Project Life Cycle - Stages and Optimization
What is project management?
Simply put, project management is the application of methodologies, tools and processes to successfully plan and execute projects. Effective project management makes use of teams and resources to complete project activities within the boundaries of time, cost and scope, across the project lifecycle.
In a services business, the project objective is defined by the client or stakeholder, and a project manager uses the methodologies of project management to create a plan that defines the resource allocation, tasks, milestones and deliverables necessary to meet the stakeholders’ requirements throughout the project lifecycle.
Breaking out the project life cycle
Because projects have a life cycle, they are mapped to a series of phases. If you can grasp these five phases, then you’ll have a good grip on what project management is all about.
Phase 1: Project Initiation
This stage of the project lifecycle culminates in a project kickoff meeting, where you bring together the team, stakeholders and other relevant parties to lay out the project goals, schedule, processes and the chain of communication.
Phase 2: Project Planning
The second phase in the project life cycle is project planning, which occurs after the project has been approved - and includes the costs, risks, resources, and timelines. This where the project scope is defined and laid out. Project managers often visualize their project plan using a Gantt chart, which represents the order of tasks and how they are interdependent to help with project life cycle management. .
Phase 3: Project Execution
This is the part of the project lifecycle where you complete the project activities and milestones to produce the deliverables to the client’s or stakeholder’s satisfaction. Throughout the process, project managers will work to spot risks, keep margins on tracks, make adjustments, and reallocate resources.
Phase 4: Project Monitoring and Control
The fourth phase is project monitoring and control, which occurs at the same time as the execution phase of the project. In this section the main focus areas are typically time, cost and scope, which collectively are referred to as the triple constraint. The main goal of this phase is to set firm controls on the project to ensure that those areas don’t go off track.
Phase 5: Project Closure
The fifth phase of the project lifecycle is project closure, in which the final deliverables are presented to the client or stakeholder. Once approved, resources are released, documentation is completed and everything is signed off on. At this point the project manager and team can conduct a post-mortem to evaluate the lessons learned from the project and learn from the experience.
Key strategies for effective project management
Get laser focused on resource management
Managing capacity and demand is also critical for professional services businesses. Successful, profitable projects depend on your ability to deploy the right people with the right skills at the right time at every stage of the project life cycle. It sounds simple in theory, but without visibility into potential pipeline projects, current capacity, and the potential supply of candidates, project managers can easily find themselves short of the right resources they need to meet project life cycle management needs.
By integrating sales and services technology, people and project data can be unified, allowing services organizations organisations to go beyond mere project tracking. Services leaders get visibility into all facets of the business—consultant availability, skills, certifications, absences, current and upcoming projects, project experience—so they can better predict talent needs, balance resource supply, and prompt any necessary recruiting.
Create a master customer record
A key piece to growing your business is keeping your current customers happy and eager to renew with you, which is why a master customer record is imperative to success and keeping the project life cycle running smooth. Imagine everyone involved in the customer journey inputting every transaction, conversation, project milestone, payment date, and support questions — with everything attached to one record. When you empower your teams to answer any customer and project question with the most up-to-date information, your customers feel more confident in the work you deliver and their relationship to your business.
Harmonize your financial processes
Your company’s financial health and ability to budget accurately across the project life cycle depend on a steady billing schedule. Regularly invoicing customers helps them stay up to date on projects and budgets, and reduces confusion and questions. To avoid discrepancies or cumbersome steps that slow down customer payments, ensure that you have flexible billing systems and processes that support your various revenue streams without requiring manual, duplicate entries in multiple systems. Offer a seamless billing experience from the time an opportunity closes all the way to delivery, billing, payment, renewal, and revenue recognition.
Leverage the right technology
Overall, you must evaluate your systems and processes to ensure they will help you meet your goals and keep the project management lifecycle fluid. For the services delivery world, professional services automation (PSA) solutions connected to a CRM have become the lifeblood of many top enterprise services organization organisation giving them increased visibility, flexible, streamlined business processes, and unparalleled efficiencies across the project lifecycle delivery to billing and revenue recognition.
