No matter your industry, there’s likely a whole list of acronyms and jargon that relates to what you do. It can be hard to keep up, whether you’re new to the field or constantly adapting to changes as your career progresses.
Project management is no different, with new and developing concepts, techniques, and methodologies that come with their own lexicon.
What are project management terms?
Project management terms are specific words and phrases that project management teams use to communicate. These terms set expectations across the team, and their assigned definitions help everyone better understand what’s needed to complete their work.
Individual contributions still stand as an important part of any project, but being able to collaborate and understand how your work relates to everyone else’s is an essential part of any team member’s job. Project management software is one of the ways that teams stay on track with project planning, task allocation, and team organization to get every project completed on time.
When are project management terms used?
A range of different industries, from construction and technology to healthcare and education, use project management methods. You may hear commonly used project management terms throughout each stage of the project management lifecycle.
- Initiation. In this initial stage, terms relating to the upcoming project are used to define the project scope, get buy-in from company stakeholders, and determine whether the return on investment (ROI) is worth it.
- Planning. Once your team has approval, project managers start outlining the requirements of the work. They assess potential risks and detail every team member’s roles and duties. This phase often uses a large number of project management-specific terminology that every team member involved has to understand.
- Execution. When the work begins, you may not hear as much jargon as each team member completes their own work. But during collaborative tasks, your teammates might use that relate specifically to the project’s progress.They may also employ those terms to ask for support as they move forward.
- Closing. As the final product is delivered to clients and stakeholders, some wrap-up terminology may be used to help teams gather feedback and reflect on the outcome of the project itself.
Why are project management terms important?
It’s easy to use simple language when discussing a new project, but project management terminology helps communication stay consistent among teammates. Keep reading for a breakdown of the advantages.
- Staying consistent. To keep projects moving along smoothly, it’s essential to discuss tasks with reliable language. By using the same terms, the whole team knows exactly what’s going on. That makes it easier to refer back to previous meetings or notes with clarity.
- Increasing productivity. Using shared phrases and long that relate to a project allows team members to understand their duties as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
- Reducing errors. How many times do people say something only to have it misinterpreted by someone else? Every day! But when you’re working on a project, those misunderstandings turn into costly mistakes that put projects behind schedule. Project management terminology means that everyone is working from the same baseline and with the same understanding.
- Improving collaboration. Every project comes with the possibility of miscommunication barriers, particularly if teammates speak different languages or work separately. Using terminology that makes sense across the industry – or even just your team – improves communication and productivity.
20 must-know project management terms
Before you dive into your next project, run through this quick refresher of some of the most common project management terms.
1. Agile methodology
The agile methodology prioritizes collaboration on work in short cycles or sprints. Employees complete tasks with a quicker turnaround time, and more flexible styles of working are supported and encouraged. Software development teams often use agile approaches.
All of the tasks that need to be completed during the project’s life cycle are called the backlog. They’re visible to all team members throughout the project so everyone can better understand what needs to be done to meet deadlines.
3. Change control
Change control is when a project manager reviews requests for changes to the project. This helps keep teams on track and guarantees that projects stay within scope. If changes are necessary, the project manager should adequately account for the time, money, and resources needed to make them happen.
4. Cost overrun
Projects always have unanticipated costs along the way. To the best of their ability, project managers should forecast overrun costs in the budget.
5. Critical path method
A popular methodology in project management, the critical path method schedules tasks by finding the shortest possible route to get to project completion. This can help determine the scope of time needed to complete a project.
The final outcome or objectives of a project are known as deliverables. They can be client- or customer-facing, or simply for internal use. All of the tasks completed in the project should be working towards the final deliverables.
Dependencies are the relationships between tasks that affect the completion of the project. Client or customer expectations, project budget, or available team members are all examples of dependencies.
8. Gantt chart
A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that outlines the schedule of the project from start to finish. Each bar represents the total amount of time estimated for each task’s completion. Some of the bars may overlap on the chart, which means the team is working them at the same time.
9. Iterative development
Part of the agile methodology, iterative development attempts to develop and create all products or initiatives in the shortest cycles possible to ensure a successful finish.
The Kanban method visualizes tasks as cards within columns. Each task takes up one card, and team members move these cards to the next column as the tasks move through the completion process.
11. Minimum viable product (MVP)
Not all products are complete when they go to market. In these situations, they’re known as the minimum viable product (MVP). This is the point of development where the outcome is functional enough for beta users to test and provide feedback for the development team.
12. PERT chart
The program requirement and review technique, known as PERT, uses boxes and graphs in a flow chart format to provide clarity for stakeholders on project progress.
13. Product lifecycle management (PLM)
Completed products naturally move through their own usability lifecycle, from growth and maturity to decline. This information should all be tracked in project management and inventory software to account for depreciation, along with updates needed to sustain the life of the product.
14. RACI chart
A RACI chart or matrix categorizes stakeholders based on four role types: responsible, accountable, consulted, informed. This relates to how a stakeholder is involved in a project’s tasks, whether that’s completing the work themselves or simply acting as a mentor when necessary.
15. Resource allocation
You can’t complete a project without the right assets and people. Leadership must wisely manage resources to meet the demands of the project scope.
