Understanding the Characteristics of the Project
|Steven Ee, CFM
In today’s global competition, organizations continue to
improve their working environments, as a strategy for
sustaining a competitive advantage or as a way of responding to
changes before competitors. These continuous improvements and
changes are brought about through the implementation of
construction projects, relocation projects and facilities
improvement programs. The complexity of projects is increasing,
which places greater demand on facility management teams.
Facility managers, therefore, are faced with greater challenges
today causing a greater need for skills and knowledge in
project management. To be effective, facility managers must be
able to utilize technical knowledge, as well as knowledge about
implementing successful projects.
Projects are temporary undertakings by organizations set to
achieve specific goals within a specified time, cost and
requirements. Projects are initiated to implement needed
changes. Thus, project management is an important methodology
to carry out such desired changes as reducing risk factors and
implementing changes in an effective and efficient manner. If
mismanaged, a project may result in low morale, poor
productivity, ineffectiveness or even a high turnover rate. It
is important to understand that a project is a process
comprised of different phases, commonly know as the Project
Life Cycle. Projects are unlike ongoing business activities
such as routine maintenance and operation because projects
typically involve risk and uncertainty due to the uniqueness of
the undertaking, complexity, use of limited resources, time and
From the facility management perspective, to ensure that
facilities receive the best value and quality for the
investment by an organization or stakeholders, adequate
understanding of the phases of a project is needed by facility
management professionals in order to plan and manage throughout
There are many names to the various phases of a project by
different authors and professionals. For facility management
professionals, it is sufficient to appreciate that the phases
of a project comprised of four main phases, using the acronym
C-D-E-F, namely the Conceptual Phase, Design Phase, Execution
Phase and Finishing Phase.
The Conceptual Phase includes idea generation; the initiation
and roll out of the project; the completion of a feasibility
study; and defining the purpose of the intended project. This
is the first phase and its main task is primarily to evaluate
the proposed project aroused from a recognized need,
opportunity or problem in relating to the realization of an
organization’s strategic objectives.
The Development Phase involves planning, designing and
appraising the concept of the project. During this phase, the
management will appoint a project manager and key members to
participate in the project. The activities in this phase
involve the development of the works, such as scope, tasks,
resources, budget and cash-flows, creation of a timeline, and
other activities that need to be undertaken to successfully
achieve the planned project.
The Execution Phase involves implementation, management,
control and construction of the project. The activities
include: setting up the project organization; producing
detailed documentation; procuring materials and services; and
organizing, directing and controlling the project activities
toward accomplishing the project’s purpose and objectives.
The Finishing Phase is the final phase of a Project Life Cycle
where the project will be completed, tested and commissioned,
then closed-out and handed over to the client or main
stakeholder. This phase marks the finalization of the
The activities may include: checklists of outstanding work;
ending the contracts; transferring of the project and
responsibility to client or stakeholder who is the end-user;
post-completion review, evaluation and feedback, disbanding the
project team, a final statement of account; and commencing the
defect liability obligations.
The phase of a project represents the completion of one or more
deliverables and identifies the technical works and other
activities needed in each of the phases.
Characteristics of the Project Life Cycle
Cost and staffing levels
The concentration of cost and staffing are slight at the
beginning, increasing toward the completion and decreasing
rapidly toward the finishing of the project.
The ability to control costs and add value to the project’s
output is at its greatest during the Conceptual Phase and at
its least during the Finishing Phase.
Probability of project success
At the start of the project, the chance of successfully
completing the project is lowest; therefore, the risk and
uncertainty are highest. The likelihood of successful
completion generally gets progressively higher as the project
Potential savings and cost to change
As a project progresses, the cost of alteration or addition
increases. The earlier in the project life cycle that errors
are identified, the cheaper they are to correct. As the project
progresses, the ability to achieve savings diminishes.
Similarly, the cost to change increases as the project
progresses through the Project Life Cycle.
Ability of stakeholders’ influence
Generally, at the start of the project, the stakeholders are
able to influence the final characteristics of the project’s
outcome and the final cost of the project.
Uncertainty and financial commitment
The level of uncertainty and risk is highest during the
Conceptual and Development Phases and, as more information
about the project is known, it will gradually be reduced
through the Execution Phase. Unlike financial commitment, it is
usually lower during the initial phases and much higher during
the Execution Phase.
Production of information
The information developed during the Conceptual and Development
Phases will be used in the Execution and Finishing Phases.
Thus, it is important to ensure that the project management
information system and communication plans are established
In today’s dynamic and competitive business environment, many
organizations are realizing the importance of project
management. Project management has appeared as a trend in the
continuing performance improvement in organizations. Therefore,
it is important for facility management professionals to
understand the phases of the Project Life Cycle, its
characteristics and implications in carrying out the functions
of project management.
About the Author
Steven Ee, CFM, is a member of the Singapore Chapter of IFMA.
He is a Registered Safety Officer and Fire Safety Manager with
the Singapore governing bodies. He is currently a Facilities,
Plant and Services Manager with a German MNC. Ee lectures at
the offshore academic programs offered by Curtin University of
Technology and Heroit Watt University. Ee’s e-mail is
Steven Ee, CFM
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