Project management in modern times
As project-based work grows in size and scope, services organizations are finding it difficult to scale and adjust their processes to address the increasing complexity of project management and the project lifecycle. There are now more outside partners and subcontractors, external billing factors, and new revenue streams to reconcile. The administrative burden of managing the additional activity increases, while the business pressures to protect margins, reduce inefficiencies, and optimize resource utilization intensifies.
Customer experience has also become more critical. We live in a customer-led economy, where renewals are a major revenue driver and indicator of company success. Your teams need to deliver high levels of service, have swift answers to customer questions, and provide real-time project and financial information. This presents a challenge, given that many organizations do not have systems or processes to deliver against these expectations.
Digital collaboration, which seamlessly connects all those involved, depends on robust processes, adequate governance, and an agile technology platform upon which it can take place. Unfortunately, legacy systems often consist of a tangle of tools that are difficult to use, not easily integrated, and, as a consequence, poorly adopted by users. They are also typically complex to maintain, costly to support, and may not conform to modern security requirements. The alternative is a modern digital platform.
A community to support every stage of the project life cycle
With an agile cloud technology platform, it’s much easier to bring all your stakeholders together into a single, secure online community as a central hub for project life cycle management. Ideally, your professional services automation (PSA) solution provides a community offering built in as part of the offering. Such a workspace should serve as a secure, central hub for customers, partners, and service teams to collaborate across every aspect of project planning and delivery. It will require a number of key characteristics in order to be effective:
- Document sharing - upload, share, and collaborate on all project-related documents as one team
- Personalization - offer role-specific functionality and access rights so everyone sees what’s most relevant to them
- Mobile enablement - ensure project updates are timely, information can be accessed when needed, and questions can be answered on the spot
- Self-service - capture partner time, expenses, and budgets for visibility into full project cost
- Social tools - prompt real-time discussions and provide timely updates
- Schedule visibility - see partner availability, utilization, and schedules
- Brand alignment - easily make it a natural extension of your customer and partner experience
Service organizations using communities experienced:
53% + increased customer retention
40% + increased sales
40% + increased the speed of delivery
Forrester Research: A Total Economic Impact (TEI) study examining the impact of communities
How will communities help you manage the project lifecycle by role?
The right community should provide all stakeholders - in or outside your firm - with access to the most relevant, real-time information, reports, and project plans. It should be where all work is tracked and project metrics are easily produced. Additionally, a community workspace should have specific benefits and functions depending on your role within service delivery. We explain these unique benefits here.
At the heart of any successful project life cycle is a governance model controlled and managed by the project manager. A community solution serves as a powerful tool to support that, with project managers benefiting most from:
- Visibility - In a community, project managers have all project-related information at their fingertips: project activities, resources, plans, risks, budgets, and costs. They get real-time access to the information needed to make the right decisions at the right time as well as more easily evaluate the contributions and commitments of customers, partners, and contractors.
- Quality of delivery - A community helps project managers stay in control of project management, quality of delivery, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. The right community will make it easy to launch project-related queries, investigate issues, and speed up resolution. It allows for timely entry and access of project, billing, and expense information. It will also minimize the risk of problems such as billing errors and revenue leakage, and help ensure project margins are not compromised.
- Team engagement - A project manager is not just responsible for driving the project. They also have to ensure that the working environment is healthy and productive. This can be tricky when you have contractors working outside of your organization. A community solution provides a platform to deliver and facilitate a healthy “one team” ethos, creating a culture of collaboration, sharing, open engagement, and fun. For consultants, these are often the ingredients for higher levels of job satisfaction, personal motivation, and productivity.
Services executives and VPs
The prime reason for services leaders and company executives to deploy a community solution is to optimize customer experiences and business outcomes, and to improve key corporate metrics.
- Customer experience - Improved processes efficiencies along with real-time collaboration and increased visibility all lead to increased customer satisfaction. What follows is an improved net promoter score (NPS), elevated customer retention, and increased wallet share.
- Actionable insights - By building a more complete view of the customer within the community and connecting this data to other business analytics, services leaders gain a new level of insight to help drive business improvement and growth. Leaders might spot opportunities for process efficiency or a potential new product or service offerings, and/or achieve new insights on how to increase win rates.
