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Project Life Cycle Review

Project Life Cycle Review

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What's Covered

In this lesson, you'll learn about the project life cycle, and the role of the project manager in each phase of the project. Specifically you will focus on:

  1. Project Life Cycle Review
  2. Phase One
  3. Phase Two
  4. Phase Three 
  5. Phase Four


A project manager must always keep the final goals of the project in mind, and each phase of a project is a necessary step in a project's progress. The sequence of phases is known as the project life cycle; the end result of this life cycle will be the project deliverables, which are the goal of the project.

The project manager will lead the project through four phases:

  • Phase One: Beginning the Project
  • Phase Two: Planning the Project
  • Phase Three: Managing the Project
  • Phase Four: Closing the Project

You’ll take a closer look at theses phases and the steps they involve.


In this stage the project manager should identify and document the following:

Stakeholders:  It’s the project manager's responsibility to identify the stakeholders and gather their expectations. This is a critical part of the project manager's role, as all future work on a project will be defined by the expectation set in this phase.

Project scope:  Once these expectations have been gathered, they will be used in this phase to define the project scope.

The scope of the project will include the goals and objectives for the work:

  • What does the project hope to accomplish?
  • What problem will the project solve?

Deliverables:  The project manager must clearly identify all deliverables, or costly changes will occur later in the project.

Requirements:  This is where the details about the deliverables and how they will perform are documented in the requirements.

Assumptions:  Every project makes assumptions about the future work, and these should be documented.

Estimates:  In this phase, the project manager creates rough estimates for the schedule, budget, and the resources needed to accomplish the work.

Risks:  Risk management also begins in this phase. Any risks that may impact the project in a negative way should be documented.

Project governance:  With each project, there are organizational structures, levels of authority, and methods for approval of work stages and deliverables.

The project manager must document this governance during phase one so future team members understand each process.


In this phase, the project manager will use the material and information from phase one to create the documents that describe how work will proceed, who will do the work, and how much it will cost. The project manager should create the following documents:

Work breakdown structure (WBS):  This describes the activities and tasks and the sequence in which they must occur to finally create the project deliverables.

Project schedule:  Using the work breakdown structure, the project manager constructs a detailed schedule that outlines the tasks, assigns team members to the tasks, and shows the effort and time needed to complete the work.

If tasks must be completed in a specific sequence, then they are documented as dependencies in the schedule. The project manager must cooperate with the team members to establish estimates for every task.

Resource plan:  This includes both the person and non-person resources needed to create the project deliverables.

Project budget: This should include all the materials and personnel needed to complete the project successfully. The project manager is responsible for completing the project within this budget.

Risk management plan:  If a risk has a high enough impact or a high enough probability of occurring, the project manager should define and document contingencies to address the risk.

Communication plan:  This defines how information will flow between different members of the project team, and how stakeholders can provide necessary feedback on the project's activity.

The team is also assembled during this phase. Based on the requirements and the needs of the schedule, the project manager should confirm that all necessary skills are provided by the team.

If skill gaps exist, then the project manager should plan to fill those gaps with different team members, new hires, or outside resources.


In this phase, the project manager oversees the activities and tasks as outlined in the schedule, monitors the completion of those tasks and the quality of the results. This involves the following responsibilities:

Communicating progress:  While work progresses, the project manager must constantly communicate the status of the work with stakeholders and team members.

Status reports will help provide stakeholders with this information, but all available methods of communication can be used by a project manager.

Change management:  This is when schedules, budgets, or the quality of work deviates from the plan baselines, and the project manager must create plans to resolve the issue.

If changes to the schedule, budget, or scope are required by this work, the project manager must also create and receive approval for change requests from the key stakeholders.

Risk management:  This occurs over the course of the project, but a majority of the issues arise during this phase.

Risks must be documented and classified according to the risk matrix, and contingencies must be in place for any high impact or a high probability risk. The project manager is responsible for overseeing the mitigations of any issues that occur.

Individual/team management:  People are the key to a successful project, so the project manager must continually manage individual and team performance.

Communication is key, and a project manager should confirm all team members know the goals of their work and the consequences if those goals aren't met. The project manager should always remember to praise people for the high quality work that they produce.


Once all scheduled tasks are complete and all deliverables are created or acquired, the project manager will begin closing the project. This involves the following steps:

Decision to close:  All deliverables must be verified against the requirements and quality standards determined in the planning phase and in the project scope.

Lessons learned:  The lessons learned over the course of the project must be documented; the project manager compiles both positive and negative experiences. These reports are archived so future projects and their managers can learn from the successes and the difficulties.

Transfer ownership/knowledge:  The ownership of the project's deliverables and any knowledge needed for their operation is then transferred to the individual who will handle their implementation.

Warehousing information:  All project information necessary for future reference should be warehoused. The history of other projects is a powerful tool when defining a new project, so a project manager should help preserve this information.

Have you had experience with any of these phases, from either the perspective of a project manager or a team member?

If so:

  • What challenges, if any, arose during this phase?
  • What did you or the team do to overcome these challenges?

If not:

  • What challenges do you think could occur during one of these phases?
  • What are some possible solutions?


In this lesson, you reviewed the four basic phases of a project: beginning the project, planning the project, managing the project, and closing the project. Phase 1 involves identifying the stakeholders and Phase 2 is when the WBS is brought in.  Change and risk management is the focus of Phase 3, and transfer of ownership/knowledge is Phase 4.

Good luck!

Source: this work is adapted by sophia tutorial author jeff carroll.