Scrum is a technique used as part of an agile methodology. It dedicates specific time to individual tasks that work towards a project’s completion. Some teams may use Scrum sprints to take care of as many tasks as they can in a set amount of time for efficiency’s sake.
Much like the name suggests, sprints are short bursts of work that get team members to complete as many tasks as possible in a small amount of time. Planning, work, and review time should all be included in sprints so there’s nothing left to do when time’s up.
18. Stand-up meeting
Also known as a daily scrum, stand-ups involve all members of the team and give everyone the opportunity to discuss the project’s progress. This approach maintains morale and productivity, as all tasks and developments are honestly and transparently shared.
19. SWOT analysis
During the iteration and planning stages of a project, l managers may conduct strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat (SWOT) analyses. They help teams identify relevant parts of the project, along with other similar products or services that may already exist in the market.
20. Waterfall model
Unlike the agile methodology, the waterfall model moves project tasks sequentially until completion; each task must be finished before the next one can begin. This approach is most commonly used in long-term, complex projects.
Best project management software
Project management software is used to make completing projects as a team more straightforward. Use these tools to make real-time decisions to keep your whole team updated on progress as the project moves through its various lifecycle stages.
To be included in the project management software category, platforms must:
- Create project plans and work breakdown structure (WBS) based on the scope
- Define, manage, and allocate resources based on demand and availability
- Create project budgets and compare them with actual costs and expenses
- Support multiple project management methodologies such as waterfall and agile
- Provide project templates that can be modified or combined to create new projects
- Manage interdependencies between tasks and their impact on deadlines
- Automatically generate a critical path and update it when the project changes
- Allow users to mass update tasks without changing interdependencies
- Include multiple project views such as calendar view or customer view
- Monitor project progress, resource utilization, and user productivity
Below are the top 5 leading project management software platforms from G2’s Winter 2024 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.
Smartsheet is a project management platform that allows teams to collaborate with automated features and processes that improve productivity from any device, anywhere in the world.
What users like:
“Smartsheet impresses us with its intuitive interface. As it’s a cloud based system, we can access from anywhere and update the data in real time. This helps us to connect with our teams while working remotely. This is a complete package from process automation and project management.”
– Smartsheet Review, Anusuya M.
What users dislike:
“I do not like the layout, as I often feel like I’m paying for a version of Excel that works better in the cloud. There is a learning curve that requires time and energy to overcome.”
– Smartsheet Review, Dan C.
monday.com is a project management tool that gives teams the ability to collaborate with personalized and customizable workflows in an intuitive workspace.
What users like:
“I find monday to be really user friendly and easy to understand. The various options to add different column types, colors, and other categories help a lot in daily work. It’s possible to add countless new boards and even new groups in the particular board which makes tracking of new data easy to follow.”
– monday.com Review, Gunars O.
What users dislike:
“When reporting using the dashboard functions, it was hard to report against the progress of specific users. It seems you can either report against one user or the entire group.”
– monday.com Review, Sebastian P.
Asana is a project management software solution that offers multiple methods for cooperation on projects throughout an organization. Features like Kanban boards, integrated calendars, and automated tasks keep projects on track.
What users like:
“Asana provides a user-friendly and intuitive interface that makes it easy for individuals and teams to get started quickly without a steep learning curve. Users can customize workflows to match their specific processes, helping teams adapt the tool to their unique needs and methodologies. I use it on a daily basis for managing my ongoing projects.”
– Asana Review, Santiago A. G.
What users dislike:
“If your business requires comprehensive workflows and custom automations like in Jira, Asana isn’t the best choice. I would say Asana is more applicable for small-mid teams without any rocket-science workflows or team collaborations. Most probably non-tech teams will profit the most from Asana.”
– Asana Review, Anton S.
Much like comparable project management systems, ClickUp has options to manage project tasks like Docs, Chat, Whiteboards, and integrated communication tools.
What users like:
“The software’s integration capabilities have simplified our workflow by seamlessly connecting with other essential tools, creating a unified work environment. It has become an indispensable tool in our daily operations. Highly recommended for any organization seeking a reliable and comprehensive project management solution.”
– ClickUp Review, Shreya W.
What users dislike:
“Some actions felt kinda buggy. Like moving or duplicating a ticket from a sprint or a workspace to another workspace.”
– ClickUp Review, Khalifa G.
Notion is a flexible online tool that teams can use to create documents, manage tasks, and share links during the project management process. With new artificial intelligence (AI) features, teams can now automate and collaborate more efficiently.
What users like:
“Notion is a software that can be just about anything you need it to be. It gives you the canvas and tools to build whatever pages, databases, wikis, or boards you need to organize your life or business. And if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, there are hundreds of pre-built templates from fellow Notion users.”
– Notion Review, Kit B.
What users dislike:
“Understanding the full potential of Notion and customizing it to individual needs might take some time and exploration. Furthermore, the extensive customization options might sometimes lead to complexity. Users might find themselves spending time configuring the workspace instead of focusing on tasks, especially if they prefer a more straightforward approach to organization.”
– Notion Review, Andrea Maie R.
Project kickoff. Translation: Let’s get to work!
Using project management terminology can feel like a foreign language when you’re first learning it. But with time, you’ll soon find yourself rattling off these useful, unifying words and phrases like the professional you are!
Work towards your next big project success with project management software that keeps your team on track, on budget, and on time.