On the Subject of Project Life Cycles


In Response to July Letter to Editor by Piney

and June Article by Smith



21 July 2023

Ref Piney, C. (2023). On the Subject of Project Life Cycle Terminology, Letter to the Editor, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VII, July https://pmworldjournal.com/article/on-project-life-cycle-terminology

Ref: Smith, K. F. (2023). Project Life Cycle * Sophie’s Choice: What’s in a Word? Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/pmwj130-Jun2023-Smith-project-life-cycle-sophies-choice-2.pdf

Dear David, Kik, Dr. Ken, and Interested Subscribers:

I would go on the record and challenge the definitions of “life cycle” and “life span” terminology Kik Piney and Dr. Ken Smith used in their respective articles AND to clarify the confusion between the names of the Asset Life Span PHASES and the PROCESS GROUPINGS, which unfortunately, share similar names and are frequently confused.

According to Merriam-Webster, life SPAN refers to the average duration of an individual’s existence or the period during which something exists, lasts, or is in progress, while Merriam-Webster defines life CYCLE to be:

  1. The course of developmental changes through which an organism passes from its inception through the stage at which it reproduces.
  2. A progression through a series of differing stages of development.
  3. The span of a product’s existence from its initial development through the period of marketing and active use to eventual obsolescence.

Referencing PMI’s PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition, they define a “Project” as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result with a definite beginning and end.”

And Max Wideman, in his Comparative Dictionary of Project Management Terms, offers us 30+ definitions of “Project” against which to test my hypothesis and analysis.

Despite PMI and many people treating these two terms as being synonymous, referencing the definitions above, which graphic shown in Figure 1 below most completely or accurately describes the life span of a “PROJECT”?  Or the life span of an “ASSET?”

(FWIW, Max Wideman supports my research and professional opinion on this topic)

Figure 1- Examples of Life CYCLES vs. Life SPANS[1]

Not to complicate the issue, but if we reference any decent Engineering Economics textbook, we find that in the context of applied Asset Management, there are 4 different “lives” we have to consider:[2]

  • Economic life is the period of time (years) that results in the minimum equivalent uniform annual cost (EUAC) of owning and operating an asset. If we assume good

asset management, economic life should coincide with the period of time extending from the date of acquisition to the date of abandonment, demotion in use, or

replacement from the primary intended service.

  • Ownership life is the period between the date of acquisition and the date of

disposal by a specific owner. A given asset may have different use categories by the owner during this period. For example, a car may serve as the primary family car for several years and then serve only for local commuting for several more years.

  • Physical life is the period between an asset’s original acquisition and final disposal over its succession of owners. For example, the car just described may have several owners over its existence.
  • Useful life is the time period (years) that an asset is kept in productive service (either primary or backup). It estimates how long an asset is expected to be used in a trade or business to produce income.

Figure 2 below is a graphic that originated around 1955 with either Esso or Diamond Shamrock Oil that shows the relationship between the ASSET lifespan and the PROJECT lifespan.


To read entire Letter to the Editor, click here

Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo

Jakarta, Indonesia


How to cite this work: Giammalvo, P.D. (2023). On the Subject of Project Life Cycles, In Response to July Letter to Editor by Piney and June Article by Smith, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/pmwj132-Aug2023-Giammalvo-in-response-to-Piney-and-Smith-on-project-life-cycles.pdf

[1] Giammalvo, P.D. (2021). The Bigger Picture: Project Life Cycles from a Broader, Real-World Perspective; Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VI, June. https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/pmwj106-Jun2021-Giammalvo-the-bigger-picture-commentary.pdf

[2] Engineering Economy, 17 Edition Sullivan, Wickes and Koelling Chapter 9, page 424 https://www.textbooks.com/Engineering-Economy-17th-Edition/9780134870069/William-G-Sullivan-Elin-M-Wicks-and-C-Patrick-Koelling.php