VIII. Project Management Glossary
Project management, like any other industry, has its share of unique terms. Don’t be overwhelmed. Here is our alphabetical list of terms that every project manager should know on day one.
Adaptive Project Framework (APF) – A project management methodology that grew from the idea that most IT projects can’t be managed using traditional PM methods. Work is done in stages, and evaluated after each stage.
Baseline — The original cost and schedule you set for your project. It helps you determine how far the team has deviated from the original plan. Based on this knowledge, you’ll be able to better estimate the time and resources your team needs to complete the next project.
Benefits Realization – A PM methodology that focuses on whether your deliverable gives the customer the benefit they’re expecting to get from it. This methodology ensures you deliver real value to customers and stakeholders.
Burn Down Chart – An X-Y axis graph that shows the number of tasks that need to be completed (on the vertical axis) versus the time remaining (on the horizontal axis). These charts are often used in Scrum.
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) – A PM methodology that puts a primary focus on resources. You build a project schedule, identify the most crucial tasks — the “Critical Chain” — and reserve resources for those high-priority tasks.
Critical Path Method (CPM) — A method used to model projects that includes all tasks, time estimates, task dependencies, and final deliverables. By taking these factors into account, CPM helps you calculate your optimal project timeline. CPM was developed by the private sector in the 1950s, while the US Navy developed its own version, PERT.
Deliverable – A work product, delivered on a date and in a state that has been agreed upon by stakeholders, and as stated in the project charter. A deliverable can be a physical product, a file, or a software.
Event Chain Methodology (ECM) – A PM methodology built on the concept that there are potential risks that often lie outside the project’s scope. It’s important to prepare for these risks and plan what to do if they occur.
Extreme Programming (XP) – A PM methodology designed to improve the quality and simplicity of software and the team’s ability to adapt to customer needs. Work is done in short cycles (AKA sprints) with frequent iterations, and constant collaboration with stakeholders.
Float — Also known as “slack,” this is the amount of time you can potentially spend on a task before it affects the project timeline. Float is the extra cushioning protecting important deadlines. Note that items on your Critical Path will have “zero free float,” and if you want to maintain your schedule, they cannot be delayed.
Gantt Chart — This horizontal bar chart devised by Henry Gantt at the turn of the 20th century has been used to visualize project schedules by project managers all over the world. It includes all of a project’s tasks, milestones, and deadlines, start and end dates, and illustrates task dependencies.
Iterative development – A process where instead of pouring all work into one final deliverable (as in the Waterfall method), work is instead done in a series of smaller stages to keep the project moving forward.
Kanban – A visual approach to project management where teams create physical representations of their tasks, often using sticky notes on whiteboards (or via online apps). Tasks are moved through predetermined stages to track progress and identify common roadblocks.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI) — Measurable indicators of where your project stands, determined before project work begins. Did we hit 10,000 page views today? Make 50 sales calls this week? Have we doubled revenue ? It’s helpful to use KPIs to navigate the project path and, if needed, get back on course.
Lean – Also known as “lean manufacturing” or “lean production,” this PM methodology focuses on streamlining and cutting out waste. The goal is to do more with less: i.e., deliver value to the customer using less manpower, money, and time.
Lean Six Sigma – Combining the minimalist approach of Lean (“no waste!”) and the quality improvement goals of Six Sigma (“zero defects!”), Lean Six Sigma focuses on eliminating waste and defects so that projects are more efficient, cost effective, and answer customers’ needs.
PDU (Professional Development Unit) – A continuing education unit. To maintain certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP), you will need ongoing professional development, which is measured in PDUs.
PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) – A statistical tool used to visualize a project’s schedule, sequence of tasks, and even the critical path of tasks that must be completed on time in order for the project to meet its deadline. Developed by the US Navy in the 1950s, the private sector had its own version called Critical Path Method (CPM).
PRINCE2 (Projects In Controlled Environments) – A PM methodology for managing projects characterized by a product-based planning approach. Especially popular with the UK government, it gives teams greater control of resources and the ability to manage risk effectively.
PRiSM (Projects Integrating Sustainable Methods) – A project management methodology that aims to complete projects while reducing a company’s negative environmental and social impact. Quite literally: green project management.
RASCI Chart – A tool used at the initiation phase of a project which details who is: Responsible (those doing the work), Accountable (the one person who ensures the work is done), Sign-Off (those who will approve the work), Consulted (those whose input is needed to complete the work), and Informed (those who receive status updates on the work). Also known under various names as a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), Linear Responsibility Chart (LRC), ARCI matrix, or RACI matrix.
Scope — For project managers, scope is the information that defines a project’s parameters: How will we fund it? What are our milestones? How will we define success? Documenting your project scope should be a part of your planning process. Controlling it becomes the challenge once you begin.
Scope Creep — This refers to how a project’s scope can change over time, ballooning in size from the original parameters. When it occurs, you risk overspending or missing deadlines. Update your budget, schedule, and resources with every project addition to eliminate scope creep before it can surprise you.
Scrum – A PM methodology where a small team is led by a Scrum Master whose main job is to clear away all obstacles to completing work. Work is done in short cycles called sprints, but the team meets daily to discuss current tasks and roadblocks that need clearing.
Waterfall – Possibly the oldest project management methodology. In Waterfall, one task must be completed before the next one begins, in a long, connected sequence of tasks that produce the final project deliverable.
What-If Scenario Analysis (WISA) — WISA anticipates many different possible project outcomes and creates solutions before they occur. Examples include a delayed deliverable, going over budget, or a change in available resources. By preparing for those “what-if” situations, you will be able to react quickly.
Hopefully this glossary is able to give you a sufficient explanation of a project management term. Note that some of these same terms also appear in more depth in our next section: the most frequently asked questions from new project managers.