How to differentiate between phase and stage?

Project Management Terminology

This article is part of a series on project management terminology and the often confusing terms that are used out of context. Today, we update and re-publish this article on how to differentiate between phase and stage. A similar article we published on how to differentiate between task and project.

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 the third article in the series.

Project Phase and Stage

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[1] term since in our humble opinion it is the more representative term.

In today’s article, we address the terms project phase and stage. 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 (project life cycle) into time segments that we commonly graphically represent per the image below.

Project Life Cycle with Phases

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.


However, in the SUKAD project management methodology, (CAM2P™) (CAMMP™) 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.

The Project Phases per CAMMP™

Figure 2: Project Phases according to CAM2P™ model

These phases are:

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


Further, 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’.


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

The stages are:

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

Closing Comments

Finally, 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 lifespan model that we will use for comparison with the PMBOK process groups.

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


[1] In the latest update of the methodology, we now use Project Life Cycle since most practitioners are familiar with this term