All client projects go through 5 key phases. How do experienced project managers handle each phase to ensure they are completed without a hitch?

1 – Project Initiation & Definition

Lets start at the very beginning. The client has indicated a they have a new requirement needing project planning services, and an initial meeting is called to hammer out and define the clients’ expectations and goals.

This information gathering stage is the time to ask any and all questions about the project, as it is essential to get a comprehensive overview of what the client needs. This conversation must cover the feasibility of the project, who is involved, desired results, and any limitations from either side. This may be conducted over several sessions and may need to be followed up with emerging questions, but all the details must be clear before moving on to the planning stage.

2 – Project Planning / Strategizing

Now that the details have been fixed, the planning can begin. The project manager will evaluate the number of people on the team and their skills, and can begin laying out the assigning of tasks, schedules and communications. There will be meetings with the team to discuss the upcoming project and their responsibilities.

Here is where many project managers find it beneficial to use a project planning software, to visually organize the whole process. At this point it will become clear to see what tasks need to be completed before others can begin, when any third-party support will need to be booked, and what needs further clarification.

While this can be the most demanding part of the project, it is also one of the most important, as after completed it will allow an accurate cost to be provided to the client and let them know if there are any changes required in order to make the project work.

At this point the project manager should send a scope statement to all involved parties, clearly laying out the work, time frames and costs, so everyone is aware of the scope of the project.
The client may now approve, giving the go ahead.

3 – Project Execution / Implementation

It’s launch time.The client has given the thumbs up and the clock starts.
Teams members are set off on their assigned tasks and are monitored by the project manager to be sure assignments are being completed on schedule, and that the quality is high. 

Because of the excellent planning strategized in phase two, all team members will already know what they need to do and when it needs to be done by, enabling self-monitoring and personal accountability.
Anyone, or any task falling behind could end in in increased cost or timeframe, so the project managers must now be ready to step in and manage the team as required.

4 – Performance Monitoring / Running Assessment

After beginning implementation, the project manager will need to regularly measure progress and make sure the project is moving forward in line with the plan.

Some ways to measure this is by reporting on the following key performance indicators:

  1. Cost monitoring: Ensuring cost is meeting budget.
  2. Performance: Checking that any changes aren’t impacting the overall scope.
  3. Deliverable Standards: Reviewing completed deliverables to check quality.
  4. Adhesion to Schedule: Ensuring assignments are completed to planned timeframes.

5 – Project Closure / Wrap Up

Once the team has finished their last assignments, the project is tied up in a neat package and delivered to happy clients, however the project managers job is not quite finished yet!

It is now time to assess the project management workflow and identify any mistakes, problems, or difficulties that can be worked on for future projects. It is also time to assess team members performance by recognizing successes and strengths as well as trainable weaknesses.

All projects go through these five phases, and with good client and project management practices, each phase can be handled easily and effectively.