Project Management Phases : A Complete Breakdown

A project can be defined as a  temporary endeavor towards the accomplishment of specific outcomes. Often comprising a sequence of steps and tasks, every project has its own objectives, budget, plan, timescale, and deliverables. Most importantly, a project often involves people of different backgrounds working together to attain a particular goal. 

Perhaps, one of the most crucial aspects of a project is how the different project phases are planned, executed, and managed to achieve agreed outcomes. And that’s where the concept of project management takes center stage. Like the project life cycle involves various stages, project management has discrete phases, each applying to a specific stage of the project life cycle

So, let’s dive in to know more about the standard project management phases.

What is Project Management?

Project management is the practice of applying specific knowledge, skills, principles, processes, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value. It takes within its ambit the initiation, planning, execution, and management of the new initiatives that an organization aims to implement. In contrast to routine, everyday business activities, project management is not an ongoing process – once the goal is achieved, the project concludes.

Each project has its unique needs that require a specific set of tools, techniques, and approaches to be fulfilled. But regardless of the type of project, the critical components of project management are time, cost, scope, and quality. 

Be it the construction of a building or highway, development of new software or implementation of a Financial Management System, projects exist in almost every industry and sector out there. From IT, Pharmacy, and Energy to Defense, FMCG, and Construction, the project life cycle in every industry requires efficient project management for quality outcomes.

The Five Phases of Project Management


The discussion on project management phases is incomplete without the mention of the project life cycle. In simple terms, the life cycle of a project comprises the different project phases designed to meet the project’s needs. As such, the project life cycle should define the work that must be fulfilled, the deliverables that must be generated, the people involved, and how each phase must be controlled and approved.  

Each element of the project life cycle contributes to taking the project from start to finish and provides a controlled, systematic, and timely process to monitor the project’s progression.

The project management phases are intricately associated with the project life cycle. As such, one exists because of the other. So, here’s a breakdown of the five stages of project management and what each phase calls for.

Phase 1: Project Initiation

The first of the five project management phases are all about turning an abstract idea into an achievable and meaningful goal. The purpose of the project initiation phase is to define the project on a broader scale. It begins with developing a business case, researching if the project is practical and whether it should be undertaken. Once the stakeholders give the project a go, project managers need to develop the project charter – a document outlining the project’s goals, scope, limitations, expected timelines, budget, and other requirements.

In a nutshell, the project initiation phase accomplishes the following tasks:

  • Defining project goals
  • Creating a business case
  • Completing the project charter
  • Preparing the list of stakeholders

Phase 2: Project Planning

The primary tasks in the project planning phase include identifying technical requirements, creating a communication plan, developing a comprehensive project schedule, and setting up goals/deliverables. Following are the two most widely used methods for setting up the project’s goals:

1. S.M.A.R.T Goals


The S.M.A.R.T criterion is an established method to provide a clear understanding of the consequences of the goal-setting process. It mitigates risks, allowing project managers to set clearly defined and feasible goals.

2. C.L.E.A.R Goals


The C.L.E.A.R method of goal-setting takes into consideration the modern, fast-paced business environment. It helps achieve flexibility and instant results through collaboration, limited goals, emotional connections, breaking larger goals into smaller tasks, and refining goals when needed.

Hence, the project planning phase involves the following tasks:

  • Defining the project scope
  • Creating a project plan
  • Setting a budget
  • Defining roles and responsibilities

Phase 3: Project Execution

Project execution is the phase where the team gets down to work to develop and complete deliverables. The phase is a buzz of activities when several tasks are accomplished under the supervision of the project manager. Here’s a list of what takes place during the project execution phase:

  • Developing the team
  • Allocating and managing project resources
  • Executing project management plans
  • Building the product or process
  • Setting up tracking systems
  • Executing task assignments
  • Directing and managing the project execution
  • Arranging meetings to discuss status and updates
  • Fixing issues as they arise
  • Updating and modifying project plans as needed

Phase 4: Project Monitoring

Monitoring the project goes hand in hand with the project execution. Together they ensure that the project goals and deliverables are met. Project managers typically establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Critical Success Factors (CSFs) to ensure that the project progression is on track. In addition, project managers also track the resource costs and efforts involved in the process. Last but not least, monitoring the project performance also forms an integral responsibility of the project manager; it considers the issues that arise and how fast they are addressed.

Thus, here’s what happens in the project monitoring phase:

  • Tracking effort and resource cost
  • Monitoring project progress
  • Ensuring compliance with the plan
  • Preventing any possibility of disruptions

Phase 5: Project Closure

The last of the project management phases indicates the final delivery and project completion. This last phase involves terminating hired contractors (if any), completing the necessary paperwork, and recognizing valuable team members. The project manager may hold a meeting to reflect on the team’s victories and shortcomings during the project, evaluating what went well, identifying the loopholes that need to be rectified for future endeavors.

In addition, the project manager creates a list of tasks that remained unaccomplished during the project and works with the team to fulfill them. Plus, the manager prepares a final project report & budget and stores all the critical data in a secure place accessible to the organization’s project managers.

In brief, the last phase involves:

  • Handing over deliverables
  • Reviewing project deliverables
  • Reviewing team’s performance
  • Collecting and storing all project documents in one place 

Learn the Essentials of Project Management with upGrad

Learning about the project management phases from the right place is as important as project management itself. So, upGrad brings to you the Product Management Certification Program and PG Program in Management to help you kickstart your career in project management.

1. Product Management Certification Program (6 months):

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  • Product management Certificate from Duke Corporate Education and upGrad
  • 200+ hours of content, 15+ case studies and projects, 10+ live Q&A sessions
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  • Skills in Market Research, Analytics, User Design, Product Development & Planning, Engagement and Growth
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2. PG Program in Management (11-month)

If you want to take your preparations a step further and train for leadership roles in Business Development, Sales, Marketing, and Management Consulting, upGrad’s PG Program in Management (11-month) is perfect for you. Here are some of the course highlights:

  • Certificate of recognition from Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad
  • 320+ hours of learning, 20+ live sessions, 10+ case studies and assignments
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Way Forward

Today’s global business environment is not just fast-paced but super competitive. The key to gaining an edge lies in delivering and fulfilling projects on time and within budget while keeping true to the business goals. This is where project management comes in. Project managers have a pivotal role to play in determining the success of projects an organization undertakes. Their role goes beyond simply understanding the project life cycle to incorporate analytics, organizational skills, and good interpersonal abilities. 

upGrad’s online educational programs are designed to offer an immersive learning experience while ensuring that learners acquire the skills needed to be future-ready. upGrad courses have impacted more than 500,000 working professionals globally and continue to set standards in the higher EdTech industry. So, sign up to upGrad today and become a part of the 40,000+ global learner base spread over 85 countries!

Who is the father of project management?

The two forefathers of project management are Henry Gnatt and Henri Fayol. While Henry Gnatt is known for using the Gnatt chart as a critical project management tool, Henri Fayol is credited for his development of the five management functions that form the basis for the body of knowledge associated with program and project management.

What is the importance of project management?

With an efficient project management process in place, organizations can save considerable time and money, improve intra-organizational communications, iterate on successes, plan projects better, and make better business decisions.

What industries hire project managers?

The top industries that hire project managers include:
1. Information Technology (IT)
2. Financial Services
3. Construction and Engineering
4. Law
5. Healthcare
7. Startups/small businesses

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