September 15, 2015 | by Wayne Smith

Construction Project Management Part V

Initiation & Planning Phases

This article will briefly address the first two phases of the classic four-phase project management model – initiation and planning. The next article will complete the four phases by addressing the execution and close-out phases.

Classic Project Phases

There are four classic project management phases. These phases are the initiation and approval, planning, execution, and close-out. Every project should progress through each of these phases. However, the amount of time and resources dedicated to each phase may vary drastically depending upon the type of project. One should resist the natural inclination to think about these phases monolithically especially when considering different types of projects.

Initiation and Approval

The ultimate purpose and objective of this phase is to define the project and obtain authorization for it. This process may be quick and straight forward or drawn-out and complex depending upon the size and nature of the organization and the other related factors. Typically, these activities include feasibility studies, basic project scope, deliverables, duration and forecast for financial analysis. One may assume that building a standard cookie-cutter type cell site would make this phase short and sweet. This may not be the case because of the feasibility activities. These include finding an acceptable site, obtaining proper easements, zoning clearances and permits. In addition, the site must pass muster with radio frequency tests, backhaul facilities, building issues, tower issues, etc. All of this can take several months. The deliverables for this cookie-cutter project should include drawings, contracts, permits, scope of work (project description, deliverables, schedule and budget, and team members), and ultimately the approval.


Planning includes all of the very important activities to design the project. If the project is a data center, this process may take as long as one year. Data center projects will include architects, construction engineers, operations, power and grounding engineering, risk assessment, environmental analysis, outside peer review and third party commissioning agents, etc. The process should go through several cycles of review as more detail is added to the design. Planning phase deliverables in this kind of project will be a project book consisting of several thousand pages of drawings, contracts, documents, etc.

In contrast, the cookie-cutter cell site project may have only a few, if any, changes depending upon the sites location and related factors. It may only take days to complete since the equipment may be prepackaged, the contractor may be very experienced, etc. Planning phase deliverables for this type of project should be a project book consisting of a complete scope of work (schedule, budget, design plans), project methodology, staffing, quality, communications plan and risk assessment.

It is imperative to use the proper software tools for both the very large complex project and the cookie-cutter project. Large projects have tens of thousands of documents to manage, distribute and review. In contrast, a project manager managing small projects may have hundreds of similar project sites with small variations. Both require the management of thousands of ever-changing documents and many people.

Part VI will address the execution and close-out project phases of the project.