The Project Management Lifecycle In Software Development

Jerry Wallis
16 min read
Team discussing current phase in the project management lifecycle

Managing software development projects can be a daunting task, and without the right approach, resources and planning, project outcomes may not meet the desired objectives. In this post, we’ll explore the project management lifecycle and its five distinct phases – initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & controlling, and closing.

We’ll also discuss some of the major tried and tested project management tools and techniques, as well as the future of project management in software development. If you want to improve your software development projects, this article will provide valuable insights to help you succeed.

Before diving into the 5 phases of project management, let’s first learn about what the project management lifecycle is and why it’s crucial.

What Is The Project Management Lifecycle? 🔁

The project management lifecycle in software development is a framework that outlines the various stages a software project goes through from its inception to completion. It provides a roadmap for project managers to follow, guiding them through the planning, execution, and control of a project, and ensuring that all necessary tasks are completed in a systematic and orderly manner.

Woman working as per the project management lifecycle

This typically consists of five stages, with each stage building upon the previous one to move the project towards its ultimate goal. These are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & controlling, and closing. Each has its own specific tasks and objectives, and the completion of each stage is necessary for the software project to progress to the next one.

There are several approaches to software project management, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Kanban, Lean, and Six Sigma are three popular methodologies that businesses use today. Additionally, there are many who still use the dependable Waterfall, Agile, and Scrum project management approach. Ultimately, your choice depends on the project requirements, team experience and skills, and the company culture and goals.

⭐ The Importance Of Project Management

Systematisation & Structure

Project management provides a systematic and structured approach to managing software projects, ensuring that all necessary tasks and activities are completed in a logical and sequential manner. This helps prevent missed deadlines, cost overruns, and quality issues that can arise from poor project planning and management.

Framework For Management

It provides a framework for managing project risks and changes. By identifying and addressing potential risks and changes early in the project, teams can avoid costly delays and rework later. It also allows teams to be flexible and adaptive to changing project requirements, ensuring that the end product meets the needs of the stakeholders.

Communication & Collaboration

Understanding the project management lifecycle is essential for effective communication and collaboration within the software development team and with external stakeholders. By having a shared understanding of the project stages and objectives, team members can work together more effectively, and stakeholders can be kept informed of project progress and potential issues.

If you understand and properly implement the project management lifecycle in software development, you’re more likely to ensure projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required standard while minimising risks and maximising value for stakeholders.

Now that we’ve looked into why project management is important, let’s check out each of its phases.

Phase 1: Initiation 💡

Initiation is where you identify the need for the software project and determine if it’s feasible and viable. In simple terms, you define the project and identify the stakeholders. The initiation phase sets the foundation for the project, providing a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished and how it will be achieved, e.g. using MongoDB to build a highly scalable web app.

Team discussing phase 1 of project management

The initiation phase typically involves the following activities.

  • Identifying The Project Need: The business problem or opportunity that the software project is intended to address is identified.
  • Defining The Project Objectives: The specific objectives the software project needs to achieve are defined.
  • Conducting A Feasibility Study: A feasibility study is conducted to determine whether the software project can be completed within the given constraints of time, budget, and resources.
  • Identifying Stakeholders: The stakeholders who will be affected by the project and their needs and requirements are identified.
  • Creating A Project Charter: A project charter that outlines the key parameters of the project, such as timelines, budgets, and resources, is created.
  • Identifying The Project Team: The individuals who will be part of the project team are identified and assigned roles and responsibilities.
  • Obtaining Approval For The Project: The project charter is presented to stakeholders, and their sign-off is received to proceed with the project planning phase.

By completing the initiation phase, you get a clear understanding of the software project requirements, goals, and constraints. You can then proceed to the planning phase with a solid foundation and a shared understanding of the project’s scope and objectives.

Phase 2: Planning 🗺️

The planning phase is where you develop a detailed plan for the project that outlines how it will be executed, monitored, and controlled. Here, you further refine the project scope and define the specific objectives to be achieved. This is a comprehensive document that includes a detailed schedule, budget, resource allocation, risk management plan, and communication plan. It should be realistic, achievable, and aligned with the project objectives.

Phase 2 of the project management lifecycle - team engaged in planning

Your team identifies project dependencies and creates a detailed project schedule that takes these dependencies into account. They also identify potential risks to the project and create a risk management plan to mitigate them.

Another important aspect of the planning phase is defining the project team’s roles and responsibilities. You need to define the roles and responsibilities of each team member and establish a communication plan to ensure effective collaboration throughout the project.

The final step of the planning phase is obtaining approval for the project plan. The project team presents the project plan to stakeholders and obtains their approval to proceed with the project execution phase.

By completing the planning phase, you have a detailed plan for how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled. This provides a roadmap for the project team to follow and helps ensure the project is completed within the defined scope, budget, and timeline.

Phase 3: Execution 🏗️

The execution phase is where the project plan is put into action, and the team works towards the project’s objectives. The project manager and the team monitor progress, make adjustments as needed, and manage any issues or risks that arise. Deliverables are produced, and quality control measures are implemented to ensure that the project meets the defined standards.

