Effective Project Management is a vital ingredient in the success of any organisation and can have a significant impact on operational cost-effectiveness. For that reason, is it is essential to have a clear understanding of the Project Management Life Cycle. This is the process that takes a project from concept to completion, through five main stages. Clarity around the way in which a project progresses can not only help with the management of the project in question, but it can also help with overall planning in terms of the availability and deployment of valuable resources. The implementation of a cutting-edge digital solution allows Project Management Life Cycles to benefit from a high degree of automation. This enhances the efficiency gains delivered by the Contract Life Cycle approach by further reducing risk within the project.
The phases of the Project Management Life Cycle
An effective Project Management Life Cycle has five phases, each addressing specific needs of the project.
To initiate a project is to kick-off the process; to get the ball rolling and put everything on the road to completion. This requires three specific actions:
- Gather – You need to draw together everything needed, starting with a loose client brief indicating need and objectives, and ending with the necessary resources.
- Define – You then need to clearly define the scope of the project. This is achieved by working with the client to drill down through the loose brief to find, visualise and communicate the precise shape and form of the desired end result.
- Identify – You need to identify all project stakeholders so they can be accounted for in the stages that follow.
The final component of the initiation stage is approval by the client. This is essentially the ‘green light’ to proceed with the Project Management Life Cycle.
The planning stage is crucial to the success of the project. Errors and miscalculations at this point can have significant consequences, including resource waste, budget over-run, and failure to deliver on time. Project planning should encompass the entire Life Cycle and should hinge on accurate and specific risk assessments relating to each project element. This is achieved by working through the Project Management Life Cycle in the context of three questions:
- What? – You need to determine exactly what is going to be done, breaking each task down into manageable steps. You also need to agree what the acceptance criteria will be.
- How? – You need to determine how each of these steps will be achieved, including the identification of team members responsible, and to whom they will be accountable. All resources required should be allocated in advance in order to avoid confusion or delays during project delivery and to allow for the creation of an estimated budget, answering the question of how much it will cost. You also need to determine how project progress will be monitored, and what the scope and terms of those assessments will be; key performance indicators must then be set.
- When? – You need to set the project timetable, assigning realistic and achievable milestones and deadlines, and an agreed final delivery date.
All the information generated in the project planning stage is brought together in a Project Plan document, the purpose of which is to create clarity and a sense of direction.
The execution stage is the transformative part of the Project Management Life Cycle. This is the point at which your project plan becomes actions implemented and completed. This requires two things:
- Effective workflows – Whatever the scope and scale of the project, effective workflows are needed to ensure that all tasks are completed on schedule, and that all milestones and deadlines are met. Workflows are the best way to proactively reduce the risk of delay, and to spot potentially problematic issues at the earliest possible stage.
- Documentation – Successful execution of the project requires consistent and accurate documentation. This aids communication among the team and helps to keep workflows and timeframes on track. Documentation is also a useful resource for future projects and the due diligence that is needed to complete proper risk assessments.
By ensuring these elements shape your execution stage, the project team will be better equipped to tackle any unexpected issues or events that inevitably arise during the Project Management Life Cycle.
As you execute the project, monitoring is a vital element of project oversight, and happens concurrently with project progress. In the broadest of terms, monitoring your project involves comparing actual performance – measured in the terms defined by your selected key performance indicators - with your Project Plan. Any shortfalls can then be addressed accordingly. The key to successful monitoring of a project is in quantitative measurements of time, cost and scope – all of which are intricately related. Time issues related to delays and missed deadlines directly impact cost in the same way that changes to scope impacts timeframes and finances. In order to accurately monitor project progress and success, this information must be gathered and analyzed as quantifiable data.
The closure stage of a project revolves around handovers. Final deliverables are always handed over to the client, but this stage can also involve the handing over of documentation, processes and controls to another team with a different objective. The monitoring phase needs to have ensured that documentation and records are complete and the project team needs to have worked through all lessons learned, in summary, over the course of the project. Finally, resources need to be released or reassigned, and any associated third party contracts need to end, too.
Approaching a Project
In following this Project Management Life Cycle structure, Project Managers can lead in a proactive way, facilitating the objectives of the project as defined by the customer and the team. The goal of this approach is to ensure that the entire project process – from start to finish – is tackled in small, easily visualized chunks or Life Cycle phases. This makes the task of project delivery more manageable, with less risk of overwhelmed staff and with greater efficiency overall.
The efficiency gains stem from clearer visualization. Approaching a project as a large, poorly defined cluster of tasks greatly increases the risk of important issues and timescales being missed. This not only has the potential to create conflict within third party relationships and damaging contract disputes, but it also increases the likelihood of high levels of waste in terms of resources – all of which inevitably drive up costs, beyond the scope of the initial agreement. Breaking the project down into specific phases allows for clarity of purpose and closer, more accurate monitoring and control.
How Contract Management Software platforms help
The Symfact Contract Management Software platform uses a browser-based design which streamlines processes and documentation to generate improved levels of productivity within any type of project. This is because Contract Management Software facilitates and optimizes the Life Cycle approach with the following features:
- Centralization – The centralization of all data and documentation is the first step to improved visualization. Information must first be assembled in a single location before it can be effectively utilized. This process turns data into a valuable resource that can provide accurate and up-to-date analysis, therefore facilitating close monitoring and control.
- Accurate data tracking – Centralized data also allows for accurate data tracking through the use of metadata and data tags. Metadata and data tags can be defined in terms of agreed key performance indicators, making all project data relevant and accessible in terms of monitoring and control.
- Automated workflows – Human error is one of the biggest risks to any project and can contribute to problematic delays and missed deadlines. By automating basic administrative processes, Contract Management Software reduces human involvement and therefore reduces risk. This is the point of automated workflows – to ensure that the right task is flagged up to the right person at the right time, without reliance upon human efforts to keep ahead of project timescales. The further advantage of this feature is the creation of automated audit trails – increasing accountability and visibility and ensuring the necessary levels of compliance.
- Customized reporting – In order to monitor and control project performance effectively, it is essential to have accurate, current information about all aspects of the project. The customized reporting feature of Contract Management Software is the tool that transforms centralized information that is categorized by metadata and data tags into actionable data. This allows Project Managers to make decisions from a perspective that is fully informed, and to agree any necessary project plan adjustments in a proactive way. This helps to ensure increased productivity and efficiency.
The Symfact Contract Management Software platform is built with the Life Cycle approach in mind and is easily integrated with the existing software systems of any business. By combining high levels of customization with automated processes, the system can successfully revolutionize the way in which your business approaches its projects. Contact Symfact today to find out more about how this digital solution can increase the productivity, efficiency and profitability of your operation.