You love organizing individual tasks and timelines that make up a project. You’re whip-smart and ready to manage large-scale projects, budgets, resources, and teams. Your brilliant career as a celebrated project manager awaits you in the very near future.
You already walk the walk of a project manager, but you need to talk the talk. The board room banter is acronym-heavy and you probably need a quick refresher to keep up.
So here it is. Consider this your go-to guide of project management terms.
Go ahead and bookmark it for easy reference or share it with your new-to-project-management peers.
First off, what is project management?
Great question. Project management is the application of strategies, skills, and tools to achieve a specific goal, which is most often (drum roll!), a project.
Every project begins from an idea that needs to be planned, organized, executed, managed, tracked, completed, and measured for ultimate success. Project managers (like you!) oversee all of those aspects, plus the individual tasks, timelines, budget, scope, and resources needed for success.
No problem, you got this. Now for the terms that you should know (in alphabetical order for super quick reference).
50 project management terms you should know
Agile is a method of working quickly that is designed to adapt to rapid changes. Teams are often small and work in short sprints without lengthy processes or blockers to slow them down.
A backlog is a complete list of tasks that make up a whole project scope. Tasks—or deliverables—in a backlog are organized and done in priority order.
A baseline is an original plan or estimate for a project’s timeline, budget, scope, and goals. It is an important tracker to compare progress against and make adjustments.
Blockers literally block or slow the way forward—and should be anticipated and removed ahead of time. These project impediments range from technology complications to budget constraints.
A bottleneck narrows and constricts the flow, pace, and capacity of a project. This could be stakeholders that have too many deliverables to approve or processes that can get overloaded.
Brainstorming is a tool for creative ideation and solutions. Brainstorm sessions follow a variety of different techniques, but the key is to gather many ideas and find the best within those.
A budget is the estimated total cost to complete a project. Project costs should be calculated as a total sum of parts and include project phases, tasks, operating costs, labor, and tools or services needed.
8. Case Study
Case studies are resources that dive into use-cases and various approaches to project management. They’re usually research-based studies that help an aspect of the decision-making process.
9. Change Management
Change management is, well, literally how to manage and control changes within an organization, team, or project. This method aims to maintain control and efficiency when changes are made.
10. Contingency Plan
A contingency plan is a detailed emergency backup plan for how to effectively manage any short and long-term disruptions or disasters that could arise throughout the project.
11. Critical Path Method (CPM)
Critical Path Method, or CPM, is a modeling technique for scheduling out a project step-by-step. It is an algorithm based on how much time each task will take and helps to determine the task order and timeline for the whole project.
Dashboards are digital tools that support better project, team, and task management. They are a centralized hub of organized information, team members, and communication online and often have visual tools such as analytics.
All projects have one or more deliverables, which are the results delivered throughout or at the end of a project. These outputs are products and/or services, such as reports, service updates, marketing materials, or goods.
14. Earned Value Management (EVM)
Earned Value Management, or EVM, is an important way to measure a project’s performance and progress. It is calculated based on the project scope, timeline, and cost.
15. Fast Tracking
Fast tracking is a way to speed up a project’s progress and shorten the timeline to delivery, which is often done by doing multiple tasks at once or removing unnecessary tasks.
16. Gantt Chart
A Gantt Chart is a bar graph for scheduling project tasks where activities are measured (on the Y-axis) against time (on the X-axis). This is a great way to see how long each task will take within an entire project and track progress.
17. Issue Management
Issue management is a way to see and resolve issues. This can be done in steps including: scan for issues, identify, assess and prioritize, strategize, respond to the issue, and monitor the results.
18. Kickoff Meeting
The kickoff meeting is the first meeting at the beginning of a project with stakeholders and team members.
19. Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes are notes taken during a meeting that often include key takeaways and next steps.
Milestones are key points throughout a project’s timeline that can be used as markers to celebrate and assess progress.
21. Mission Critical
Mission critical can either refer to any factor that is critical to the success of a project or to the actual project itself being critical to the success of an organization.
