Project life cycle phases are quite different across the Waterfall and Agile methodologies especially given Agile projects rarely stop when the product or deliverable is released. However what is common in both methodologies is that each phase informs the processes a Project Manager might need to manage and ultimately how the project data model will come together.
Waterfall project lifecycle phases
In Waterfall there are four high level phases to a lifecycle:
A fifth phase is often added depending on the project type called monitoring and controlling which can be useful if the execution phase is quite long.
Agile project lifecycle phases
Agile has a different approach with a high level lifecycle:
However it also has a sub-lifecycle to account for the iterative process (requirements, development, testing, delivery and feedback). Certain Agile project types will have variations on this and may have shorter cycles with less phases to make things simpler.
Defining the phases of the project lifecycle
Given the project lifecycle can drive Project Management processes and team activities, it is important to map these out for your project at a high level and overlay on top of your project plan. Given the lifecycle phases use everyday words with clear meaning, it can also help to use them when describing project status or progress to stakeholders.
It is best to think of the project lifecycle as a guide for the Project Manager to use for the team to follow and mark progress. Where waterfall lifecycle management will be quite strict, the Agile lifecycle should ideally be based on the team’s way of working and allow for team decision making to advance through stages.
The Waterfall Lifecycle
- There may be pre-project phases, which are part of Portfolio Demand Management where the project is submitted as ‘idea’ to get stakeholder buy-in or allow ‘seed-funding’ to complete this phase.
- The processes run in this phase are to define the project’s objective and measurable success criteria as well as assign key roles such as a Project Sponsor.
- The Project Manager may use a Project Charter artefact as a record of all this information.
- As the word infers, this phase is used to define ‘how’ the project will achieve the objective that was agreed in the initiation phase.
- The Project Manager will develop the project plan, which should include a detailed schedule, risk assessments, resource plan, financial forecasts and other details that will be for the project baseline.
- In many governance models, this is where a business case is developed to provide as accurate an estimate as possible to draw down on investment to fund the next phases and complete the project.
- This is where the tasks in the project plan are completed and where you will likely find the go live or release milestones.
- Monitoring and Controlling is an additional phase that establishes additional processes for the Project Manager to oversee project quality and outcomes.
- The project has completed (or failed) and will complete a number of activities to finalise and close.
- Example activities can be the closure of vendor contracts and the management of resources (off-board contracts or reallocate to resource pools).