The term lifecycles can be hard to understand for students in Project Management Training programs. Part of the reason for this is that the term can be applied in several different ways. Let’s consider three of the most common usages of the term lifecycle:
Product Lifecycle: The Product Lifecycle refers to the lifecycle of the actual product that a project is undertaken to develop. This could be an actual product or a service. Its lifecycle can typically be thought of as the duration that the product or service is in existence. Typically, this begins with some kind of conception. Oftentimes, this conception leads to the project’s being initiated. Then, the product might go through a growth period when it is launched and becomes available for use. Over time, the product will go through a period of maturity where many people are using it, or it has become very stable. When its use is no longer common, the product goes through a period of decline. This will ultimately result in the withdrawal of the product from the market. When you think about these various states, you get a good idea of a product lifecycle:
Conception –> Growth –> Maturity –> Decline –> Withdrawal
Project Lifecycle: The Project Lifecycle is often referred to as a methodology. Each industry has its own methodologies for creating products. For example, in the corporate training industry, one lifecycle for the development of courseware could be the ADDIE lifecycle: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. In the construction industry, the lifecycle might be Feasibility, Planning, Design, Production, Turnover, and Startup. In the IT industry, a common software development lifecycle is Requirements, Design, Development, Testing, Installation, Conversion, and Maintenance. Essentially, a project lifecycle represents the steps that are taken to introduce a product or service in a particular industry.
Project Management Lifecycle: The Project Management Lifecycle is the one that people are most concerned with when attending Project Management Training programs. In PMI terms, these are the Project Management Process Groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. The Project Management Lifecycle is designed to take a project from conception to completion. It is different from, yet works with the Product Lifecycle and the Project Lifecycle. For example, imagine a company is developing a new software application. The conception of the application was done by the organization (with the help of its Business Analysts), and they hope for the software to have a long life. They want it to be developed for market growth and maturity for many years before it is withdrawn from the market. Once the idea for the application is conceived, a project can be chartered. This kicks of the Project Management Lifecycle with the Initiating Process Group. After some initial, high-level goals are established, Planning begins. This is where the Project Lifecycle could kick in. Requirements are gathered, and the high-level design is done. As the Project Management Lifecycle continues to Executing, development and testing are completed (with the help of the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group) so that the software can be installed. Once the application is ready, the Project Management Lifecycle goes into Closing, and the application is delivered to the customer.
Understanding how these three lifecycles interact can be very helpful for students in Project Management Training programs.