equal to each other and also may vary from one project to the next, depending on its nature and particular characteristics.

Project Life Cycle

A project life cycle generally designates the actions that are included in each of the project phases, meaning which operation is to be performed at each stage of the project, what technologies are to be used and who is to be involved in the development or execution of each phase. According to the PMI, the identification and determination of these phases can be fundamental to the successful planning, execution and management of a well-run project.

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Project Phases

The project phases may bear their own life cycle, which defines the beginning and end of each phase, although, in many projects these phases and their unique life cycles may overlap with each other. Each project phase is characterized by the completion of one or more of the project’s deliverables. Deliverables are in perfect alignment with the project’s goals, compose the tangible results of the project and are part of a sequential process designed to ensure the definition of the project’s outcomes and the level of management control.

Usually, the end of a project phase is marked by a review or a report on the key deliverables, the project’s flow and its performance to date. These reports generally determine whether the project should continue to the next stage, detecting issues and if necessary amending costs or the project’s budget. The reviews of the completion of each phase are often called phase exits or kill points.

As a project manager, being able to identify and determine the four key phases that constitute the project life cycle and assign the appropriate actions to each of these stages can be essential. Clarizen is focused on helping teams to apply the best project management practices to provide project managers and other stakeholders what they need to ensure the success of their project.

Discover why more and more enterprises are using Clarizen to help them complete their projects on schedule, on budget and in scope.