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The A To Z Of Project Management Terminology

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 15th May 2018

Project management is one of the rare type of careers in which you can work in any sector of business, from finance and software development to construction and retail. Every type of business requires good project managers and large organisations of every kind understand the advantages of project management. If you are considering it as a career and want to understand more about what it entails, read our quick A to Z guide of project management terminology.


Agile is a form of project management methodology. It involves breaking up projects into sprints, which are short cycles of work. The purpose of this is to ensure the service or product being created is continually improved throughout the project lifecycle so that it delivers what the client and stakeholders envisioned at the start. For an agile approach to work, central behaviours and values of collaboration, empowerment, flexibility, and trust need to be well developed.

Some of the benefits of agile project management are as follows:

  • You can quickly identify any incorrect assumptions being made
  • Less time is required to put together technical documentation
  • The final product will be better quality
  • The final product will have the features expected by clients
  • Millennials find the working environment more appealing, helping attract younger team members
  • Decisions are made quickly so avoiding progress bottle-necks



Benefits realisation management (BRM) is a method where the risk of failure is minimised for a project with the clear identification of the benefits early in the project lifecycle. It also involves ownership being assigned to those responsible for the management and planning of achieving the specified benefits.



Change management is clearly always an important element of project management because all projects involve change to some degree. Change management offers a structured approach for supporting changes that occur throughout a project and so helps to ensure that only changes that are necessary are implemented (avoiding scope creep). It involves implementing standard and organisational processes to achieve the desired outcome.


Pretty self-explanatory – a deliverable is essentially the end goal that is desired from the project. It needs to be specific and measurable and needs to be described in such a way that the project team can implement it. For example, it could be a new building, road or bridge; it could be a new piece of complex software or it could be a new business process.



Emotional intelligence is something that all good project managers (should) have. You need to be aware of how other people are feeling, as well as how your actions impact others. You need to be self-aware and empathetic to those around you – particularly team members to ensure they are well-motivated and capable and willing to deliver the project successfully.



F is for failure but failure should not have negative connotations – rather it should be seen as an opportunity to learn and improve (every day is a school day). Every project manager is going to experience some sort of project failure at some point; it could be a simple failure of one individual task within a project or it could be a total collapse and abandonment of the whole project. Rather than dwelling on what has happened or playing the blame game, you need to see each failure as an opportunity to learn and improve going forward  – both for you and your project team.



Gantt charts are frequently used in project management. They are charts that use a series of horizontal lines so that you can easily see the work that has been completed or the work that has been done in specific periods of time in comparison to the work planned for these periods. These charts are a simple way of determining whether your project is on schedule or not, where milestones are set along the way, which tasks are dependent on other tasks, and if there are problems with the schedule where they are.



This is a plan that will explain the relationships and the roles of the people that make up your project team, as well as how these roles and relationships will be managed. People deliver projects so managing what they do and how they interact is essential.



An issue, as the name suggests, is a problem that will have a detrimental impact on the project progress if it is not resolved. An issue management process is usually put in place to track all problems (and, of course, a project will rarely be problem free) to ensure that project managers proactively deal with each problem situation.



When you consider just how much demand there is for well-qualified and experienced project managers, it is only right that ‘J’ represents jobs. By 2020, it is estimated that 15 million new project manager positions will be added to the worldwide job market. To say the profession is booming would be an under-statement. Project management, as we know, is used across all industries, and it is especially flourishing thanks to the tech sector where new products are being created all the time.



A KPI is something that is used to measure the performance of your project. For example, there are standard measures such as timeframes and financial performance indicators. Simply, is the project schedule and budget on track? But there could also be project-specific KPIs related to, for instance, technology innovations. KPIs can be useful but only if they are specific and measurable and add value to the project and those using them. Watch out for them just being used as a tick-box exercise that adds no value.



Lean project management is another approach that project managers can adopt for their projects. It is all about minimising waste and maximising value. The purpose of this approach is using fewer resources yet creating greater customer value.



