The 41 Top Project Management Terms That You Need To Know
During my first year working at an agency, I was overwhelmed with the amount of jargon and basic project management terms thrown around daily. My boss asked me to put together a Gantt chart to schedule our next project while team members were scheduling sprints — I basically spent that first year doing a significant amount of nodding, followed by just as much research.
Although I spent this first agency year researching and struggling with project management terms, I hope that you have found this article at the beginning of your project management journey. If you do know most of these terms, great for you! Read through the list and take it as a refresher. On the other hand, if some or all of these project management terms are new to you, bookmark this page or print out this list and use it as a reference.
Trust me — nodding your head at unfamiliar terms will only take you so far. Instead, familiarize yourself with the language of project management, and before you know it, you will be able to scrum with the best of them. While I have my favorite project management terms (yes, scrum is one of them) I wanted to lay this list out in a way that will be easy for you to reference. And what’s easier than alphabetical order?
So here you go. Here’s a list of the most commonly-used project management terms, laid out in alphabetical order.
1. Agile Methodology
Agile project management is a methodology that allows for flexible changes and adaptations during a project’s life cycle. This methodology is an iterative process that relies on constant feedback between the team and the customer/end-user. It is a management type that is best suited for projects with changing requirements, such as software development or product launches.
A baseline is a measurement used by project managers to measure the project’s performance. It offers a defined starting point for a project plan and provides a specific reference point to gauge the success and progress of a project. A baseline can be set up using a project’s scope, budget, timeline, and more.
A project brief is a description of a project. It is typically a quick summary of what the project will entail without including too many details or technical jargon. A brief is typically handed out to both collaborators and stakeholders.
4. Change Management
Change management controls and manages any unscheduled or abrupt change within a project, team, or company. An efficient change management plan can facilitate changes smoothly without a considerable disruption to the project.
A contingency, or a contingency plan, refers to an alternative method if your first plan does not succeed. A contingency in place will help alleviate the stress and resources if a project goes off schedule or awry.
The dashboard is the area within a project management system populated with all the pertinent information about a project. Project team members can view the data, metrics, and reports within a dashboard to see the project status.
A project deliverable is a tangible result of the project. It can be a report, software, website, or anything else that meets the project objectives. Project deliverables are typically specified in the project charter or project plan.
A project dependency is a relationship between two activities reliant on one another. This dependency can be due to a constraint or if one activity cannot start until the other is completed.
9. Earn Value Management
Earned value management, or EVM, is a project management methodology that uses a combination of cost, schedule, and scope to measure performance. Using the EVM methodology offers specific data that managers can use to make proactive decisions and adjust the project accordingly.
10. Expectation Management
Expectation management is when everyone working on a specific project, from the stakeholders to cross-functional team members, is aware of how the project will be run. From the communication to the project lead, expectation management will put everyone on the “same page” from the first day of the project to the last.
11. Gantt Chart
A Gantt chart is a visual project management tool that illustrates the timeline of a project’s tasks’ start and end dates. Its information is displayed graphically and can be very useful with planning, scheduling, and showing the relationship between tasks. A Gannt chart is beneficial for project managers because it allows them to see how individual tasks relate to one another and how the project progresses on the timeline.
A gate is an end-of-phase checkpoint where next steps and decisions are made. At specific gates, project team members and stakeholders can review the progress of a project and decide whether or not the project should move to the next stage.
13. Goal Setting
Goal setting is the process of creating measurable and attainable goals and deadlines for projects.
14. Historical Information
Historical information refers to any information, data, or resources used on past projects that can help set goals and plan for future projects.
Iteration specifies a specific and fixed time cycle for work. Iterations are typically a few weeks long, and projects can cycle through multiple iterations.
Kanban is a project management methodology in which tasks and projects are visually organized on a board. A Kanban board is broken into sections to represent a workflow, and tasks are moved around and adjusted as they cycle through each project phase. Kanban boards provide the team an excellent visual overview of the project and where every member is within reach of the stages.
17. Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are specific metrics used to measure a project’s success. A KPI is typically established before a project begins, and the project management team will refer back to KPIs to ensure they are hitting project markers or not.
18. Life Cycle
A project life cycle is the entire project process implemented to build deliverables. Life cycles can be divided into several phases: planning, analysis, design, budget, etc. Not all phases are included in a project lifecycle, and lifecycles will vary based on the specific project deliverables.
A milestone is an important achievement or event within a project. Typically, milestones are identified early on in the project planning stages and then tracked and reported on throughout the project’s duration. Milestones can be used to track everything from project completion date to budget attainment.
