Here is How to Make the Project Management Life Cycle Work for You

Any agency worth their salt knows the basics of the project management life cycle.

You’re probably familiar with the four stages – initiation, planning, execution, and closure – and how they help structure your workflow into an easy-to-follow project plan.

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But I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this:

No one follows this life cycle exactly.

Sure, your team probably has roughly the same flow, but here’s the truth:

Every business adapts the framework of the project management life cycle to reflect their team processes and style.

And as a result, there’s no question that you need flexible tools that can easily adapt to your team’s unique workflow.

But here’s the problem:

Most project management platforms expect you to adjust to their suggested workflow (instead of the other way around).

And that means your team ends up in a situation that looks kind of like this:

Luckily, Zapty offers a great alternative:

A fully-customizable project management platform that allows your team to maintain their current workflow while still benefiting from the efficiency of the project management life cycle.

And so, that’s what I’m showing you here today:

Here’s How Zapty Adapts to Your Workflow While Keeping the Structure of the Project Management Life Cycle

#1. Initiation

As the name suggests, the initiation stage is where a new project comes to life.

A client comes to you with a need, and your team brainstorms ideas for how your agency can effectively solve their problems.

Of course, everyone has their own approach, but here’s a simple definition for identifying the steps in your project workflow that fall into this first step:

The initiation stage consists of any prep work done by your team prior to actually starting work on the project.

And it’s likely you do at least one of the following at that stage:

  • Hold a discovery call with the client. You may want to dig deeper into a client’s problem to identify underlying issues and determine the exact solution your team should craft.
  • Conduct a feasibility study. Figuring out whether your team has the appropriate time and technical ability is one part of an effective feasibility study. But it’s also about conducting a cost-benefit analysis to make sure the project could actually be profitable for your business.
  • Piecing together scope and deliverables. I’m sure you know scope creep can cripple your productivity and profitability. Which is why establishing the exact scope of the project and defined deliverables in the initiation stage is such a critical step: it saves you from uncomfortable conversations with clients later on in the project management life cycle.
  • Creating (and presenting) your proposal. Once your team puts together a solid plan of action, you’ll, of course, need to share that plan with your clients and get their sign-off.

Each of these tasks requires extensive collaboration among your team and have several contributing subtasks leading toward the completion of the task.

And that’s where a great workflow management tool can be a game changer.  

Here’s a look at how you could set up this project flow in Zapty:

Notice that the four phases of the project management life cycle make up the stages of the project on the platform. But, within each phase lie the individual tasks that are unique to your business. And then within those tasks are all of the subtasks that the team needs to complete.  

Pretty great, right?

And it continues on to the next stage, too:

#2. Planning

You might find some crossover between the tasks in the initiation phase of the project management lifecycle and the planning phase, but there’s a key difference between the two:

The planning stage comes after the project gets approved and you’ve committed to the client.  

You’re in it now.

But before you can officially get the ball rolling, your team needs a quality project plan.

I’m sure you know the consequences of a poor project plan, but the truth is, breaking down a project into smaller, easily manageable can be hard without a comprehensive view of everything that your team needs to accomplish.

And that’s where a bird’s eye calendar view can come in handy.

Take a look at how it’s set up in Zapty:

You can easily map out due dates for specific deliverables and get a full view of the entire project that helps you ensure the team stays on track.

Which will be critical once you move into the next stage:

#3. Execution

This is the stage of the project management life cycle where you’ll inevitably spend the bulk of your time.

Ben Aston from The Digital Project Manager shared a great perspective on the transition to the execution stage:

“As the project manager, you shift from talking about a project and creating documentation to get the green light to proceed with the project execution  – to leading the team and managing them toward delivery. You’ll spend your time in briefings, meetings, and reviews to lead the team, and keep the project on track.”

The execution stage is where all the planning comes together to actually complete the work.

And as a result, it’s also the stage where there’s the best chance of something going wrong.

In fact, 62 percent of project managers cite time or cost constraints (as a result of poor execution) as their biggest business challenge:

  

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So, that’s why it’s so important to have the right tools in place:

A great workflow management platform helps your team collaborate, easily move projects through the approval process, and avoid missing deadlines.

It may seem simple, but if you want good collaboration, you need amazing communication.

And while there are plenty of chat tools on the market, success in the execution stage relies on a connection between your chat tool and the tasks in your project plan.

Here’s how chat looks in Zapty:

Not only can team members ask important questions and share files directly through Zapty’s chat, they can get approval on deliverables, too.

That means more efficiency, which hopefully leads to an easier final stage:

#4. Closure

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got your eyes on the finish line.

But before you can do a happy dance and take a well-deserved long weekend, it’s your responsibility as the project manager to make sure things wrap up smoothly.

That means:

Linh Tran explains perfectly the dual wrap-ups you go through in this final stage:

“In most projects, there will be two close-outs: the administrative close-out and the contract close-out. The administrative closure includes activities such as collecting and analyzing project documents, assessing the scope and the deliverables, analyzing the project’s success, and creating a final project report. The contract closure includes making sure that all criteria for a project closure are met, i.e. that the final product or service was delivered and is to the client’s satisfaction, i.e. verifying that the deliverable meets the contract terms.”

And much like in the initiation stage, Zapty tasks can be a huge help in organizing at this stage:

And that’s it…

The project management life cycle gives you the framework to move client projects along efficiently and effectively.

And Zapty offers the technology that enables you to follow that life cycle, while still maintaining your team’s individual workflow.

For more on Zapty, sign up for free today.