Project Management Life Cycle Models

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Each project is unique. The characteristics of the project, business and organizational environment determines the project management approach. The author defines five different project management life cycle models:

  1. Linear
  2. Incremental
  3. Iterative
  4. Adaptive
  5. Extreme

Contemporary Project Environment: 

This environment is characterized by high speed, high charge, lower costs, complexity, uncertainty and host of other factors.

  • High Speed

To receive business value, the products or services should reach the market quickly. Organizations should find a way to reduce cycle time and eliminate non-value added work as much as possible. Project manager must know how and when to introduce multiple release strategies and compress project schedules to help meet these requirements.

  • High Change

Clients often make changes what they want during the project. The business word for this change is dynamic. Project manager should recognize the realities of frequent change, accommodate and embrace it.

  • Lower Cost

Organizations realize the value of project management and restructured their hierarchical structures to accommodate project management. Project management has a number of tools and techniques to manage increased workload. The staffs require more room to do their work in the most productive way possible.

  • Complexity

All complex problems need to be managed and solved in effective way.

  • Uncertainty

Adapt project management approach to handle uncertainty by accommodating changes and provide viable solution to the client to its complex problems.

In todays scenario, project success factor is influenced by the alignment of project management scope with the business objectives and goals. The project management should be part of business strategy management. Project manager should define project deliverables under business context. He must understand internal systems and their interaction as well as external systems environment of suppliers and customers in whose environments the deliverables must function.

There are four categories of projects.

  • Traditional Project Management (TPM)    : The goal and solution are clear.
  • Agile Project Management (APM)               : The goal is clear but solution is not.
  • Extreme Project Management (xPM)          : Neither goal nor solution is clear.
  • Emertxe Project Management (MPx)          : The goal is not clear but solution is.


PM Models

The project management life cycle models applicable to the categories of projects as below:


Traditional Project Management (TPM): 

In TPM, the goal is clearly specified and the project team defines how they will reach that goal. Typically infrastructure projects fall under this category. These projects are less complex and low risks in nature as the hardware, software and telecommunications environments are familiar to the team. The tasks are repetitive and skilled, competent developers/ technicians are available to handle such projects. There are few scope changes and projects are plan driven. The linear and incremental approaches are used in this type of project.

Linear project management life cycle Model:

The five process groups are executed in linear manner.  The scope change upsets the resource schedule. There is no looping back.

PM Processes

Incremental Project Management Life Cycle Model: 

In this model, deliverables are released incrementally according to a schedule. A partial solution is initially released, and additional parts of the solution are added to the initial release afterwards to form a more complete solution. This model is used to accommodate market demands. The project ends with the same deliverables and at same time. The additional management overheads are associated in this model. The initial release of partial solution gives the client and the end user an opportunity to experiment with the partial solution in a production scenario and find areas that could be improved. Project manager has to build schedule contingencies into the plan. The release schedule needs to be consistent with the dependencies that exist between each partial solution.

PM Process Incremental


Agile Project Management (APM):

In APM, various iterative and adaptive approaches are used to manage the project. However, project manager should be vigilant on number of iteration not exceeding the schedule and budget of the project and remain within scope. The work breakdown structure is to be used to show how the entire project being executed. The client and development team collaboration is required for building solution. That means project manager has to build both client and development team to work together in an open and collaborative environment. Project manager has to share responsibility and leadership with client manager.

Iterative Project Management Life Cycle Model: 

The prototype is developed in this type of project.  Each iteration delivers a working solution. The incomplete solution is delivered to the client and asked their feedback on changes or additions they would like to see. Those changes are integrated into the prototype and another incomplete solution is produced. This process repeats itself until either the client is satisfied and has no further changes to recommend or the budget and / or time runs out.

PM Process Iteration


Adaptive Project Management Life Cycle Model:

This type of model is used when a missed functionality of the solution observed or the functionality not clearly defined earlier.

PM Process Cycle


Extreme Project Management (xPM):

Generally Research & Development projects fall under xPM category, as the goal and solution are not defined clearly at the beginning of the project. E.g. Post-It notes. After seven-year application discovered.

The concurrent probative swim lanes are used to define goal clarification and solution set at the same time. The desired end state is usually guessed. The project team has maximum flexibility. There is hope to achieve goal with solution at the end of the project.  The learning and discovery take place between the client and the development team in each phase.  The scope of the project is defined at each phase. The risk of project failure is very high. Failure is difficult to define.  The clients need to involve within and between phases. The client takes leadership role instead of collaborative role as opposed to APM projects. The funding organization sees the learning and discovering as potential rewards and continues the funding support. There are two reasons for the project to stop.

  1. The solution is found as per the goal and it makes business sense. The project is closed as successful project.
  2. The sponsor is not willing to continue the funding as he feels that project is not making any meaningful progress or is not converging on an acceptable solution. That means project is failed and it restarts with a search of solution in a different direction.

PM Process Phase


Emertxe Project Management(MPx):

MPx projects where the new technology made available for user without a knowing the problem.  Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) application software falls under this category. The application is known; only one needs to find out its business value. E.g. Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) is used in warehouse applications. The solution was discovered before the business found the issue in logistics and supply chain management system. Each phase is complete project. Scoping starts at the beginning of each phase, and the decision to begin another phase ends the current phase. In this the phase and project are identical.

Reference: Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Fifth Edition by Robert K. Wysocki: Part 1

Vijaya Sawant

Vijaya Sawant is an exceptional project management professional with a unique blend of business, project management and technology skills. She has more than 25 years of latest technology implementation experience in both matrix and projectile environment. She has a first-rate track record of successfully spearheading and delivering a broad range of high impact, high profile projects, including leadership of multi-national, multi-vendor teams. She has demonstrated ability to bring about positive change through crafting relationships with multi stakeholder groups and service delivery groups, understanding business needs and proposing and delivering viable technology solutions.

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