The project management industry should have a dictionary dedicated to defining the unique jargon used amongst its members. While there are many project management terms that sound like everyday words, their meaning is entirely different when used in the project management setting.
Project managers and their teams are constantly working with both internal and external clients, vendors, and others who have learned these terms over time. To help you keep up with the conversation, we have created this essential guide of some of the most commonly used project management terms you will hear.
In the game of baseball, the baselines are designed to represent the fixed area of play where the game is meant to be played. Similar to this, in the project management industry, it represents a fixed standard that a team uses to measure a project’s performance. This can refer to the schedule, cost, and scope of work.
A Gantt chart is one of the most common project management terms you will hear in the industry. First created in 1917 by Henry L. Gantt, this type of chart is a graphical timeline used to keep track of a project’s schedule. It has evolved over the years, but maintains a high level of functionality to help teams effectively plan and coordinate their tasks.
While the definition of this term may seem obvious, project managers often use this word, so it’s worth reviewing. An issue is an erroneous event or occurrence that has already happened during a project. These are often kept in an issue log that is consistently monitored to prevent similar issues from reoccurring.
This project management term refers to the entire process involved with a project, ranging from the initial planning stage up to the final support stage. Within this cycle is the analysis of the plans, design of the project, construction and testing phases, and the implementation of the finished product. Putting together the lifecycle allows you to determine potential risks, set a baseline, and define the scope of work.
Milestones are used to mark key points during a project, which can include phases, deadlines, and goals. These are the most important pieces on the timeline of a project and are typically used on Gantt charts. Reaching milestones helps validate how well a project is progressing.
This may seem like a silly term to include on this list, but it’s important to understand the role a project manager plays. The project manager is completely responsible for the processes and tools that are used during a project. Depending on the company’s hierarchy, they can also be responsible for managing the team, handling the budget, controlling the scope of work, and more.
Risk is another common project management term that is used to talk about impacts on a project. Unlike issues, risks are either positive or negative situations that have some probability of occurring, but haven’t yet. It is another responsibility of the project manager to minimize potential risks and keep things running smoothly as possible.
Deciding on the scope of a project helps determine the boundaries or limitations involved. It helps to set the proper expectations of what the project will accomplish, while also detailing what it won’t focus on. These requirements are often set at the beginning of a project to ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what the end result will be.
If the project manager reports to anyone, it is to the sponsor. A sponsor owns the benefits of the project and has the final say on budgets, new resources, and other major decisions. They typically receive updates on the project to keep them in the loop and aware of any problems.
There is a wide array of possibilities for the people who would be defined as stakeholders in a project. This often depends on the company, but can include internal clients, employees, managerial staff, and more. On occasion, external parties like suppliers, communities, and investors may be considered stakeholders because they have a stake in the outcome of a project as well.
A steering committee contains high-level stakeholders who help provide strategic guidance and direction for a project. These can be members of the board of directors or others who have a major interest in the organization. When more than one company is involved in a project, the steering committee usually includes multiple people from each corporation, so that input can be heard from all the necessary parties.
The workplan is often mistaken for the Gantt chart, but is actually the details within the chart itself. It defines how the project will be accomplished by listing the steps that need to be taken, who is doing what, and when it needs to be completed. This information gives the project manager the knowledge they need to keep track of the scope and maintain accountability among their team members.
Learn More Project Management Terms
There is a lot to learn when diving into the project management industry. You need to be able to plan, execute, and close out projects by a specific deadline. You will also be required to maintain a high level of organization and be responsible for many important decisions.
As you learn how to do these things, you’ll continually be learning the unique language used by project managers.
To help yourself stay up-to-date on the most commonly used project management terms and jargon, be sure to check out more of our blog articles.
Logan Derrick is a full-time business writer and content marketing strategist. For years, he has worked closely with several project management professionals, learning from them and increasing his own knowledge of the industry. Having held multiple management positions in fields ranging from customer service to marketing, Logan has found a passion for helping others learn about project management, marketing, and the powerful tools available to professionals today.