Back  |  Print  |  Bookmark
Understanding the Characteristics of the Project Life Cycle
Steven Ee, CFM

In today’s global competition, organizations continue to improve their working environments, as a strategy for sustaining a competitive advantage or as a way of responding to changes before competitors. These continuous improvements and changes are brought about through the implementation of construction projects, relocation projects and facilities improvement programs. The complexity of projects is increasing, which places greater demand on facility management teams. Facility managers, therefore, are faced with greater challenges today causing a greater need for skills and knowledge in project management. To be effective, facility managers must be able to utilize technical knowledge, as well as knowledge about implementing successful projects.

Projects are temporary undertakings by organizations set to achieve specific goals within a specified time, cost and requirements. Projects are initiated to implement needed changes. Thus, project management is an important methodology to carry out such desired changes as reducing risk factors and implementing changes in an effective and efficient manner. If mismanaged, a project may result in low morale, poor productivity, ineffectiveness or even a high turnover rate. It is important to understand that a project is a process comprised of different phases, commonly know as the Project Life Cycle. Projects are unlike ongoing business activities such as routine maintenance and operation because projects typically involve risk and uncertainty due to the uniqueness of the undertaking, complexity, use of limited resources, time and cost constraints.

From the facility management perspective, to ensure that facilities receive the best value and quality for the investment by an organization or stakeholders, adequate understanding of the phases of a project is needed by facility management professionals in order to plan and manage throughout the project.

There are many names to the various phases of a project by different authors and professionals. For facility management professionals, it is sufficient to appreciate that the phases of a project comprised of four main phases, using the acronym C-D-E-F, namely the Conceptual Phase, Design Phase, Execution Phase and Finishing Phase.

The Conceptual Phase includes idea generation; the initiation and roll out of the project; the completion of a feasibility study; and defining the purpose of the intended project. This is the first phase and its main task is primarily to evaluate the proposed project aroused from a recognized need, opportunity or problem in relating to the realization of an organization’s strategic objectives.

The Development Phase involves planning, designing and appraising the concept of the project. During this phase, the management will appoint a project manager and key members to participate in the project. The activities in this phase involve the development of the works, such as scope, tasks, resources, budget and cash-flows, creation of a timeline, and other activities that need to be undertaken to successfully achieve the planned project.

The Execution Phase involves implementation, management, control and construction of the project. The activities include: setting up the project organization; producing detailed documentation; procuring materials and services; and organizing, directing and controlling the project activities toward accomplishing the project’s purpose and objectives.

The Finishing Phase is the final phase of a Project Life Cycle where the project will be completed, tested and commissioned, then closed-out and handed over to the client or main stakeholder. This phase marks the finalization of the project.

The activities may include: checklists of outstanding work; ending the contracts; transferring of the project and responsibility to client or stakeholder who is the end-user; post-completion review, evaluation and feedback, disbanding the project team, a final statement of account; and commencing the defect liability obligations.

The phase of a project represents the completion of one or more deliverables and identifies the technical works and other activities needed in each of the phases.

Characteristics of the Project Life Cycle

Cost and staffing levels
The concentration of cost and staffing are slight at the beginning, increasing toward the completion and decreasing rapidly toward the finishing of the project.

Adding value
The ability to control costs and add value to the project’s output is at its greatest during the Conceptual Phase and at its least during the Finishing Phase.

Probability of project success
At the start of the project, the chance of successfully completing the project is lowest; therefore, the risk and uncertainty are highest. The likelihood of successful completion generally gets progressively higher as the project continues.

Potential savings and cost to change
As a project progresses, the cost of alteration or addition increases. The earlier in the project life cycle that errors are identified, the cheaper they are to correct. As the project progresses, the ability to achieve savings diminishes. Similarly, the cost to change increases as the project progresses through the Project Life Cycle.

Ability of stakeholders’ influence
Generally, at the start of the project, the stakeholders are able to influence the final characteristics of the project’s outcome and the final cost of the project.

Uncertainty and financial commitment
The level of uncertainty and risk is highest during the Conceptual and Development Phases and, as more information about the project is known, it will gradually be reduced through the Execution Phase. Unlike financial commitment, it is usually lower during the initial phases and much higher during the Execution Phase.

Production of information
The information developed during the Conceptual and Development Phases will be used in the Execution and Finishing Phases. Thus, it is important to ensure that the project management information system and communication plans are established early.

In today’s dynamic and competitive business environment, many organizations are realizing the importance of project management. Project management has appeared as a trend in the continuing performance improvement in organizations. Therefore, it is important for facility management professionals to understand the phases of the Project Life Cycle, its characteristics and implications in carrying out the functions of project management.


About the Author
Steven Ee, CFM, is a member of the Singapore Chapter of IFMA. He is a Registered Safety Officer and Fire Safety Manager with the Singapore governing bodies. He is currently a Facilities, Plant and Services Manager with a German MNC. Ee lectures at the offshore academic programs offered by Curtin University of Technology and Heroit Watt University. Ee’s e-mail is

Steven Ee, CFM
Nov/Dec 2005


 ↑ Back to Top