Glossary of Project Management Terms - Part I

Language can bring people together or set them apart. Here are some common terms to help those who wish to master the Project Management language:



  • Acceptance Criteria: Performance requirements and essential conditions that have to be achieved before project deliverables are accepted.

  • Accountability: The obligation to report on one's actions. A few keys to ensure the success of accountability for project management include: 1) Set expectations, 2) Track progress, 3) Integrate with performance management processes.

  • Activity: Actions taken or work performed through which inputs, such as funds, technical assistance and other types of resources are mobilized to produce specific outputs.

  • Activity Duration: Activity duration specifies the length of time (hours, days, weeks, months) that it takes to complete an activity. This information is optional in the data entry of an activity.

  • Actual Dates: Actual dates are entered as the project progresses. These are the dates that activities really started and finished as opposed to planned or projected dates.

  • Actuals: The cost or effort incurred in the performance of tasks. Also, the dates tasks have been started or completed and the dates milestones have been reached.

  • Agile (or Agile Methodology): An agile methodology is an adaptive systems development lifecycle methodology that delivers software in incremental chunks known as iterations or sprints. In agile development, time is fixed, and scope is allowed to float from one iteration to another based on the team's user story progress. An agile methodology is best used when requirements are not well defined.

  • Agile Project Management: The ideas from Agile software development applied to project management. Agile methods promote a process that encourages development iterations, teamwork, stakeholder involvement, objective metrics and effective controls.

  • Alternatives: A number of different solutions and approaches that must be evaluated and chosen to attain the objectives of a project.

  • Analogous Estimating: Estimating using similar projects or activities as a basis for determining the effort, cost and/or duration of a current one. Usually used in Top-down Estimating.

  • Approach Statement: A high-level description of how the project will accomplish its goals and objectives.

  • Artifact: An artifact is one of many kinds of tangible by-products produced during the development of software. Some artifacts (e.g., requirements and design documents, use cases, class diagrams, and other Unified Modeling Language (UML) models) help describe the function, architecture, and design of system or software.

  • Assumption: There may be external circumstances or events that must occur for the project to be successful (or that should happen to increase your chances of success). If you believe that the probability of the event occurring is acceptable, you could list it as an assumption. An assumption has a probability between 0 and 100%; that is, it is not impossible that the event will occur (0%), and it is not a fact (100%) — it is somewhere in between. Assumptions are important because they set the context in which the entire remainder of the project is defined. If an assumption doesn't come through, the estimate and the rest of the project definition may no longer be valid.


  • Balanced Scorecard: A performance management tool which began as a concept for measuring whether the smaller-scale operational activities of a company are aligned with its larger-scale objectives in terms of vision and strategy.

  • Baseline (or Project Baseline): A baseline is an approved configuration item, for example a project plan that has been signed off for execution. The project baseline is used to establish the original set of budget and schedule estimates based on the approved project scope prior to project execution. Effective project managers compare the project baseline to the current project status to determine specific cost or schedule variances.

  • Baseline Schedule: The baseline schedule is a fixed project schedule. It is the standard by which project performance is measured. The current schedule is copied into the baseline schedule which remains frozen until it is reset. Resetting the baseline is done when the scope of the project has been changed significantly. At that point, the original or current baseline becomes invalid and should not be compared with the current schedule.

  • Best Practice: Something that we have learned from experience on a number of similar projects around the world. This requires looking at a number of “lessons- learned” from projects in the same field and noticing a trend that seems to be true for all projects in that field.

  • Bottom-up Estimating: Approximating the size (duration and cost) and risk of a project (or phase) by breaking it down into activities, tasks and sub-tasks, estimating the effort, duration and cost of each and rolling them up to determine the full estimate. Determining duration through a bottom-up approach requires sequencing and resource leveling to be done as part of the scheduling process.

  • Budget: The amount allotted for the project that represents the estimate of planned expenditures and income. The budget may be expressed in terms of money or resource units (effort).

