Project Life Cycle vs Product Life Cycle

Project & Product Life Cycle

To start with, there can be more than one project life cycles in one product life cycle.

The project life cycle & the product life cycle are quite confusing terms but are significantly different from each other.

I will try to cover both with graphs to make it more clear and easy to understand for you.

Project Life Cycle

By definition, projects are planned to produce one product and as soon as the product is handed over to the production project is over.

Regardless of the nature of the project, the principles of project management will always be the same. The life cycle of a project can be multi-phase and every phase itself can have many activities from the five process groups:Project Management Life Cycle.

  • Initiation: Project charter is developed and project stakeholders are identified
  • Planning: Project plan is developed during this phase
  • Execution: Real-time project work is done in this phase
  • Monitoring & controlling: Monitoring & control happens throughout the complete project in order to control and avoid any possible deviation
  • Closing: final deliverable along with all requirements is handed over and the project is closed.

The important thing to be noted here is that a project will not always be a part of the product life cycle. Like when the project deliverable is some kind of service or result.

Main Characteristics of the Project life cycle

The following are few main characteristics of a project life cycle:

  • The probability of risk is highest at the start of a project and decreases as the project is progressed.
  • At the beginning of a project, resource requirements are at its minimum level and it peaks during the execution phase then it may decrease with the progress of a project.
  • The cost of any deviation/change in the project plan is minimum at the start and it starts increasing as the project is progressed.
  • Influence of stakeholders is highest at the start of a project and it starts decreasing as project is progressed.
  • Time and budget allocation is maximum for project execution phase.

Let’s take the example of a project where we have to develop an android phone. At first, requirements are collected from stakeholders. Once the requirements are finalized then we’ll go for a project management plan to build an android phone along with the project schedule. Then in the execution phase, its manufacturing will start. The product will be launched in the market as soon as its manufacturing is finalized. That project will be closed.

Product Life Cycle

Product life cycle is initiated as early as simple idea and lasts till the product is no more available in production and market.

The Product Life cycle can be divided into the following stages

  • Development: This phase starts from a simple idea until the product release
  • Introduction: Once the development is concluded, the product is launched in the market for sales
  • Growth: Product sales start increasing
  • Maturity: Product is widespread in the market and sale numbers are its peak
  • Retirement: All the existing inventory are sold in the market and its production of the product is closed mostly due to change in market trend/requirements.

All these phases exist in sequence as stated above and can’t be overlapped. There is no time limitation for any of the product life cycle phases stated above. Depending upon the products, the product life cycle can be one year and for some others, it could be 20 years.

Project life cycle can be a subset of Product life cycle but vice versa isn’t true. A product life cycle can have many project life cycles.

Let’s take an example of a product life cycle for a new android smartphone. The first stage of its life cycle would be started with the inception of the idea. This will include feasibility study, market trends and then a business plan. A project can be initiated as soon as these activities are completed. Once the project is concluded with the development of a new smartphone, the next product life cycle of sales and marketing will be started. And then during the retirement phase product will be sold may be at discounted rates to support its decreasing sales numbers. Please note that if there comes a requirement to change product features during the life cycle of a project, then there will be a new project initiated with targeted deliverables.

Differences b/w Project Life Cycle & Product Life Cycle

Following are the main differences between project life cycle and product life cycle

  • Product life cycle is always longer than that of a project.
  • The product life cycle may or may not end compared to the project life cycle which always has a definite end.
  • Project life cycle can be a small part of bigger product life cycle.
  • The product life cycle mostly starts from the inception of an idea and can have a conceptual road map whereas the road-map of a project have a clear and defined path.
  • Phases of the project life cycle usually overlap with each other whereas phases in the product life cycle are always in sequential order and can never overlap.
  • There can be a chance of repetition in project life cycle phases but the same isn’t true for phases in product life cycle.
  • There can be more than one project life cycles in one product life cycle.


To summarize the discussion, the project life cycle and product life cycle are somewhat related to each other in some of the cases but are different from each other. The project life cycle can be a part of the product life cycle and there can be more than one project life cycle in the product life cycle but the same is not true for the project life cycle.

One Small Request:

Being a Project Management guy, I know how little time we have to play around on the internet. But if you have found this information useful then please share it to your colleague so that more people can get benefit from it. If you have any question then comment below and I am glad to take it.

Read More in Detail: Project Management Life Cycle

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