22. PERT Chart
A PERT chart, which stands for Program Evaluation Review Technique, is a project management tool used to easily organize tasks and timelines.
Procurement means obtaining goods, services, and/or supplies. For projects, this means gathering everything necessary to complete a project.
24. Project Constraints
Project constraints are any factors that can limit a project’s success such as risk, scope, timeline, budget, and quality issues.
25. Project Life Cycle
A project life cycle is the stages that a project goes through from initiation to planning, execution, and completion.
26. Project Management Software
Similar to a project management dashboard, this software is used for all aspects of project management from planning and resource allocation to communication between stakeholders and team members.
27. Project Manager
The person in charge of all aspects involved in the planning, initiation, execution, completion, and results of a particular project.
28. Project Plan
A project plan is an approved document created before a project is executed that includes the scope, timeline, and cost of a project and acts as a guideline throughout.
29. Quality Control
Quality control is a standardized way to ensure that a product, service, or project meets the quality expectations of an organization and its customers.
30. RACI Chart
RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. This chart is a way to assign roles and responsibilities to stakeholders and team members on project activities.
Reporting in project management is a visual way to check in on the status, progress, or results of a project. It is often done throughout a project’s life cycle and helps manage expectations and compare results against a baseline.
32. Resource Allocation
Resource allocation is the act of recognizing and assigning the best available resources (often within a budget) to a particular project.
Resources are anything or anyone necessary to complete a project or task. This can range from talent (people) to finances, time, services, and tools.
34. Risk Management
This is the process of looking out for, identifying, assessing, responding to, and managing risks that could impact a project. Risks can range from service disruptions to resource reallocations.
35. Risk Mitigation
Risk mitigation is a strategy where the probability of risk or its impact on a project is minimized by taking certain precautions depending on the type of risk.
36. Risk Owner
A risk owner is a person who is charged with the responsibility of risk management and mitigation.
The scope is an outline of the boundaries of all aspects of a project and includes budget, timeline, deliverables, tasks, expectations, and so on.
38. Scope Creep
Scope creep happens when the scope of a project expands uncontrollably and begins to take time and resources from other allocations.
Like agile project management, Scrum is a method of working in quick, short sprints. Small teams most often focus on the continuous development of project deliverables, while a leader works to remove obstacles.
Slack (or float) is the maximum amount of time that a task can be delayed until it affects a project timeline. Tasks with zero slack are critical to complete before others with more flexibility.
In Scrums and agile project management, teams work in a continuous development cycle of short sprints. A sprint is a predetermined amount of time to complete one cycle, iteration, or task within a project.
Stakeholders are any individuals, teams, or organizations that may be impacted by a project outcome or aspect of it—and may need to be considered or consulted throughout.
43. Status Report
A status report summarizes a project’s progress to date and is based on the initial project plan. It helps keep stakeholders informed, mitigate risks, and manage blockers throughout the project’s life cycle.
44. SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Project managers analyze these key factors for projects to better understand potential risks and opportunities.
45. Task Management
The process of managing all aspects of tasks within a project—from overseeing teams working on specific line items to organizing the details and timelines of individual tasks.
A breakdown of all tasks and activities within a particular project organized in chronological order with a start and end date.
47. Use Case
Use cases are all of the ways that an end-user could use a product or service and can be helpful to understand a project’s scope and requirements.
Unlike Agile project planning, the traditional Waterfall method works sequentially through clearly established project phases and is often used in large-scale, fixed projects.
49. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
This is an easily digestible and organized breakdown of a project into hierarchical sections and the tasks within each.
50. Work In Progress (WIP)
WIP is pre-approved work (or labor, materials, and other project expenses) that has yet to be invoiced but is either completed or somewhat completed. In task management, it means that the task is being currently worked on—and will be delivered soon.
Bookmark this page for easy reference whenever you need it. Once you’re a superstar project manager who walks the walk and talks the talk, share this with whoever you’re mentoring like a boss.