IT Project Life Cycle

What is the IT Project Life Cycle?

12-Apr 2021
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As the complexity of IT projects has increased over the past several years, sourcing good IT project management has become a priority for busy organizations. Project management teams need to work quickly and accurately to deliver on project goals that are often quite ambitious.


What is IT Project Management?

IT project management functions relate to the oversight of the many processes involved at various stages of IT projects. IT project managers create and monitor project plans, assign duties and roles to team members, and generally work to help keep projects on deadline. 

Good IT project management helps to keep projects running smoothly, but equally important is the role IT project management plays when hiccups and version changes suddenly occur. When teams apply a consistent and reliable project management approach, they can solve problems quickly and get back on track. 

Common IT projects include a wide array of goals, from cyber security initiatives to software upgrades and changes to network infrastructure. Small projects may take only a few weeks to complete, while larger projects can take months or even years. In any case, strong IT project management is a must.


What is the IT Project Life Cycle?

The central focus of IT project management is how teams manage the IT project life cycle. Each phase of the life cycle brings the process closer to completion — until a phase is completed successfully, projects are stalled.  


A Typical IT Project Life Cycle

IT project life cycles include several phases that teams work through to complete project goals. Typically, these phases include:

  1. Identification
  2. Initiation
  3. Planning
  4. Delivery
  5. Closeout

Some project team members will be involved at every stage, while others will be involved more sporadically. Project managers make sure every phase involves the right people and tools. Identifying these key roles is a crucial component of successful IT projects and a process that can take a significant amount of time.


Phase 1: Identification

The identification phase is where IT projects are born. At this starting point, project sponsors evaluate a potential project or proposal initiated within an organization or from a client. 

A project sponsor is the person or group that provides the financial resources for the project, according to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). Sometimes, the project sponsor is the organization requesting a project. Other times, IT projects are proposed to third party sponsors like universities and large enterprises focused on IT projects.

Sponsors play a vital role in project management. They champion the project from start to finish, help to develop the initial scope, authorize changes to the project plan, and give the final approval, among other key tasks. 

During the identification phase, sponsors review the basic information about a project, including:

  • Description of the issue the project is meant to address
  • Goals
  • Cost estimates
  • Time frame, including midpoint goals
  • Major risks

Once the project has been approved to start, it’s time to move on to the second IT life cycle phase. 


Phase 2: Initiation

The initiation phase is when a project begins to transform from an idea to an actionable plan. Here, project details become more defined, giving the team valuable insight about the resources that will be required. A project manager is assigned, and they begin to flesh out more details, including the project’s scope. 

The project manager’s primary goal during the initiation phase is to create a project charter. This important document provides a high level framework for the project, including:

  • Determining the rationale for the project
  • Identifying the primary stakeholders
  • Defining a project timeline
  • Outlining the core project deliverables, potential risks, and assumptions 

Once the charter is approved by the sponsor, the project moves into the planning phase. 


Phase 3: Planning

The best projects rely on robust planning efforts. During the planning phase, the information collected in the initiation phase is applied to an actionable plan. 

IT project managers work to ensure the plan will allow the project to be completed in the proposed time frame and that costs will not exceed the budget. Ideally, project plans anticipate specific issues or problems and provide mitigation solutions. However, project managers usually build in time to address the unexpected, should the need arise. 

Once the project plan is complete, the sponsor reviews it and hopefully gives it a thumbs up. 


Phase 4: Delivery

Next, the project team creates the deliverables as outlined in the initiation phase. The delivery phase typically includes three key sub-phases that take place at the same time: execution and monitoring and reporting.

This sub-phase is where things really get rolling. The project team works through the tasks that were detailed in the project plan to develop the project deliverables. The execution sub-phase is complete when the project deliverables are accepted by the users and the sponsor. 

Monitoring and Reporting
During this sub-phase, which occurs concurrently with the execution sub-phase, project managers track and report on the project’s progress. Reports include information about project status, ongoing issues, requested changes, and other tasks related to executing the project plan. 


Phase 5: Closeout

After the dust has settled and the deliverables are in the hands of the stakeholder or stakeholders who requested the project, it’s time for the closeout phase. At this final stage, projects are marked as complete in project management software, reports are filed away and the team completes other housekeeping tasks aimed at putting the project to bed. 

Once the project is delivered, the team evaluates their performance. Teams often seek to identify areas for improvement for future projects and identify information and documentation that could be repurposed. 

Finally, the project team disbands.


Gain More Control Over IT Project Life Cycles

Accelo’s IT PSA software (professional services automation) empowers organizations to confidently manage IT projects. With Accelo, your team will benefit from streamlined communication, centralized common resources, and tracking capabilities that will keep everyone on the same page at every phase of the project life cycle.

Learn more about how Accelo can help you improve IT project management, and set up a free trial today. 

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