  • Budgeting and Cost Management: Budgeting and cost management are the estimating of costs and the setting of an agreed budget, and the management of actual and forecast costs against that budget.

  • Burn Down Chart: A burn down chart is a graphical view of the remaining work left versus the time in an iteration. A project backlog or hours can be expressed on the vertical axis, while time is indicated on the horizontal axis. A burn down chart is often used to determine when work will be completed on a project or an iteration. (used in Agile Project Management)

  • Business Storytelling: People tell business stories to communicate and connect with employees, customers, colleagues, partners, suppliers, and the media. Business stories differ from regular stories, in that you tell them with an objective, goal, or desired outcome in mind.


  • Calendar Date: A specific date shown on the calendar (e.g., July 4, 2015) as opposed to a relative date. See Relative Dates.

  • Capability Statement: A Capability Statement is a business document or record of your individual and organisational competencies, achievements, associations and accreditations.

  • Capacity Assessment: Analysis to measure the ability of the project, partners, and the community to implement a particular Project Strategy and related Activities.

  • Capacity Planning: Capacity Planning is an integral piece of functionality for the Project Portfolio Management and Information Technology (IT) governance markets. It is the merger and balance of human resources (supply) and work to be done (demand) to achieve and sustain peak operational efficiency.

  • Capital Expenditure (CAPEX): Capital Expenditure is the amount a company spends to buy fixed assets, or to add to the value of an existing fixed asset with a useful life that extends beyond the taxable year.

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): is a certification in project management managed by the Project Management Institute in accordance with their published ANSI standard 'A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge', shortened to PMBOK Guide.

  • Change: Difference in an expected value or event. The most significant changes in project management are related to scope definition, availability of resources, schedule and budget.

  • Change Control: Change control is the process that ensures that all changes made to a project’s baseline scope, time, cost and quality objectives or agreed benefits are identified, evaluated, approved, rejected or deferred.

  • Change Request: A documented request for a change in scope or other aspects of the plan.

  • Charter (aka Project Charter): Before you start a project, it is important to know the overall objectives of the project, as well as the scope, deliverables, risks, assumptions, project organization chart, etc. The project definition (or charter) is the document that holds this relevant information. The project manager is responsible for creating the project definition. The document should be approved by the sponsor to signify that the project manager and the sponsor are in agreement on these important aspects of the project.

  • Client (or Customer): The person or group that is the direct beneficiary of a project or service is the client / customer. These are the people for whom the project is being undertaken (indirect beneficiaries are stakeholders). In many organizations, internal beneficiaries are called "clients" and external beneficiaries are called "customers," but this is not a hard and fast rule.

  • Closing: The process of gaining formal acceptance of the results of a project or phase and bringing it to an orderly end, including the archiving of project information and post-project review.

  • Close-out: See Project Termination.

  • Collocated team (the traditional team): Every team member comes into the office and is physically located in the same place.

  • Co-location: Co-location involves team members physically working at the same location or holding project meetings together in a common setup for improving the efficiency.

  • Communication: Communication is the giving, receiving, processing and interpretation of information. Information can be conveyed verbally, non-verbally, actively, passively, formally, informally, consciously or unconsciously.

  • Concept: Concept is the first phase of the project life cycle. During this phase the need, opportunity or problem is confirmed, the overall feasibility of the project is considered and a preferred solution identified. The business case for the project will be produced in this phase.

  • Conflict Management: Conflict management is the process of identifying and addressing differences. Effective conflict management prevents differences becoming destructive elements in a project.

  • Consensus: Unanimous agreement among the decision-makers that everyone can at least live with the decision (or solution). To live with the decision, one has to be convinced that the decision will adequately achieve objectives. As long as someone believes that the decision will not achieve the objectives, there is no consensus.

