What are the differences between project phases and stages?

We recently had the honor to have Mr. R. Max Wideman publish a guest paper for us with the title, Redefining Project Management; which we are re-publishing as a series of blog articles. This is third article in the series.

Project Phases and Stages

In a previous post, we discussed the terms Project Life Cycle and Project Life Span, two terms that we often use to refer to a project life from idea to closure. Which is the correct term? We really do not know since there is a major split in the opinions of project management practitioners on the right terminology. In the SUKAD project management methodology, we use the Project Life Span term since in our humble opinion it is the more representative term.

In today’s article, we address project phases and stages. We will also touch on the methodology that we have developed since it involves both terms and which we shall demonstrate in a specific example later in this series of articles.

Phase or Stage

For better control, we divide the project life span into time segments that we commonly graphically represent per the image below.

Typical-Project-Life-Span

Figure 1: Typical Project Life Span

While we typically refer to these time segments as phases, others refer to these time segments as stages. North American English speakers prefer phase, with a stage as a subset of phase. However, UK English speakers prefer stage at this level.

Phases

In the SUKAD project management methodology, (CAM2P™), we actually use phase and stage as two independent items. In CAM2P™ we use the term phase to refer to three major time segments that span the project from start to finish and we believe are universal (although some might use different names for the phases) and cross many industries and application areas.

Project-Phases-According-to-CAM2P

Figure 2: Project Phases according to CAM2P™ model

These phases are:

  • The Project Concept Phase (from idea to authorization)
  • The Project Development Phase (from authorization to detailed plan; final approval)
  • The Project Delivery Phase (from final approval to closure)

Stages

In the CAM2P™ Model we also use the term stage to refer to six-time segments that span the project from start to finish. These stages (sub-phases) can significantly overlap. These stages could be adjusted (merged, expanded, etc.) to better reflect the specific industry or application area of the project. In other words, they can be adjusted through ‘customizing and adapting the model’.

Project-Phases-and-Stages

Figure 3: Project Phases and Stages according to CAM2P™ model

The stages are:

  • The Project Pre-Launch Stage (this is matching the concept phase)
  • The Project Launch Stage (from authorization to project management plan)
  • The Project Definition Stage (from project management plan to final commitment)
  • The Project Implementation Stage (from final commitment to handover)
  • The Project Operation Readiness Stage (in parallel to implementation and expand to project acceptance; could even start before implementation)
  • The Project Close Stage (from handover to closure)

 Closing Comments

The CAM2P™ Model is not unique; many other organizations have their own internal project management methodologies that are similar to the above but using different terms.

With this article and the previous one, we have defined a project life span model that we will use for comparison with the PMBOK process groups; in future articles.

In the next post we will discuss, the PMI process groups.