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Project Life Cycle vs Product Life Cycle

Project Life Cycle vs Product Life Cycle

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out all of our post on PMP Concepts Learning Series.

Designed to help those that are preparing to take the PMP or CAPM Certification Exam, each post within this series presents a comparison of common concepts that appear on the PMP and CAPM exams.

Project Life Cycle vs Product Life Cycle

Although the PMP and CAPM exams will be testing your knowledge of project management, it is possible that you will be asked the difference between a project life cycle and the product life cycle. Although they both have sequential phases, there are some distinct differences.

Project Life Cycle

The project life cycle consists of the defined project phases which are usually identified and documented within the organization’s project management methodology. Dividing the project into phases allows for increased control by the organization. These phases are sequential and usually overlapping.

Project life cycles will vary based on the industry, the organization, or even the type of project that is being conducted. There are usually transitions between the phases that require some type of handoff or information or component transfer.

Generally speaking, staffing levels and costs are low at the beginning of the project life cycle and then peak during the middle. Risk, or uncertainty, however, is greater at the beginning of the project life cycle and decreases as the project becomes increasingly defined.

Each project life cycle produces only one project.

Example - Project Life Cycle:

J&M Bank has authorized a project to design a new concierge service to their most loyal customers. The project will have six phases, based on the company’s project management methodology: Analysis, Design, Development, Test, Launch, and Close.

The project will be developed iteratively and there are deliverables required for each phase. Initially, the project will have five team members, but as the project moves into Design and Development, the project team will expand to more than 30 team members.

Product Life Cycle

The product life cycle reflects the phases involved in any type of product: a cell phone, a laptop, a TV, a children’s toy, an appliance. Regardless of the product, the product life cycle has the same sequential, but non-overlapping phases:

  • Ideation
  • Creation
  • Introduction
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Decline
  • Retirement

The product life cycle can include multiple project life cycles.

Example - Product Life Cycle:

A project undertaken to build a new cell phone is only a piece of the product life cycle. Prior to beginning the project, there was most likely a business plan and market research from which the idea for the new phone generated.

The project life cycle would encompass the actual building of the new phone, but once the phone is complete, it is released to operations for sales and marketing and order fulfillment.

As technology advances and consumer preferences change, the cell phone will mature, decline and eventually be retired. Retirement would potentially drive multiple projects to remove the cell phone from inventory, change company collateral and complete other activities associated with the product retirement.


The project life cycle differs by industry, organization, project type and encompasses sequential and overlapping phases.

The product life cycle does not differ regardless of the type of product, has sequential but non-overlapping phases, and may include multiple project life cycles.

See all posts in our PMP Concepts Learning Series

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