How important is planning and preparation

Project management - overview of project phases and project organization

There is hardly an employee who is not involved in projects. But what does professional project management actually include? What phases are there in a project? Which roles have to be considered in the project organization? This article gives you an overview.


Project management is a methodical approach that enables the implementation of a required project task to the greatest possible satisfaction of the interest groups (stakeholders), such as clients, project managers, project employees, customers or users, by structuring the project content and processes as well as responsibilities, competencies and objectives be clearly defined and communicated.

The use of project management controls the project with the help of coordinated and transparent activities with regard to the achievement of the performance targets, improves cost and schedule adherence, controls compliance with the planned quality requirements and, compared to project processing without project management, usually leads to lower project costs , risks and lead times.

A project can be divided into chronologically separate sections or project phases. The type of phase structure is determined by the type of project and, in particular, its complexity, so that there is no generally applicable phase model. Usually, however, there is a subdivision into the following project phases. For each of these phases there are specific project management tools, of which the most important are mentioned.

Preparing a project

The preparation phase is carried out before the start of the project and includes a situation and context analysis. For example, it is clarified what the trigger for the project is, what characterizes the current situation (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, risks) or which interest groups would be affected by the project. In some cases, it may also be necessary to carry out a feasibility study, which is often treated as a separate project or as part of the project preparation phase.

As a result of this process, the reasons for the project processing, the results to be delivered or project goals and any restrictions and framework conditions are determined. In addition, the procedure for achieving the project goal is described and an initial consideration of the risks and quality requirements as well as an assessment of the profitability are made.

It should be noted that not every project examined results in a project. The preparation phase is used to check whether a feasible and worthwhile project is available. It enables a structured start of the project, but can also lead to the avoidance of unnecessary consumption of resources if it turns out that no project is required to the expected extent.

Planning - creating the project plan

The planning phase includes the further concretisation and detailing of the considerations in the pre-project phase. The aim is to create a detailed project plan that shows the most important products / results, activities and resources of the project and describes how and when the project objectives are to be realized.

On the basis of the procedure developed in the preparation phase, decisions are made as to when, by whom and in what order and quality defined activities are to be carried out to achieve project goals.

In addition, the resources required for project processing and the corresponding costs are planned, risks are assessed and a communication plan is drawn up.

A central planning instrument and main component of the project plan is the project structure plan, which structures the project, divides it into controllable sub-projects and work packages and forms the basis for scheduling, time and cost planning.

Project implementation and control

As part of the implementation and control phase, project controlling takes on a main task in that the project progress is determined, possible deviations from the plan are recognized at an early stage and suitable countermeasures are initiated.

In addition to project controlling, an ongoing risk management system is established, which controls possible project risks in a targeted manner and avoids dangers as far as possible or curbs them by initiating appropriate measures.

Change management is closely related to risk management. Here the effects of any necessary changes on the cost, deadline and quality specifications are examined, incorporated into the planning and communicated to those involved in the project.

The internal and external communication to be carried out in this phase is intended to ensure that all those involved in the project are adequately informed about the project status at regular intervals. This information can take the form of written progress reports, project meetings, presentations or personal discussions, for example.

In order to present project progress in a transparent and comprehensible manner, all activities of a project should also be documented through the electronic or manual filing of project-relevant data and documents.

Creation of the final project report

A characteristic feature of a project is the time limit, i.e. it has a defined start and a defined end. The project is typically completed when all the requirements for the project have been met or the project is terminated prematurely.

On the basis of the project documentation, a final project report is created that contains the project description, summarizes the project results achieved and names any project follow-up actions that have been identified as well as possible improvement options for follow-up projects.

By signing the final project report, the client confirms that the project objectives have been achieved, particularly with regard to the criteria of cost, time and quality. He formally relieves the project team and the project organization is then dissolved.

Project organization and project roles

In addition to structuring the project in phases and the appropriate use of the respective tools, the success of the project also depends to a large extent on the project organization. Roles in the project are primarily the client, the project manager and the project team. Depending on the complexity of the project and specific requirements, control and decision-making bodies can be added. These typical project roles can be described as follows:

The client is the owner of the project and has overall responsibility for ensuring that the planned project results are delivered in compliance with the deadline, cost and quality specifications.

Depending on the complexity of the project, a steering committee can also be installed by company management or the client as the highest project decision-making body. He is responsible for the steering and management of the project and responsible for the success of the project. The project interests of the entrepreneur / client as well as the customers and suppliers are usually represented in the steering committee.

The project manager is authorized by the client or the steering committee to take over the project management under the given framework conditions and in compliance with the objectives.

The main task of the project manager is the planning, coordination, management, organization and control of the project in order to ensure that the required results are delivered on time, on budget and within the agreed scope.

A term often used in the project management environment is that of the sponsor. This means an internal supporter of the project from the top management level of the company who, in the capacity of a power promoter, advertises the support and acceptance of the project.

The project has to be organized internally as well as integrated into the organizational structure of the company. Usually the basic types of staff project organization, matrix project organization and pure project organization can be distinguished.

As part of the staff project organization, the project manager assumes a moderating and coordinating function, which is organizationally assigned directly to the company management as a staff unit without the authority to make decisions or give instructions.

The matrix project organization is characterized by multiple subordination in such a way that the project employees are subordinate to the project manager in terms of content and to the line manager in terms of discipline.

In the case of pure project organization, on the other hand, the project employees are organizationally outsourced from the specialist departments to an organizational unit established for the project, so that the project manager has unrestricted authority to issue instructions.


Project proposal

Project profile

Project status report


Authors: Achim Sztuka, Ralph Bernhard