Project Life Cycles

A project life cycle is as follows:

The sequence of phases through which a project will evolve. Project life cycles are absolutely fundamental to the management of projects...They significantly affect how the project is structured. The basic life cycle follows a common generic sequence ... the exact wording varies between industries and organizations. There should be evaluation and approval points between phases often termed "gates." (Patel and Morris, 1999)

Each phase typically specifies what type of work is to be accomplished within the phase, what stakeholder should be involved, and what products (deliverables) result from the work of the phase. The deliverables support hand-off to subsequent phases. The IT project life cycle usually includes requirements, specification, development, and testing phases (Berkun, 2005). Each phase represents a significant shift in focus as the project progresses through succeeding levels of maturity and level of detail (Wideman, 2004).

Project management "manages" the work of a project phase by performing the project management processes concurrent with the work of the phase as illustrated in Figure 36.3. The initiation processes at the beginning of each phase can help keep the project aligned with organizational objectives. The closing processes for each phase often include phase-end reviews (known as gates) with formalized authorization to close the preceding stage and continue to the next phase.

Although most IT project life cycles include at least requirements, specify, develop, and test phases, there are many variations on this theme. This section describes two common IT project life cycles: the waterfall project life cycle, and the incremental life cycle.

3.1. Waterfall Life Cycle

The waterfall life cycle is arguably the first widely accepted IT life cycle (Bechtold, 1999).The waterfall life cycle is a sequence of phases in which the output of each phase becomes the input for the next phase. The system development life cycle (SDLC) is a widely known waterfall life cycle. The SDLC includes the usual requirements, specify, develop, and test phases, as well as three preparatory phases. The SDLC phases and a brief description of each are shown in Table 36.3.

Many organizations have adopted this life cycle as their organizational standard for IT projects. Two of the examples included at the end of this chapter applied this life cycle with successful results.

3.2. Incremental Life Cycle

The Incremental life cycle attempts to shorten the elapsed time between the requirements phase and delivery of tested

Biosurveillance Brief

figure 36.3 Project management processes and phases within project life cycles. (Adapted from Project Management Institute,A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 3rd ed., Project Management Institute, Inc., 2004. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been reproduced with the permission of PMI.)

figure 36.3 Project management processes and phases within project life cycles. (Adapted from Project Management Institute,A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 3rd ed., Project Management Institute, Inc., 2004. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been reproduced with the permission of PMI.)

table 36.3 System Development Life Cycle Phases

SDLC Phase

Description

Initiation

Sponsor identifies need

Concept

Defines scope and boundaries

Planning

Develops project management plan

Requirements

Analyzes user needs and develops user requirements

Design and

Transforms requirements into detailed

specification

system specifications

Development and

Builds the system

implementation

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