  • Constraints: Constraints are limitations that are outside the control of the project team and need to be managed around. They are not necessarily problems. However, the project manager should be aware of constraints because they represent limitations that the project must execute within. Date constraints, for instance, imply that certain events (perhaps the end of the project) must occur by certain dates. Resources are almost always a constraint, since they are not available in an unlimited supply.

  • Contingencies: Planned actions for minimizing the damage caused by a problem, in the event that a problem should occur.

  • Contingency Reserve: A designated amount of time and/or budget to account for parts of the project that cannot be fully predicted. For example, it is relatively certain that there will be some rework, but the amount of rework and where it will occur in the project (or phase) are not known. These are sometimes called "known unknowns". The purpose of the contingency reserve is to provide a more accurate sense of the expected completion date and cost of the project (or phase). Some PMs separate contingency reserves from management reserves while others combine the two into a single reserve. Reserves for changes and issues may be part of the contingency reserve or separate reserves.

  • Control: Control is the process of comparing actual performance with planned performance, analyzing the differences, and taking the appropriate corrective action.

  • Corporate Culture: Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.

  • Corporate Governance: Corporate Governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled. It involves regulatory and market mechanisms, and the roles and relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and other stakeholders, and the goals for which the corporation is governed.

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Corporate social responsibility as a management concept is growing more and more important also for project companies. The task of project management is to identify relevant ecological systems, to recognize the internal and external dimension of social responsibility, and to test existing standards of Corporate Social Responsibility for their applicability in projects. The special benefit of CSR in projects is to set-up values such as integrity, credibility and reputation. For successful implementation of CSR activities, it is essential to align the commitment of the project organization to the own business operations and own goals.

  • Cost Benefit Analysis: The cost benefit analysis is used to show the expected benefits of a project are sufficient to warrant the cost of carrying it out. Monetary units are usually used for the comparison.

  • Cost Variance: The cost variance (CV) is used to measure the cost difference between a project's earned value (EV) and the actual cost (AC) to deliver progress to date (CV = EV – AC). In application, positive CVs indicate the project is under budget, since it is delivering more value than incurring cost. If the project has a negative CV, it is over budget. Even positive CVs should be examined for root cause.

  • Critical Activity: A critical activity has zero or negative float. This activity has no allowance for work slippage. It must be finished on time or the whole project will fall behind schedule.

  • Critical Path: The critical path is the sequence of activities that must be completed on schedule for the entire project to be completed on schedule. It is the longest duration path through the workplan. If an activity on the critical path is delayed by one day, the entire project will be delayed by one day (unless another activity on the critical path can be accelerated by one day). This determines the shortest time possible to complete the project.

  • Critical Path Method (CPM): A technique used to predict project duration by analyzing which sequence of activities has the least amount of scheduling flexibility.

  • Critical Success Factor: A factor identified as essential to achieving a successful project.

  • Cross-functional resources (or team): is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal. It may include people from finance, marketing, operations, and human resources departments.


  • Deliverable: A deliverable is any tangible outcome that is produced by the project. All projects create deliverables, which can be documents, plans, computer systems, buildings, aircraft, etc. Internal deliverables are produced as a consequence of executing the project and are usually needed only by the project team. External deliverables are created for clients and stakeholders. Your project may create one or many deliverables.

  • Delphi Technique: A method used to estimate the likelihood and outcome of future events. A group of experts exchange views, and each individually gives estimates and assumptions to a facilitator who reviews the data and issues a report. This process continues until consensus is reached.

  • Dependencies: Any events or work that are either dependent on the outcome of the project or the project will depend on.

  • Deploy: To push a new release to one or more machines, updating the current version. In web development, this means updating the version hosted on the production servers. It can also mean pushing a release to a set of managed machines over a network, as a software update. A lot of modern tools automate this process, which can be quite complicated. Either way, this process is called deployment. See also Release.

  • Detailed Implementation Plan: A set of updated schedules, plans, targets and systems that have sufficient detail to permit the smooth and effective project implementation. It is completed after a project proposal is approved and funded and before implementation begins.

