Project implementation: definition and a step-by-step guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The implementation phase of a project is when the project team puts the project plan into action to complete its objectives. Depending on the type of project, this phase can involve building, installing, testing and modifying. Project implementation can be challenging as it requires coordination among team members and with stakeholders. In this article, we define what project implementation is, see who it involves, explain why it's important and provide seven steps for implementing a project to successfully meet the project's goals.

Related: 8 types of project deliverables (definitions and examples)

What is project implementation?

Project implementation, or project execution, is the phase during a project's lifecycle that brings into reality the deliverables outlined in the project plan. A deliverable refers to anything tangible the project intends to deliver. The implementation stage comes after project planning and before project closure. Implementing projects is frequently the most enjoyable stage for project managers and their teams, as it's during this phase that their plans begin to materialise.

The work involved in implementing a project usually falls into two categories: execution and monitoring. Execution is the work involved to deliver the project's outputs as outlined in the project plan. Monitoring helps to ensure that any risks or issues are identified and addressed in a timely manner and that progress stays on track.

Related: Project scheduling: definition, benefits, formats and steps

The importance of project execution

The success or failure of any given project often hinges on its implementation. Project execution can be a complex process, and it's common for unforeseen issues to arise that have the potential to jeopardize the project's outcome. All projects need some level of planning to ensure a smooth and successful implementation. Without proper planning, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone involved in implementing the project knows what to do and that they take all the necessary steps.

Related: 13 milestones in project management (with definitions)

Who to involve in the implementation phase of a project

The implementation phase of a project requires a high level of coordination and communication with all those involved in it. Depending on the size and complexity of a project, this may include:

  • Project manager: The project manager is responsible for the overall coordination and execution of the project.

  • Project team: The project team consists of individuals who are directly involved in delivering the project's outputs.

  • Clients: A client is an individual or organisation that has commissioned the project.

  • Key stakeholders: Key stakeholders are individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the project's success or failure.

  • Project sponsor: The project sponsor is the individual or group that provides the financial resources for the project.

  • External suppliers: External suppliers are individuals or businesses who provide goods or services to the project.

Related: Exploring the role of stakeholders, with various examples

Planning for project execution

Taking the time to create a project execution plan can greatly increase the chance of a successful outcome. This document outlines the steps needed to implement a project. A well thought-out implementation plan can serve as a guide for those involved in executing the project. The size, complexity and specific needs of a project dictate the specific details of the implementation plan. Regardless of their size and unique requirements, most implementation plans include:

  • a timeline of when each activity is to take place

  • details of who is responsible for each activity

  • milestones and deadlines

  • the resources required for each activity

  • budget and stakeholder information

  • risks and potential issues

  • how progress is to be monitored

Related: 7 of the best project management books for you to read

7 steps of project execution

Here are seven steps to help you successfully implement your project:

1. Review the project plan

Reviewing the project plan helps to ensure that everyone on the team has a good understanding of the project deliverables and how to achieve them. If a project team is unclear on the project objectives, scope creep is a real possibility. Scope creep refers to changes and additions to a project during its implementation phase that were not originally included in the project plan. Reviewing the project plan before implementation can allow for any final adjustments to be made which can help to avoid scope creep.

Related: What is integrated project management? (with a step-by-step guide)

2. Assemble the project team

The project manager is usually responsible for selecting individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to form the project's team. The project manager might appoint team leaders to oversee work in various areas of the project and report back to them. Bringing the team together before implementation provides the opportunity for team members to solidify their understanding of the project's objectives and meet each other.

Related: Project manager requirements (with duties and skills)

3. Establish communication channels

Communication channels can include face-to-face meetings, weekly team calls and communication via project management software. Establishing effective communication channels at the start of a project is important for keeping everyone up-to-date on project developments. Doing this also helps ensure that team members know who to contact with questions or concerns.

4. Work on the project deliverables

With the team assembled and communication channels established, it's time to start executing the plan. During implementation, the project manager is responsible for monitoring progress and ensuring the project remains on track. Update the project's key stakeholders regularly on progress and flag any potential risks or issues that may impact the project.

5. Monitor progress and make adjustments as needed

It's the project manager's responsibility to monitor progress and make adjustments as needed. This might include solving issues that arise and making changes to meet additional requests and changes to the schedule or budget. Communicate any changes to the project to the team and stakeholders throughout the implementation process.

Related: Project monitoring: importance and how to do it effectively

6. Celebrate project milestones

Celebrating the completion of milestones as the project progresses can help to keep team morale high. This can be especially beneficial for long or complex projects. Recognising team members' hard work and the completion of milestones can prompt reflection on what the team has already accomplished and maintain the team's motivation to see the project through to completion.

7. Complete the project and conduct a post-implementation review

When all of the project deliverables have been completed, it's time to conduct a post-implementation review. A post-implementation review assesses whether the project's goals have been achieved and whether the project was completed within the allotted time and budget. Involve key stakeholders in this process so that you can get comprehensive feedback on the project's outcome, identify what went well and learn what could have gone better. This step is important for learning from the past and ensuring the success of future projects.

Related: How to close a project in 8 steps: a comprehensive guide

Tips for successfully implementing a project

Once you have a project execution plan, you'll need to take steps to ensure its success. Here are some tips to help you successfully implement your project:

  • Take measures to maintain communication throughout implementation. This responsibility usually falls on the project manager, but it's best to ensure the entire team is aware of the importance of communication.

  • Ensure the project's objectives are clear. This helps those involved in the implementation stage to better understand their role in achieving the project's goals.

  • Be prepared to make changes. Changes are inevitable in the implementation stage of most projects. Viewing changes as an opportunity to improve the project rather than a hindrance can help the team to embrace them.

  • Encourage transparency. Maintaining transparency throughout the project helps to build trust between the team and stakeholders and lessens the chances of misunderstandings and disappointment.

  • Make information readily available for those who need it. This includes the project manager, team members and key stakeholders. It can help to avoid confusion and save time.

  • Take advantage of project management software. Project management software can simplify the implementation process by automating tasks and providing a central repository for project information and communication.

Explore more articles