Life-cycles ensure that a project completes all necessary phases to competently deliver the business case, providing a standard logical method to assist in project planning. Typically stages of a project consist of; concept, definition, deployment and handover. Utilising a life-cycle exerts a level of control over the project, with reviews at the end of each phase to obtain approval to proceed, which are further discussed in section 2.5 (Kerzner, 2013). Depending on the complexity of the goal there exist three recognised life cycles employed to structure the management of the project; linear, iterative and hybrid.
A linear life cycle offers a very predictable and stable structure for an organisation to complete phases of a project in a progressive manner. Only on achievement of set milestones within a phase can control be migrated to the next step, allowing for clear coordination; which is particularly advantageous across large organisations and departments where many colleagues are collaborating on a project (Association for Project Management 2019). This application ensures that detailed criteria are achieved in each phase before proceeding to the next allowing for milestones and reviews to be maintained and communicated to the steering committee. The linear life-cycle ‘provides a framework for budgeting, scheduling, allocating resources’ and a mechanism to delegate the right employees each phase to efficiently deliver the attributed task (Association for Project Management 2019).
Where there is uncertainty as to how to achieve the desired outcome an iterative life cycle is employed. This life cycle allows development phases to run in parallel to explore various options and develop understanding of the clients needs. Interaction between project team and client is paramount in developing the project. As a result, this type of life cycle has a flexible duration as the team and end user work corroboratively to review prototypes to deliver the common goal with the end product user ascertaining a higher level of risk as more iterations of a phase require consistent funding and time (Association for Project Management 2019). The end user and development team can, using each iteration, develop upon previous ideas learning from each prototype on review to achieve their high-level vision. An iterative model although risker for the end user allows for alterations to be made to the project brief as ideas are explored which shall result in a more considered product as collaboration is encouraged (Association for Project Management, 2019; Project Smart, 2020).
A hybrid life-cycle merges element from the aforementioned models to create a novel approach to project development. Kerzner recognises that organisations employing this approach are ‘quicker to maturity’ in their projects as senior management are flexible and adaptative in achieving the project outcome (Kerzner, 2014). Through the addition of iterative components to a linear model the development phase is improved, prematurely realising the benefits of the project outcome to progress the strategic vision of the project whilst maintaining the logical phases for handover (Association for Project Management 2019).
There are a number of benefits attributed to the phases set out in the structure of a linear life-cycle. Foremost the structure improves planning efficiency as project managers can plan the whole project in high detail.as a change in project outlook isn’t projected (Kerzner, 2013). These stationary phases allow for ‘rolling-wave’ planning, as the criteria for the first phase are met the project can roll forward into the subsequent phase easing the transition of the project objectives as a task in the first phase directly feds into a task in the second phase.
As the statement of work is well-detailed in a linear life-cycle the tasks can be better estimated (Kerzner, 2013). In this manner tasks become shorter and easier for the project team to fulfil, as budgets are set and tasks well-defined, increasing project team productivity and motivation. The attributing of the appropriate budget and resources allows for this timely completion benefitting both the project team as well as the steering committee. Similarly, risk management is improved with mitigations becoming easier to define, implement and manage as tasks are broken down into more manageable objectives, future risks often become areas of uncertainty rather than the unknown. It is also possible when employing a linear model to utilise incremental funding on the approval of key decision gates on completion of each set phase. Ultimately setting out concise phases in a linear model exerts more control over the project and assurances to the senior management as progress is easy to define (Kerzner, 2013).
A project life-cycle exists within an organisation to see a project through to completion of the deliverable from concept to handover as a stand-alone project or part of an organisations wider programme (Association for Project Management 2019). An extended life-cycle builds on this to ensure that the project deliverable fully delivers the expected outcome to the user implementing a benefits realisation and operation phase to fully appreciate the outcomes and benefits the project delivers, as seen in Figure.1 below (Association for Project Management, 2019; Coventry University, 2020).
Extending the project life-cycle ensures that the project team can learn from the output of the previous project to aid future projects in a similar capacity (Association for Project Management 2019). For benefits to be realised an adoption or as the figure dictates, an operation phase is deployed alongside benefits realisation in which the intended user employs the project deliverable. If a life-cycle is to be extended in this manner considerations must be made during the project initial stages, ensuring that the additional activities are costed.
A project with an extended life-cycle considers the benefits as part of the project scope, rather than simply addressing the clients instructions for the deliverable the project team considers the impact the output will have for the organisation as well as the end-user (Association for Project Management 2019).