  • Development Goals: The underlying basis for which a project is undertaken.

  • Dialogue: A discussion in which the participants share their thoughts and gain a better understanding of the subject and, possibly, reach consensus. This is contrasted with debate.

  • Distributed Team (aka remote workforce, virtual team, distributed workforce, dispersed team): People working on the same group but separated by geographical location — whether that means down the hall, in a different building, in a neighboring city, or in a totally different time zone.

  • Duration: The length of time required or planned for the execution of a project activity. Measured in calendar time units—days, weeks, months.


  • Earned Value: Earned value (EV) is an EV management term used to determine the total work completed at a specific point in time. A project's EV is determined by adding up all the budgeted costs for every task in the project schedule. The actual EV calculation can use a variety of calculation methods, including 0-100%, 50-50%, or an actual percentage to determine a task's credited value.

  • Effort: The amount of human resource time required to perform an activity. Measured in terms of person hours, person days, etc.

  • Elapsed Time: Elapsed time is the total number of calendar days (excluding non-work days such as weekends or holidays) that is needed to complete an activity.

  • Epic: An epic is a set of related user stories. They are also considered a "really big user story."

  • Estimate: An assessment of the required duration, effort and/or cost to complete a task or project. Since estimates are not actual, they should always be expressed with some indication of the degree of accuracy.

  • Estimate to Completion: The expected effort, cost and/or duration to complete a project or any part of a project. It may be made at any point in the project's life.

  • Estimating: Estimating uses a number of tools and techniques to produce an approximation of a projects timescale and cost. The estimate has a single total value and may have identifiable component values.

  • Evaluation: A periodic, systematic assessment of a project’s relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and impact on a defined population. Evaluation draws from data collected during monitoring, as well as data from additional surveys or studies to assess project achievements against set objectives.

  • Executing: The process of coordinating the people and other resources in the performance of the project or the actual performance of the project.

  • Exposure: The likely loss or consequence of a risk. It is the combined probability and impact of a risk usually expressed as the product or probability x impact.


  • Feasibility Study: A study to examine the viability of taking on a project.

  • Features (in Agile): Features are high level needs of the software which don’t require knowledge of an actor/user. Typical hierarchy is Feature –>Epic –>User Story.

  • Fiscal Year: The 12-month period of July 1 to June 30 used for financial planning and reporting purposes.

  • Float: The time a task can be delayed without delaying the project. Tasks on the critical path have no float.

  • Free Float: Free float is the excess time available before the start of the next activity, assuming that both activities start on their early start date.

  • Functional Manager: The functional manager is the person you report to within your functional organization. Typically, this is the person who does your performance review. The project manager may also be a functional manager, but he or she does not have to be. If your project manager is different from your functional manager, your organization is probably utilizing matrix management.


  • Gantt Chart: A Gantt chart is a bar chart that depicts activities as blocks over time. The beginning and end of the block correspond to the beginning and end-date of the activity.

  • Goal Statement: A high-level statement of the project's object of study, its purpose, its quality focus, and viewpoint. Should reference the project's benefits in terms of improved social or economic conditions.

  • Gold Plating: The addition of unnecessary features or refinements, beyond the agreed scope, into a product or service in an attempt to improve customer satisfaction.

  • Governance: The planning, influencing and conducting of the policy and affairs of the project.


  • Handoff (or Project Handoff): Three recommanded stages (or considerations) for a project handoff: 1) Project Execution, 2) Project Closure, and 3) Project Warranty Period.

  • Handoff Checklist: A document that is used in situations where a portion of a project is being transferred to a new project manager and team. For example, two teams will continue to work in parallel on different aspects of related systems. These checklists, meeting outlines, and reminders in this document are designed to make sure that happens smoothly, and could easily be adapted to complete project handoffs. It would also be appropriate for teams making a mid-stream decision to start or discontinue vendor production of a portion of the project work.


