The 10 Project Management Terms You Should Know

To achieve success within the field of project management, communication is essential, but this means ensuring everybody involved in the project is singing from the same hymn sheet. As with most other disciplines, project management has its own jargon, and this is often taught through project and programme management courses.

From those in the project management office, down to stakeholders and those who work with the project team, knowing the terms that are used within project management and understanding what they mean is important. This article aims to assist with this objective, by explaining 10 project management terms everybody should know.

1. Work Plan / Project Plan

A project plan or work plan is a document which clearly defines the project, its requirements and its scope. Also included within the plan will be a work schedule and a budget for the project. The plan should lay out what the project is, why it is necessary or important, and how it will be completed. A well-written project plan can be referred back to throughout the course of the project, in order to keep the team on track.

2. Project Life Cycle

It is generally accepted that projects have a life cycle, and this life cycle consists of four main parts: initiation, planning, execution and closure. Understanding the project life cycle can help to provide a greater sense of structure to a project, and can also help to sign post progress as it occurs too.

3. Milestone

A milestone is an occurrence, event or action, which marks a point in the project life cycle that has some significance when it is reached. This significance could be that a certain percentage of the work has been completed, or that the team has reached a particularly critical point of the life cycle. By clearly marking milestones, and even celebrating them being reached, it becomes easier to monitor progress and keep the project team motivated.

4. Scope Creep

Also known as requirement creep, this refers to the uncontrolled growth of a project’s scope after work has started on the project itself. These changes to project scope are often gradual and can go unnoticed, especially if projects have not been sufficiently defined through a project plan. Scope creep is almost always considered a negative, because it suggests a lack of control and can result in unwanted increases to the costs.

5. Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS)

Effectively, a work breakdown schedule, or WBS for short, is a visual document, which breaks down the work that needs to be carried out over the duration of the project life cycle. By breaking these tasks down in such a way, and creating a schedule related to when they need to be carried out, the work becomes easier to understand, more manageable for the project team, and can also seem much less daunting.

6. Goal / Target

A goal or target is essentially an objective that you want to achieve through the completion of your project. Reaching a goal, or multiple goals, is one of the main indicators of project management success. It is important that goals are chosen carefully, and that they are not too broad, abstract or intangible. For this reason, common advice is that goals should be S.M.A.R.T – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

7. Risk Management

Risk management is the process of attempting to foresee and deal with risks. Most risks are negative and need to be mitigated against, with examples including changing project requirements, or unexpected costs. However, there are also potentially positive risks, such as user uptake being higher than expected, and these need to be managed too.

8. Agile Project Management

The Agile approach to project management is a key part of many project manager training programmes and refers to a methodology which emphasises adaptability, early delivery and continual improvement. The approach involves testing often, and it actively includes end-users in the process by acting upon their feedback. It is also much more open to changes in project requirements and scope than many of the more traditional approaches.

9. Transparency

Project and programme management courses often reference the idea of transparency and, in this context, it relates to openness within the project team. When transparency exists, a project manager will be able to easily know which project members are working on which specific tasks, and whether they are working effectively. Additionally, project team members will also know who is responsible and who is accountable for each aspect of the project.

10. PMP Certification

PMP is a formal certification, available to experienced project managers and provided by the Project Management Institute. The project manager training is based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and obtaining the certification requires an individual to pass an extensive knowledge-based examination.

The Final Word

Communication can make or break a project, so it is important that all team members understand the terminology and jargon. The 10 project management terms listed and defined in this article represent a solid base to build from.

Nadine Bio –

Nadine is a marketing director at Strategy Execution, a leading PMP certification provider that also specialises in Agile Project Management, business analysis and adaptive leadership programmes.

An experienced marketing strategist and technologist, Nadine is also passionate about project management, business analysis and agile PM, managing and contributing to the company PM blog servicing 40,000 monthly users.


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