Differentiate Project Management Phases from Processes

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Business talk is usually mired in jargon that sometimes confuses people, leaving managers, employees and top management with different ideas on what’s going on and what they’re supposed to do. It’s the same story for project management.

In project management, there are so many moving parts that everyone working on it should be in the same page, and one of the most common problems is miscommunication. Getting the terms right and using them appropriately can greatly reduce the communication barriers that cause mayhem in a project: especially when talking about project management phases and processes.

Life Cycle, Phase or Process?

Both phases and processes are under the umbrella of a project management life cycle. Life cycle refers to the whole project itself, making those in charge assess all the variables they need to see the project to completion.

Under the project management life cycle are project management phases. Project management phases are described as  a “collection of logically related project activities that culminate in the completion of one or more deliverables.” This means that each phase in the life cycle has a different area of focus on different sets of tasks before the team can move on to the next phase or before the project can be completed.

Project management process are activities done in each phase of the project. Unlike phases, the processes are more iterative than sequential and are continuous activities until the close of the project itself.

Getting the Job Done

While project management software, like Microsoft Project, can help your company delineate between processes and phases through their multiple timeline features;  it is important to understand the different aspects of each one.


  • Initiation – Defines the project and the justification for it. It is where the scope of the work is defined and where responsibilities are given out.
  • Requirements – Discusses the goal of the project and what the time and other constraints the team should be working on.
  • Planning – This defines how the project will proceed. This is also where scheduling occurs and where most project management tools are being utilized.
  • Execution – This is where tasks in detail are being sent and carried out. Team members are given information on dependencies, time scales and criteria to complete the project.
  • Closure – As soon as the project is completed and delivered successfully, a final review will be taken to see what the project could have done better.


  • Monitoring – This is an ongoing process to make sure that the project remains within the budget and schedule constraints.
  • Control – This deals with risk management within the project.
  • Communication – Good communication among team members gets everyone on the same track and many problems can be avoided.
  • People Management – The project manager should always be on top of his/her team and should be able to be responsible for the individuals under them, including giving feedback, motivating employees, etc.

All the processes work together to complete each phase, but while phases are sequential in nature, processes are more reactive to what is going on in the project. And because of the complexity of many projects requiring so many processes in different phases, a good project management tool should be put in place.

A good project management software is able to handle all the intricacies of the project management process and helps managers align these processes with the phases that the project is in. Multiple timelines and planning features can help team members visualize what part of the project they are in and what their managers are talking about so that they can support their team. Good project management software can also help top management and team members accomplish their tasks in each and every process and phase to complete the project life cycle in an efficient and effective manner that reduces stress for everyone involved.

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