What is project life cycle and product life cycle? Let’s begin by giving a general description of the term life cycle. The life cycle is a progression through a series of differing stages of development. Project life or product life cycle cycle actually defines steps or phases that each product or project goes over its lifespan. With the help of these common life cycles, expected expenditures, activities or general progress of the projects can be estimated.

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What are the definitions of product life cycle and project life cycle? What phases do the project life cycle and the product life cycle include?

If we consider a generic project life cycle, no matter in which industry it is executed, it will include four major phases. First starting the project, second organizing and preparing, third carrying out the work, and the last closing the project.

In this article, we are going to go over the definition of project life cycle and product life cycle. We will also explain the interrelationship between the project life cycle and product life cycle. Finally give some examples for product life cycle and project life cycle.

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The Definition of Project Life Cycle

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In the figure, the four phases of a common project life cycle are shown. The figure also includes the major deliveries at the end of each phase of the project life cycle. At the end of 1st phase which is the starting of the project, project charter will be produced. At the end of the 2nd phase which is organizing and preparing project management plan will be produced. During and at the end of the 3rd phase, deliverables of the project will be produced. Finally, in the 4th phase which is closing the project, the project documents will be archived and the project will be closed.

This common project life cycle also depicts how cost and staffing level changes during a project life cycle. As you see, during starting and planning phases cost and staffing levels are the lowest. Expenditures and resource usage are maximized during 3rd phase: carrying out the work. Then starts to decline in 4th phase since the project is closing.

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For instance, this graph shows how the cost of changes, also risk and uncertainty in a project changes over project life cycle. The cost of changes is lower in the beginning because most of the work has not been done or delivered yet. Therefore, if you change something in the project, it is expected that the cost of this change will be lower compared to a change that you will make in future. As long as you started to deliver project work, it will be harder and more costly to make a change in later phases of the project. Because you have to do rework and maybe start from the beginning to revise the work you did till that date.

Similarly, Risk and uncertainty of a project are highest in the beginning. Because you do not know exactly what you will face and how they might impact your project. However, as long as the project progresses, risks will be either eliminated or overcomed and uncertainties will disappear.

The Definition of Product Life Cycle

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Now, let’s look at the product life cycle. Product life cycle starts from the conception of a new product to its withdrawal. Many projects can be required to be delivered during the product life cycle.

Let’s consider an old version of iPhone. Does Apple still produce it? No. But starting from the conception till the end of the life cycle, several projects might have been executed to improve it.

This figure also shows the life cycle of a product. As you see, it starts with conception, then it grows in the growth phase, then it reaches its maturity phase where it is expected to make most revenue. Then in 4th phase, its market demand starts to decline but still new projects such as fixing software issues can be initiated to support the product. And finally in 5th phase, the product is withdrawn and no more projects are planned and initiated once a project reaches its end of life cycle.Although this is a generic life cycle of a product, there can be exceptions for some products that would never decline.

The Interrelation Between Product Life Cycle and Project Lifecycle

For the different projects in the different phases of this product life cycle, we can give a determination of customer needs as a project example. It can be initiated in conception phase of the product life cycle. We can also give an analysis of competition as a project example. This one can be initiated in growth or maturity phase of the product life cycle. Or a new project to improve features of the product, and this project can be initiated during the growth phase.

Project life cycle changes depending on the industry or organization’s preferences. For instance, project life cycle of a project in the construction industry will differ from a project in the IT industry.

Project life cycle of a project in construction industry will have Feasibility, planning, design, production, turnover and startup phases. However, in an IT project, project life cycle will have a high-level design, detailed design, coding, testing, installation, conversion and turnover to operations phases.

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product life cycle project life cycle