illustration of a person showing how project lifecycle looks on a Trello board

The Fyre Festival disaster of 2017 has become the benchmark for poor planning for project managers. Fragmented communication, unpaid vendors, and overpromises of grandeur could have all been avoided with project lifecycle management and thoughtful implementation of the five project management phases.

Don’t let your org suffer from poor management and planning. Reap the incredible benefits of adding a project lifecycle into any project. Project managers across industries use the project lifecycle to provide structure to their goals, improve communication across stakeholders, and to more accurately track a project’s progress. To succeed in the project economy, use the project lifecycle to set your team up for a smooth project pipeline.

What is a project lifecycle?

Project management uses different methods to complete a project. The project lifecycle is a defined series of five steps to manage a project from beginning to end. Add every action item for your project to one of the following five phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring, or Closeout. Before stepping into the meaning of each project lifecycle phase, here are a few things to keep in mind.

We process information visually

Consider this: molecular biologist Dr. John Medina found that more neurons in the human brain are dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined.

If your team is new to the project lifecycle or you’re deciding on project management software, think visually. Create an interactive and rewarding digital project layout for stakeholders. The Kanban method, used on Trello boards, supports the way our brain processes information. Participants move completed tasks from stage to stage and team members can see their progress.

Diversity ignites project innovation

Stellar results from the project lifecycle start with recruiting a diverse team with unique perspectives and skillsets. This increases the likelihood of identifying project roadblocks. And a 2015 study found that companies run by culturally-diverse leadership were more likely to develop new products than companies with homogeneous leadership teams. 

To better manage the project lifecycle, keep the benefits of cultural, educational, and experiential diversity in mind for more innovation opportunities.

Data management is essential to the project lifecycle

In the project lifecycle, data management can make or break your (often swift) opportunity to respond to change. Tech Target outlines three ways to ensure data is managed throughout your project:

  • Data security and confidentiality. Store data securely to ensure that private, confidential, and sensitive information is protected against possible compromise.
  • Data integrity. Data must be accurate and reliable regardless of where it’s stored, how many users access or work with that data, or how many copies of the data are maintained.
  • Data availability. Approved users should be able to access the data when and where they need to, without disruption to workflows or day-to-day operations.

Project management phase #1: Initiation

Create a vision for your project to catalyze a strong team effort throughout the project lifecycle. Use this phase to imagine the ideal end result for all stakeholders. 

A brainstorming tool such as the Miro Power-Up (a free app integration designed for Trello boards) can bring out the best ideas from your team. Did you know 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text? Whether you work in product development or influencer marketing, visual brainstorming plays to your team’s strengths. 

To turn a solution into a project for your organization, ask your team some key questions:

  • What is the vision, objective, and goal of the project?
  • What will the final product look like?
  • What outcomes should be prioritized?
  • Who will be impacted by the project? 
  • How do you make sure each stakeholder has what they need?

Now follow these steps to create a business case for your project:

  • Write a project charter. This is a brief one-page document to outline the vision, objective, and goal(s) of the project.
  • Establish the project scope and deliverables. Create a list of what’s needed to complete each high-level goal and the resources to complete each goal or task.
  • Perform a feasibility study. Brainstorm with your team and consult with industry peers to identify problems and solutions for your project.
  • Acknowledge and account for project stakeholders. Acknowledge the who, what, and how each team is involved to deliver the final product.
  • Determine which project lifecycle method is best for your team. It’s not a one-size-fits-all onesie. Project management requires agile, human analysis, and empathy for how the project is distributed among team members. Weigh the cost and benefit of your production method.
    • Are you creating a concrete end product? Consider Scrum methodology for complex projects in technology development, marketing, and government agencies—or even construction. 
    • Is your team afraid of complex workflows? Try the Kanban method to slowly build out your project complexity as your team gets comfortable with your project lifecycle. 
    • Do you need to layer multiple team contributions? Learn more about the DAD Life Cycle to launch a project within a team of teams.

Project management phase #2: Planning

Create a comprehensive project plan to outline the phases and deadlines for your project. Trello’s Timeline View can help your whole team see a bird’s eye view of your project schedule, including gridlock.

Here are the other essential elements of a holistic project plan:

  • Make a budget. Estimate the cost of deliverables. Identify redirect options to account for unforeseen costs throughout your project lifecycle.
  • Plan for resource management. Organize team skills, bandwidth, external stakeholders, and other tools into a resource management plan.
  • Assess project risks. Review debriefs from similar company projects, interview people previously involved in similar projects, and perform research to help determine unique project risks.
  • Decide how teams will collaborate. Determine how, when, and where you will communicate with internal and external stakeholders. 
  • Launch a buy-in campaign. Brief everyone involved in the project and explain your project lifecycle roadmap.

Project management phase #3: Execution

Complete the action items in your project plan to deliver a refined end product for stakeholders.  Promote team communication as the surest path to carry out your project deliverables. Manage execution with these communication tips:

  • Schedule regular briefings. Check in with your team regularly to monitor progress.
  • Use a Trello board. Display task assignments on a visual board that tracks what needs to be completed, what tasks are in progress, and a completion date.
  • Set an example for communication. Regularly communicate with your team and encourage them to provide regular updates.

Project management phase #4: Monitoring

Use your risk assessment plan to look for and respond to project roadblocks. 

  • Regularly review budget and time estimates. Compare estimations to actualities for each outlined phase of the project and adjust accordingly.
  • Proactively manage project changes. Refer to your risk assessment to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Automate project monitoring. Seek out project bottlenecks with Trello’s no-code automation features

Project management phase #5: Closeout and look to the future

Debriefing at the end of your project can uncover patterns of success and setbacks among your team. Here are three ways to comprehensively debrief on your project lifecycle:

  • Analyze performance. Review your initial plan to see how your end result compares to your projections. Identify how you needed to adapt throughout the project.
  • Create a paper trail in each phase. Document each stage of the project execution for rich insights to improve your next project. 
  • Create a project review document. Establish formal takeaways so you can repurpose your project template for future ideas.

Give your project lifecycle the right kind of fire

Get creative with visual execution on your next project. As you become more comfortable with the project lifecycle, you can expect it to feel more comfortable for both you and your team over time.

4 project lifecycle tips for better projects and better management