How many life cycles are there?

A few days ago we published this post “Why project planning is not a project phase“. That post generated a reader question asking us about the differences between project life cycle and project management life cycle, which led to another post. This later post is generating a great of discussions on online groups so we decided to do this post on life cycles.

These text are also from our upcoming book on Redefining the Basics of Project Management.

How many life cycles

We have no idea:-).

We are familiar with these terms:

  • Project Life Cycle
  • Project Management Life Cycle
  • Product Life Cycle
  • Life Cycle Cost
  • Team Life Cycle
  • and possibly many others …

We discussed the first two points in the recent post. Today we will define the terms “product” and product life cycle and leave other terms for another day.

Defining the term Product

Before explaining the term ‘product life cycle’, we will examine the word ‘product’. Let us start with a question that introduces a scenario, which we will use throughout this chapter.

The scenario is a project to build a water bottling plant. What is the product?

There is a chance that your answer is: “water bottles.”

However, we have presented you a trick question. Your deep knowledge of product and project management will lead you to seek clarification and respond:

“Not sure, are you talking about the product of the project or the product of the plant? If it is product of the plant then it is bottled water but if you mean the product of the project then it is the plant itself – the physical facility.”

That is a great answer!

In this regard, the product of the project is the plant facility. This facility, once operational, will deliver the consumer product, which in the scenario will be the bottled water.

So with this understanding of the word ‘product’, what is the ‘product life cycle’?

Product Life Cycle

There are plenty of publications on this topic and we encourage you to seek them out for more in-depth knowledge. The product life cycle extends across the whole life of the product regardless of what the product is. In this context, the product is the output that the project delivers to the organization. It can be a software application, a book, a new organizational system, or as in the scenario, a water bottling plant.

Product Life CycleThe product life cycle is a time span from the moment when the idea for the product is identified until the dissolution of the product in one way or another, in other words, the end of its useful life. This useful life could be a few years for a software application or a car model or decades for physical facilities such as buildings and plants.

Throughout the duration of a useful life, there are shorter periods called phases of the product life cycle. These are product life phases and not project or CAM2P™ phases, as we will outline below.

“OK, English now please!”

A return to the water bottling plant scenario will assist in making this clear; follow these steps:

  1. Say you are an investor and have an idea to build a water bottling plant. Your geographical area does not have one and you believe there is a market for it. This is the idea for the product, and it is, coincidentally, the idea for the project. The starting point of the product life cycle and the project (investment opportunity) is here.
  2. Your team would study the idea (investment opportunity) through a feasibility study. If the project is feasible, you (the investor) will likely go ahead with the project (pursue the opportunity) and progress through the project development and delivery phases, per a model like CAM2P™. At completion of the project, the plant is built, handed over to operations, and started normal operations.

So far, the product life cycle and project life span are essentially overlapping but they are not the same. With project acceptance (at the CAM2P™ stage gate 7), the project team closes the project ending the project life span while the product life continues.

In the context of the product life cycle, the ‘project’ is what we call the ‘acquisition phase’ of the product life cycle.

At the end of the product life cycle’s acquisition phase, operations will have to operate and maintain the facility for its useful life.

Based on the above, we can define, simplistically, that the product life cycle has two phases: acquisition and operations. The transition point between them is the product acceptance, although operations involvement starts pre-handover. A project, such as construction of a manufacturing plant, could last two to three years. However, operations can continue for 20 or 30 years.

Product Life Cycle: Text Perspective

In the previous topic, we split the product life cycle into two phases: acquisition phase and operation phase. This was an oversimplification. Most literature on product life cycle defines it as a cycle of five phases with the following common names applied to these phases:

  1. Development: from idea/concept, acquisition, and even initial operations
  2. Introduction of the new product to market
  3. Growth of the product, enhanced operation of a facility
  4. Maturity: good production system, product well known in the market
  5. Decline: building/plant too old, costs more to operate maintain than would be justified, product losing its value …

Activities within, and drivers for each of these phases, will differ depending on the nature of the product. In general, an organization could deliver numerous projects during the product life cycle and its phases. For example, during the growth phase there could be projects to expand the facilities and increase production. There could be maintenance projects during any of the phases. At the end of useful life, there could be a project to dismantle the plant or shut it down.

 Hope this will give you enough information, let us know what you think!