  • Impact: Positive and negative long-term effects on identifiable population groups produced by a development intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended. These effects can be economical, socio-cultural, institutional, environmental, technological or of other types.

  • Implementation: Implementation is the third phase of the project life cycle, during which the project management plan (PMP) is executed, monitored and controlled. In this phase the design is finalized and used to build the deliverables.

  • Incremental Delivery: A project life cycle strategy used to reduce the risk of project failure by dividing projects into more manageable pieces. The resulting sub-projects may deliver parts of the full product, or product versions. These will be enhanced to increase functionality or improve product quality in subsequent sub-projects.

  • Initiating (Project):The process of describing and deciding to begin a project (or phase) and authorizing the Project Manager to expend resources, effort and money for those that are initiated.

  • Initiatives: Specific projects or programs undertaken to achieve specific objectives in the near-term, such as to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve sales performance.

  • Inputs: The financial, human, material, technological and information resources used for the development intervention.

  • Internal Rate of Return: The internal rate of return (IRR) or economic rate of return (ERR) is a method of calculating rate of return. The term internal refers to the fact that its calculation does not incorporate environmental factors (e.g., the interest rate or inflation). It is also called the discounted cash flow rate of return (DCFROR).

  • Interpersonal skills: The set of abilities enabling a person to interact positively and work effectively with others.

  • Issue: An issue is a major problem that will impede the project's progress and that can't be resolved by the project manager and project team without outside help. Project managers should proactively deal with issues through a defined issues management process.

  • Issue Resolution: Issue resolution is a problem-solving and mediation process utilized when a concern in some part of the project .

  • Iteration (in Agile): An iteration is an iterative development concept that establishes a short time frame to deliver a set of software features or user stories. Each iteration includes typical waterfall activities such as analysis, design, development, and testing, yet they are time boxed within a one to four week window. At the end of an iteration, the progress is reviewed with the business customer, and recommended changes can be incorporated into future iterations.


  • Key Performance Indicator (KPI): A key performance indicator (KPI) is a business metric used to evaluate factors that are crucial to the success of an organization.

  • Kick-off Meeting: A meeting at the beginning of the project or at the beginning of a major phase of the project to start officially the project and help the team have an understanding of objectives, procedures and plans.

  • Knowledge sharing: Knowledge sharing is an activity through which knowledge (namely, information, skills, or expertise) is exchanged among project team members.


  • Lag: Lag is the time delay between the start or finish of an activity and the start or finish of its successor(s).

  • Large scale project: a project that meets at least one of the following criteria: The project is planned to run for at least one-and-a-half years or the team comprises at least 150 people. Moreover, the project organization is clearly marked off from the rest of the corporate structure; in some cases, a separate project entity is set up for the purpose. Finally, large-scale projects typically involve between 50,000 and 100,000 closely interlinked processes.

  • Leadership: Leadership is the ability to establish vision and direction, to influence and align others towards a common purpose, and to empower and inspire people to achieve project success. It enables the project to proceed in an environment of change and uncertainty.

  • Lessons Learned: A set of statements captured after completion of a project or a portion of a project. The statements describe in a neutral way what did or did not work well, along with a statement regarding the risk of ignoring the lesson. Capturing and sharing the lessons learned is an important part of process improvement.

  • Lifecycle (or Project Lifecycle): Lifecycle refers to the process used to build the deliverables produced by the project. There are many models for a project lifecycle. For software development, the entire lifecycle might consist of planning, analysis, design, construct/test, implementation, and support; this is an example of a "waterfall" lifecycle. Other lifecycles include iterative development, package implementation, and research and development. Each of these lifecycle models represents an approach to building on your project's deliverables.

  • Logical Relationship: A dependency relationship between two or more tasks or between tasks and milestones, such that one cannot start or finish before another has started or finished.