The execution phase typically involves the following activities.

⚙️ Building The Software

The development team begins coding the software according to the design specifications outlined in the project plan. The team tests the code regularly to ensure that it is functioning correctly.

🧪 Testing The Software

The testing team tests the software to identify and fix any defects or issues. The testing phase includes both manual and automated testing, and the team works to ensure that the software meets the quality standards outlined in the project plan.

Woman software engineer engaged in phase 3 of project management

📈 Managing Project Progress

The project manager monitors progress against the project plan and makes adjustments as necessary. This involves tracking tasks and milestones, managing risks and issues, and ensuring the project stays within budget and on schedule.

💬 Managing Project Communications

The project team communicates regularly with stakeholders to provide updates on project progress, identify and manage issues, and ensure that expectations are aligned.

🗂️ Managing Project Resources

The project manager is responsible for managing project resources, including personnel, materials, and equipment. The team works to ensure that resources are available when needed and that they are used effectively.

🚚 Delivering The Software Product

Once the software is complete, the team delivers it to the customer or end user. This may involve installation, training, and support services.

By completing the execution phase, you’ve created a functioning software product that meets the requirements outlined in the project plan. The team is then ready to move on to the next phase of the project management lifecycle, which is the monitoring and control phase.

Phase 4: Monitoring & Controlling 📊

In the monitoring and controlling phase, the project manager and project team track progress against the project plan, including milestones, deadlines, and budget. This helps the team identify any issues or problems early on, so they can take corrective action before the project falls too far behind schedule.

Team in the monitoring and controlling phase of the project management lifecycle

The monitoring and controlling phase involves several key activities, including those listed below.

  • Tracking project progress and measuring performance against established metrics. This includes monitoring project schedule, budget, and quality.
  • Identifying and addressing issues and risks that arise during the project. This involves working with stakeholders to identify issues, developing mitigation strategies, and implementing corrective actions.
  • Managing changes to the project scope or requirements. This involves assessing the impact of changes, obtaining approval from stakeholders, and updating the project plan as needed.
  • Managing project communications to ensure that stakeholders are informed of project progress and any issues or risks that arise.
  • Managing project resources, including personnel, materials, and equipment, to ensure they are used effectively and efficiently.

The monitoring and controlling phase is critical to the success of a software development project. By monitoring project progress and making adjustments as necessary, you ensure that the project stays on track and meets the established objectives.

Phase 4 of the project management lifecycle prepares the project for the final phase, project closure, where the team formally concludes the project and transitions it to operations or maintenance.

Phase 5: Closing 🏁

During the closing phase, the team completes any remaining activities required to close out the project. This includes conducting a final project review to evaluate the project’s success and identify areas for improvement. They also prepare and deliver final project reports, including a final project status report and lessons learned report.

Woman project manager discussing final project report with client

A key activity during the closing phase includes documenting project outcomes. The team documents the project outcomes, including the final product, any deliverables, and any project documentation. This helps ensure that the project is properly documented and can be referenced in the future.

The team also conducts a post-implementation review to evaluate the performance of the final product and identify any issues that may arise in the future. Then, the project manager obtains the final sign-off from stakeholders to indicate that the project has been completed successfully.

Once approved, the team prepares to hand over the final product to operations or maintenance. This includes documenting any maintenance or support requirements and providing any necessary training or documentation to the operations or maintenance team.

The closing phase is critical to ensure that the project is completed successfully and that the final product is delivered to the customer or end user. It provides an opportunity to evaluate the project’s success and identify areas for improvement, which can be used to inform future projects.

By properly closing out the project, the team can ensure that the project meets the established objectives and delivers value to the customer or end-user.

Project Management Tools & Techniques 🧰

As you can see, proper understanding and implementation of software project management provides businesses with a lot of value in terms of ROI. To make things easier, here are some tried and tested project management tools and techniques that you can use to help manage your software development projects.

📅 Gantt Charts

Gantt charts are a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. It shows the start and end dates of each task in the project and how they relate to other tasks. These are used to help plan and manage projects by breaking them down into smaller tasks and tracking progress. You can use them to show which tasks depend on others, how long each one will take, and when they are scheduled to start and finish.

In software project management, Gantt charts are a popular tool for visualising and managing project schedules. They allow project managers and product owners to identify critical path tasks and ensure that they are completed on time, as well as monitor progress and identify potential delays. They can also be used to identify resource conflicts and help project managers allocate resources more effectively.

By providing a clear and easy-to-understand overview of the project schedule, Gantt charts can help teams stay on track and ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget.

🔰 Earned Value Management (EVM)

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a project management technique used to measure and monitor a project’s progress based on budget and schedule. It involves tracking the actual cost of the work done and comparing it to the planned cost to determine if the project is on schedule, over budget, or under budget. EVM can be used to forecast the final cost and completion date of the project, allowing project managers to make adjustments to stay on track.

