The Project Life Cycle is the process of developing in which the project is moving gradually through a series of stages of development. It is the method or methodology used for managing the project, or in other words, the actions and/or work that need to occur in order to produce the deliverables of the project.

The factors that determine the direction of a project’s lifecycle can be based on a number of factors including the type of product, developmental requirements, industry, and organizational preferences.

Three Types of Project Life Cycles:

  • Plan-Driven Project Life Cycle
  • Change-Driven Project Life Cycle
  • Hybrid-Driven Project Life Cycle

Plan-Driven Project Life Cycle

The Plan-Driven project life cycle, also referred to as a traditional life cycle or waterfall, can have a predictive development life cycle which requires, before work begins on the production of deliverables, a detailed scope of the work, a breakdown of costs, schedule, and timeline in which deliverables are expected to be completed. For example, a software upgrade project that includes a scope, schedule, and detailed breakdown of costs and deliverables is using a predictive life cycle.

Change-Driven Project Life Cycle

The Change-Driven project life cycle is an adaptive (agile) development lifecycle and is also referred to as an iterative lifecycle or an incremental lifecycle. The planning and deliverables, when using this approach, vary in the areas of scope planning, management of costs, schedules, and delivery timelines. High-level planning is conducted during early planning to allow for preliminary estimates of time and costs to be determined.

The scope is developed in increments with each iteration and with each iteration, a complete, usable portion of the product is delivered. For example, a project to build a new website would typically include planning its architecture, writing code, implementing the code, testing the code, testing usability, finalizing the final version, and release.    

Hybrid-Driven Project Life Cycle

The Hybrid-Driven project cycle is a combination of the plan-driven project life cycle (predictive) and the change-driven project life cycle (adaptive). The predictive life cycle is used to manage well-defined project requirements and the adaptive life cycle is used to managed less-defined project requirements. This hybrid approach is used when the requirements of a project require both methods.

When deciding on the type of development cycle that would be the best fit for a project, be sure to consider the nature of the project including its other factors such as intended outcome, deliverables, industry, and organizational preferences.

It is important to understand the role and responsibility of the Project Manager and that it is his or her responsibility to tailor project management practices to fit the needs of the project and the organization. It is not unusual to modify techniques, concepts and processes to fit the needs and characteristics of the project and its organization.


PMP Exam Prep: Accelerated Learning to Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam

By Rita Mulcahy

Rita Mulcahy, PMP, is an international expert in project management “Tricks of the Trade,” and best practices with over 15 years and $2.5 billion of hands-on experience. She has taught over 4,500 project managers from around the world and is the President of RMC – Project Management, a project management training, consulting and speaking firm helping companies use project management tools and techniques to complete projects faster, cheaper, better, and with fewer resources. >> Learn More!