  • Management Reserve: A designated amount of time and/or budget to account for parts of the project that cannot be predicted. These are sometimes called "unknown unknowns." For example, major disruptions in the project caused by serious weather conditions, accidents, etc. Use of the management reserve generally requires a baseline change. See Contingency Reserve.

  • Matrix Organization: A business structure in which people are assigned to both a functional group (departments, disciplines, etc.) and to projects or processes which cut across the organization and require resources from multiple functional groups.

  • Method: An established, logical, or prescribed practice or systematic process of achieving certain ends with accuracy and efficiency, usually in an ordered sequence of fixed steps. For example, Agile/Scrum, Waterfall, Hybrid, XP, etc.

  • Methods and Procedures: Methods and procedures detail the standard practices to be used for managing projects throughout a life cycle. The methods provide a consistent framework within which project management is performed. Procedures cover individual aspects of project management practice and form an integral part of a method.

  • Metrics: Metrics are quantitative measures such as the number of project activities completed on time. They are used in improvement programs to determine if improvement has taken place or to determine if goals and objectives are met.

  • Milestone: A milestone is a scheduling event that signifies the completion of a major deliverable or a set of related deliverables. A milestone, by definition, has duration of zero and no effort. There is no work associated with a milestone. It is a flag in the workplan to signify that some other work has completed. Usually, a milestone is used as a project checkpoint to validate how the project is progressing. In many cases there is a decision, such as validating that the project is ready to proceed, that needs to be made at a milestone.

  • Mitigation: Actions taken to eliminate or reduce risk by reducing the probability and or impact of occurrence.

  • Mitigation Strategies: Identification of the steps that can be taken to lessen the risk by lowering the probability of a risk event's occurrence, or to reduce its effect should the risk event occur.

  • Monitoring: The process of monitoring, measuring and reporting on progress and taking corrective action to ensure project objectives are met.

  • Multitasking: Project managers who could work on multiple projects concurrently.


  • Negotiation: Negotiation is a search for agreement, seeking acceptance, consensus and alignment of views. Negotiation in a project can take place on an informal basis throughout the project life cycle or on a formal basis such as during procurement, and between signatories to a contract.

  • Net Present Value (NPV): Net Present Value is an estimate that helps organisations determine the financial benefits of long-term projects. NPV compares the value of a pound today to the value of that same pound in the future, taking inflation and returns into account.

  • Network Analysis: Network analysis is the process of identifying early and late start and finish dates for project activities. This is done with a forward and backward pass through the project.

  • Network Diagram: A graphic tool for depicting the sequence and relationships between tasks in a project. PERT Diagram, Critical Path Diagram, Arrow Diagram, Precedence Diagram, are all forms of network diagrams.


  • Objective: An objective is a concrete statement that describes what the project is trying to achieve. The objective should be written at a low level, so that it can be evaluated at the conclusion of a project to see whether it was achieved. Project success is determined based on whether the project objectives were achieved. A technique for writing an objective is to make sure it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound (SMART).

  • Organizational Culture (or Company Culture): The behavior and unspoken rules shared by people and groups in an organization. It is organically developed over time and may differ from ideal organizational values.

  • Organizational Structure: The organization structure is the organizational environment within which the project takes place. The organization structure defines the reporting and decision making hierarchy of an organization and how project management operates within it.

  • Organizational Roles: Organizational roles are the roles performed by individuals or groups in a project. Both roles and responsibilities within projects must be defined to address the transient and unique nature of projects and to ensure that clear accountabilities can be assigned.

  • Outcome: The intended or achieved short-term and medium-term effects of an intervention’s output, usually requiring the collective effort of partners. Outcomes represent changes in development conditions which occur between the completion of outputs and the achievement of impact.

  • Outputs: The products and services which result from the completion of activities within a development intervention.

Additional information

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra.” ~ H.E. Luccock

#ProjectManagement #Glossary #ProjectManagementTerms #Waterfall #Agile

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