Monitoring is essential for all projects. You need to have an effective system in place so you can oversee all tasks, as well as the budget, timeline and the project scope. You will need to ensure that your team is on track. If not, you need to put the measures in place to react quickly, either to make changes to the way your team is working or to inform the client that you need more time.



Next we have nonlinear management, which is a very broad term that is used to describe practices in management that have a large focus on adaptation to changing circumstances, self-organisation, and flexibility. As the name suggests, it is the opposite of linear management, which seeks to implement structure at businesses. Some of the defining characteristics of NLM are as follows: flexible working arrangements for team members, responding in a proactive manner to challenges, and out-of-the-box thinking being encouraged amongst all.



Scope creep is a common problem for all projects. Clients will often request extras that were not in the original scope and hence have no time or budget allocated to them. This can cause delays and budget overruns, which is why you need to be careful what you agree to. Yes, you can accept the changes and they will likely make the final outcome better, but make sure the client is aware of the impact this will have on the project overall.

Here are some scope management tips to follow…

  • Keep it simple
  • Put yourself in the client’s shoes
  • Involve end users when defining the initial scope
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Make it visual



Project management is made up of a number of different phases. Generally, the different phases can be categorised as the initiation, the planning phase, execution or production, controlling and monitoring, and closing. Complex projects or very long projects are likely to have more interim phases than simple or short projects.



For most projects, there is the need to balance quality, time, and budget. Quality is often considered the most important factor at the outset but, in reality, time and budget practicalities frequently result in quality levels requiring adjustment. However, this is not always the case and so you need to discuss this with the client throughout the project.



Risk management is an essential part of any project because no project is without risk of some sort. Risk management needs to be considered during the planning phase. You need to assess the potential risks to the project, and put measures in place to mitigate them, as well as a plan of action should these risks arise. By planning for the occurrence of risks you are better able to deal with them if or when they happen.


Scrum is one of the most popular forms of agile project management. Some people mistakenly believe that agile project management is scrum. This is not the case. While scum is agile, it is not the only approach regarding the implementation of agile principles. It is merely one of several approaches. This type of agile project management makes the most of collaborative decision-making and frequent feedback.



Training is an essential part of your journey when becoming a professional project manager. There are many courses available for you to choose from that lead to internationally recognised qualifications and, ultimately chartered status. As a project manager, it is vital that you never stop learning. Project management courses aren’t just designed to give you a foot in the door; they are designed so that you can continually improve your skills and achieve more.



User stories are used to outline what the end user needs from the product or service. For example, if you are designing an app, the user story will provide an overview of how people will use the apps and what they expect from them, as well as their current pain points. This ensures you can build the best end product possible.



Remote and virtual teams are increasingly becoming the norm. Rather than hiring team members at the same location, business owners are prioritising a balance of skills, experience and cost, and this means you could end up managing team members working from all different parts of the country or a whole team in a completely different country and timezone.



When it comes to project management methodologies, purely waterfall methods have been declining, as more and more project managers favour the agile approach, an iterative approach or a combination. Nevertheless, it is important to understand what waterfall project management is as it is still used in some organisations and industries. In simple terms it is a linear, sequential process of project management where requirements are fully documented up front before the project tasks begin. It is one of the less flexible approaches.



Earlier we mentioned Gantt charts, and another type of chart you may use as a project manager is an X-bar control chart. This involves two separate charts, which show the average sample ranges of a certain product, for example, temperature and weight, over a certain time frame.



There aren’t many project management terms beginning with Y, but we didn’t just pluck a random colour out of the air! Yellow is often used on project management reports as a warning indicator when, for instance, the project isn’t on track at the moment but there is a plan to get the project back on track. It is part of a simple traffic light system used as a status indicator.


Last but not least, we have zero float, which is a condition along the critical path where activities do not have any buffer time in between them.


So there you have it: a simple A to Z guide to project management terminology. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding about some aspects of project management and some of the terminology used. There is, of course, much more to project management than this short guide so watch out for future updates.


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