- Visibility: Improved visibility of information, process efficiency and enhanced collaboration will all translate into tangible improvements in customer satisfaction. In the longer term improved and more productive working relationships will help to drive customer loyalty, increase net promoter score (NPS), better customer retention, additional revenue and, as a consequence, improved customer lifetime value and wallet share.
Beyond simply keeping customers informed about the inner workings and updates on projects, communities delivers a wealth of other benefits for customers.
- Cloud-based delivery - A core benefit is that a cloud-based community solution requires little if any resources to support, allowing legacy systems to be removed and saving on costs.
- Real-time data - A community solution provides customers with real-time access to the latest information, including project status reports and invoices. Because this is the same information shared with the whole project team, it will be both timely and accurate. This improves communication across the whole team and enables faster decisions.
- Engagement - Effective collaboration tools facilitate sharing of information and ideas, fostering a climate of inclusion and creativity. This will deliver both improved business outcomes and a more congenial and effective working environment.
- Common systems - As a single, self-service environment, a community helps administrative activities get done faster and smarter. Self-service also encourages process efficiency, increased user adoption, and reduced incidence of errors.
Partners and contractors
A community solution also delivers a number of similar benefits for partners, contractors, and other parties involved in the successful delivery and management of the project life cycle.
Time and expenses - Partners can enter time and expenses right into the community, instantly linking it to a project. Work is tracked, project metrics are easily produced, and margins and budgets are easier to protect. The scope for errors is also dramatically reduced.
Faster billing - A community solution also makes it easier for partners to enter and generate their invoices as quickly as work is completed. They will get paid faster, costs are reflected in budgets faster, and project managers have all the information they need for reporting and customer billing
Working as one team - Partners may be working hard on a project, but if they’re not fully connected to the rest of the team, they could end up feeling isolated, leading to disengagement and a dip in productivity. Having a shared collaboration platform helps avoid this problem by offering partners the opportunity to engage and contribute their unique expertise, helping the individual, the project, and the business.
New opportunities - A community provides partners with visibility into future opportunities they may be interested in undertaking. If these contractors have delivered well in the past and have contributed to the team, then this is an obvious win-win situation.
Streamline project management with the #1 PSA solution on Salesforce
FinancialForce Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the #1 Salesforce-native PSA empowering services organizations to manage projects, customers, partners, and financials from a single, unified system on Salesforce. By connecting your PSA to your CRM, you can see everything that’s happening across services delivery, including project status, potential risks, resource demand, customer interactions, and more.
- Get full pipeline, project, and resource availability
- Speed up project creation and get deeper project insights
- Improve sales and services handoff
- Make data-driven decisions with embedded analytics
- Empower road warriors with built-in mobile and social
- Get a complete view of project financial health
What makes project management better with FinancialForce?
Unlike other PSA systems, FinancialForce extends the value of your existing Salesforce applications, including CRM, CPQ, and Einstein. Consistently ranked the #1 professional services automation software, FinancialForce PSA gives you unprecedented visibility into your business across sales, services, and finance. Keep projects on time, customers happy, and reports up to date–all on the leading business cloud platform from Salesforce.
It’s about the customer
Great project managers excel at managing customer expectations and communicating with them throughout the process. They also keep close oversight on client tasks that are critical to the project. FinancialForce PSA provides a range of options to help you communicate with your customers and include them as part of the project, ranging from portal access, customer communities and automated status reporting.
One team, one tool
Companies with greater project visibility achieve higher win rates, utilization, and services margins. With sales, services, and finance teams all using Salesforce-native systems, you’ll get better visibility into services pipeline, resource demand, and other critical project data.
Optimize your customer and partner interactions with PSA Communities. As your project management hub, PSA Communities lets you share project-related information and status updates, get time and expenses entered straight into the system, and keep track of critical financial data.
Project management on the Salesforce Platform
Natively built on the Salesforce Platform, FinancialForce PSA gives you the scalability and flexibility of the world’s #1 cloud platform. So instead of maintaining your IT stack, you can focus on serving customers and growing the business.