EVM provides a more accurate way to measure progress and identify potential problems. By comparing the planned cost to the actual cost, your team can determine if the project is progressing as expected or if there are any budgetary issues. Similarly, by comparing the planned schedule to the actual schedule, you can determine if the project is on track or if any delays need to be addressed.

EVM is especially useful in software development because it provides a way to measure progress and success based on concrete metrics. This can help you make informed decisions about how to allocate resources, adjust schedules, and manage risks, ultimately leading to a more successful project outcome.

📉 Risk Management

Risk management is identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks that can affect the success of a project. It helps anticipate and manage potential problems that may arise during the project. Risks can come in the form of technical issues, changes in requirements, scope creep, and many more. By proactively identifying them, project managers can develop contingency plans to avoid or minimise the impact of potential issues on project delivery.

Effective use of risk management involves identifying and assessing potential risks, prioritising them based on their likelihood and impact, developing contingency plans, and monitoring risks throughout the project lifecycle.

Man and woman engaged in risk management

Risks can be managed by avoiding them, reducing the probability or impact of the risk, transferring the risk, or accepting the risk. You can also use risk management to identify opportunities to take advantage of, such as identifying new potential features to add to the software or improving performance.

Using risk management effectively can help ensure that software projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders. It helps your team be proactive in identifying potential issues rather than reactive after the issue has already occurred. By mitigating risks early on, you avoid costly delays and rework later in the project.

👨‍💻 Project Management Software

There are many project management software available that you can use for effective software project management. Some popular ones include Trello, Asana, Jira, Microsoft Project,, and Basecamp. These software tools offer features such as task tracking, collaboration tools, time tracking, Gantt charts, and more.

The choice of software will depend on the specific needs of the business and the project, as well as the budget available. It’s important to thoroughly research and compare the different options before selecting one.

📢 Communication Plans

A communication plan is a document that outlines the communication strategy for a software project, including the channels, frequency, and audience for communication.

To effectively develop a communication plan, project managers must identify the key stakeholders and their communication preferences and needs, establish clear communication goals, and determine the appropriate communication channels and frequency.

A well-developed communication plan can help ensure that all stakeholders are kept informed of project progress, potential issues, and changes in direction. It can also help to build trust and promote collaboration among team members and stakeholders.

In software project management, effective communication is crucial to ensuring project success, as it enables stakeholders to provide feedback, resolve issues, and align project goals and expectations.

🔀 Change Management

Change management is the process of managing changes to a project scope, schedule, or budget. It involves identifying, documenting, and approving changes to the project plan, as well as implementing and controlling these changes. It helps ensure that any changes to the project are necessary and that their impact on the project is properly assessed and managed.

Effective use of change management involves creating a formal process for requesting and approving changes, as well as identifying the potential risks and impacts of the changes before they are implemented.

This is a vital tool for software project management, as changes in software development are often inevitable and can have significant impacts on the project’s timeline and budget.

The Future Of Project Management 🔮

The future of project management in software development is shaped by the increasing complexity of projects, the emergence of new technologies, and changing business needs. As technology continues to evolve, project managers will need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices to deliver projects successfully.

Members of an agile software development project team in meeting

Below are three major trends seen in the future of project management.

🤸‍♀️ Use Of Agile Methodologies

One key trend is the increasing use of agile methodologies in software development. Agile methodologies enable teams to work collaboratively and respond quickly to changing requirements. As more companies adopt agile approaches, project managers will need to be adept at managing projects using these methodologies.

🧠 Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Another trend is the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in software development. These technologies can help to automate routine tasks, improve decision-making, and enhance the accuracy of project planning and estimation. Project managers will need to understand how to leverage these technologies effectively to improve project outcomes.

🎯 Adaptability & Skill

In addition, project managers will need to be able to manage distributed teams effectively. With more companies adopting remote and flexible working arrangements, project managers will need to have the skills and tools to manage geographically dispersed teams effectively and maintain effective communication and collaboration.

Overall, the future of project management in software development will require project managers to be highly adaptable, technologically savvy, and able to manage complex projects with distributed teams.

Key Takeaways: The Project Management Lifecycle 🧐

Software development projects can be complex, time-consuming, and require careful planning and execution to achieve success. The project management lifecycle is a framework that outlines the steps involved in managing a project from start to finish, ensuring that it is completed on time, within budget, and meets the desired objectives.

There are 5 phases of project management, and each involves specific activities and deliverables that must be completed before moving on to the next. Understanding this is essential for anyone involved in software development projects, as it provides a clear roadmap for project planning and execution. Moreover, by leveraging these tools and techniques effectively, you can streamline project workflows, mitigate risks, and improve team collaboration and communication.

Looking ahead, the future of project management in software development will be shaped by emerging technologies, changing business needs, and evolving project management practices. As software development continues to evolve, project managers must stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices to ensure project success.

Schedule a discovery meeting today to discuss your software development project needs and goals with an expert who specialises in handling them at the highest level!

Published On

May 01, 2023