Meeting minutes are the transcribed notes of whatever is discussed during meetings. The minutes are written down to record discussions for future reference or action taken. Meeting notes are typically passed to the team and used to make decisions and track progress.
21. Objectives and Key Results (OKR)
Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, are strategic goal-setting frameworks that allow everyone in an organization to improve productivity and alignment. These structures can help to define the bigger picture in a project. Objectives are shared among all levels, in a set timeframe, usually quarterly, and help individuals better understand how they contribute to the company, increasing collaboration across departments. Key Results are the measurable outcomes that track the progress toward the objectives, ensuring that everyone is moving in the right direction to achieve the desired goals.
Onboarding a project is gathering all the tools, resources, and team members to ensure everyone understands the project and the next steps.
23. PERT Chart
A PERT chart, also known as a Program Evaluation and Review Technique chart, is a graphical tool used to schedule, organize, and evaluate tasks within a project. It helps project managers to identify and track dependencies between tasks, and it can be used to calculate task duration and project completion time.
24. Project Charter
A project charter is a document that outlines the project goals, objectives, and scope. It also identifies the key players involved in the project and their roles and responsibilities. The project charter serves as a guideline for the project team and helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
25. Project Management
Project management is the process of planning, organizing, securing, managing, and completing projects by meeting specific goals and objectives. Project managers use various techniques and tools to manage projects, set goals, identify project risks and potential delays, track project progress, and manage project resources.
More: Looking to level-up your project management? Check out our guide to the best project management software on the market.
26. Project Plan
A project plan is a document that outlines the steps needed to complete a project. It typically includes detailed information about the project’s objectives, schedule, resources, and budget. Project managers use the project plan as a guide for completing their projects on time and within budget.
27. Project Stakeholder
A project stakeholder has a vested interest in the project and can impact or be impacted by its outcome. Stakeholders can include the project sponsor, customer, end-user, team members, and other key individuals or organizations.
28. Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance (QA) is the process of systematically implementing and monitoring project progress. QA is completed through regular audits, conversations, and meeting project milestone markers. This can be done in-house or can be outsourced to QA services teams.
29. Resource Allocation
Resource allocation refers to the process of assigning specific resources such as people, money, and equipment to individual project tasks. Allocating resources is an essential part of the project management phase. Projects must have the right resources assigned to the right jobs to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.
30. Resource Leveling
If there are any conflicts within a plan or overallocation of resources, resource leveling is a technique that helps fix and adjust resources so a project can be completed accurately. Some resources that might need leveling include materials, time, or people to finish a task.
31. Risk Management
Risk management is the process of assessing, identifying, and mitigating risks associated with a project. Project managers must be proactive in identifying potential risks and put contingency plans in place should any risks materialize.
Scope refers to the specific goals and objectives of a project. For example, the scope can be defined based on the project’s duration, budget, and objectives. Project managers must ensure that the project scope is clearly defined and communicated to all project stakeholders to avoid any misunderstandings later on.
33. Scope Creep
Scope creep is when a project moves outside the original scope that has been established. Scope creep can occur when project goals are unclear or the project management team does not control the project.
Scrum is a term that is used within the agile methodology. Scrum is a framework that uses a cycle of continuous collaboration among team members within a project lifecycle. Scrum projects prioritize tasks and identify specific goals over a particular period.
A sprint is a designated period of time that specific tasks are assigned to be completed.
36. SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is an acronym that stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats,” is a process of strategically planning out a project before it begins. Performing a SWOT analysis helps the team identify barriers to the project and pull together specific resources needed to plan and execute.
A timeline is the sequential representation of a specific project and its activities. For example, a timeline can occur before a project begins to set up expectations, or it can be delivered after a project has ended to show the actual timeline of completed work.
38. Triple Constraint
A triple constraint, otherwise called the project triangle, is the theory that states that every project operates within three specific parameters: scope, time, and cost. If one of those factors changes, it will affect the other two.
39. Waterfall method
The waterfall method is a project management strategy in which project stages or phases are sequentially completed one after the other. This means that once a project stage is completed, work cannot continue until the next step has been authorized. The waterfall method is often used in conjunction with the Gantt chart.
A workflow is all the defined steps that go into creating a deliverable. Workflows tell each team member what needs to be completed to accomplish a specific task or project. Workflows are instrumental in creating structure and organization for projects.
41. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a tool that breaks down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks. It helps project managers to visualize the project and track its progress. The WBS can be modified as the project progresses to reflect any changes.