Project Management Terms: A to Z Glossary

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Deepen your knowledge of the project management field by exploring these key terms.

Project Management Terms

Whether you’re launching a million-dollar product for a large, multinational company or starting your very own homegrown business, effective management is integral to the success of any project. So, when you undertake a project that requires the completion of numerous steps and the coordination of multiple stakeholders, you want to make sure that you say what you mean.  

Here are project management terms that you should know as you prepare for your next big project.   

Project management terms


Agile is a project management and software development approach that uses incremental and iterative steps to complete projects. While traditional project management linearly plans projects into discrete stages, Agile prioritizes collaboration in short-term development cycles that adapt and adjust based on stakeholder feedback.

Learn more: Enhance your project flexibility and efficiency with Agile Project Management Courses.

Agile certification

Agile certifications demonstrate the holder's competency in a range of Agile methodologies, including Scrum, Kanban, and Lean. Agile certifications are offered by numerous professional organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile). In some cases, a certification may improve your chances of landing a related project management position. 

Burndown chart

A burndown chart is a graphical representation of the work remaining versus time in a project or sprint. It helps visualize progress by showing how much work is left to be completed and whether the team is on track to meet its goals within the allotted time.

CAPM certification

A Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® Certification is a credential offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) that demonstrates the holder’s preparedness for entry-level project management positions. To obtain the certification, you must register with PMI, pay a fee, and pass an exam that tests your aptitude with such common project management skills as project scope, resource management, and procurement. 

Case study 

A project management case study is a report that describes a project’s challenges, solutions, and outcomes. It highlights the work of stakeholders and informs the development process of future projects, which may benefit from the lessons learned from those that came before them.

Learn more: Learn to analyze and derive insights from real-world scenarios with Case Study Courses.

Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement is a process aimed at consistently enhancing performance and refining methods within individuals and organizations. It involves a commitment to ongoing growth and innovation, fostering a mindset that embraces change and learns from mistakes. Continuous improvement plays a crucial role in project management by fostering an environment of learning, adaptability, and optimization throughout the project lifecycle.

Critical path method (CPM)

The critical path method (CPM) is a technique used for analyzing, planning, and scheduling projects in which all of a project’s necessary tasks are identified and used to determine scheduling. In project management, a critical path consists of the longest sequence of tasks and dependencies that must be completed, along with an estimation of how long each will take to do so. CPM is important for creating realistic project timelines. 

Daily standup

In Agile project management, daily standups are brief meetings held daily to update teams on project progress and identify any blockers. Their name comes from their similarity to a sports huddle. Traditionally, these meetings work on the premise that if attendees are standing, the meeting should be kept short.


A dependency refers to the relationship between tasks or activities, where the completion of one task relies on another task's completion. In other words, a dependency exists when a task can only be performed after another task has been finished. In project management, dependencies help determine the sequence and order in which tasks should be executed to ensure smooth project progression and successful outcomes. 


Deliverables are the outputs that must be completed for a project to be finished. They are simply the products, services, or results that must be completed over the course of a project’s life cycle for it to be successfully finished. Deliverables can include everything from intangible results like the development of a new internal process to tangible products like physical prototypes.

Development team 

A development team is a collection of individuals who work on developing a piece of software, service, or product from beginning to end. The exact structure of a development team varies from project to project and organization to organization, so the role of a project manager or project coordinator on a development team can shift dramatically from one place to another. 

Read more: Web Development Terms: A to Z Glossary

Direct costs

In project management, direct costs refer to all the costs that apply to a single, specific project, such as the cost of its labor, raw resources, and equipment. When planning a project budget, direct costs are those that are considered the most and are perhaps the biggest impacts on how the project will be completed. 

Fishbone diagram

A fishbone diagram, also known as a cause-and-effect diagram or an Ishikawa diagram, is a helpful tool for identifying the root cause of a problem. It allows you to list all the potential causes that may be contributing to the effect you are currently experiencing. This visual aid, which takes the shape of a fishbone, hence its name, is commonly used during brainstorming sessions.

Gantt chart 

A Gantt chart is a key project management tool used to outline a project’s roadmap by breaking down the project timeline into tasks and subtasks associated with specific team members. It is a bar chart that uses a horizontal bar to represent each task and the length of the bar to represent the time it will take to complete the task.  

Indirect costs

In project management, indirect costs refer to all the general costs – like administrative and management costs – that aren’t attributable to any one project but may still impact them. In effect, indirect costs impact multiple projects rather than just a specific one but also often remain relatively stable over time

Iterative development 

Iterative development is a project management approach in which a product, service, or initiative is conceptualized, created, and refined via short project cycles until the project’s completion. While iterative development is most often associated with Agile methodology and software development, it can also be implemented by teams for a wide variety of project types.  


Kanban is a project management method that visualizes the tasks needed to complete a project by using cards placed within columns. In Kanban, a task is created on a card and then moved from one column to another as it progresses toward completion, which is indicated by the final column. Kanban can be done physically or digitally and is often paired with other project management methods, such as Scrum or Lean.

Learn more: Streamline your workflow and enhance productivity with Kanban Methodology Courses.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) 

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable metrics used to measure an organization’s overall performance. Businesses and project managers use KPIs to set objectives, create project plans, and measure their performance as they work to achieve their goals. KPIs can be used to review performance on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annual basis. 

Minimum viable product

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of your product that may not be fully complete, but it is functional enough for users to test and provide feedback. Its purpose is to determine if there is a market for your idea and if it effectively solves a problem for your customers. An MVP serves as a crucial starting point for Agile projects, which emphasize continuous feedback and iterative improvement by adding new features and refining existing ones to an existing product.


Megaprojects are large, complex projects that often cost hundreds of millions—or even billions—of dollars to complete. Typically, megaprojects are wide-reaching, multi-year initiatives that involve both private and public stakeholders and may ultimately impact millions of people through their completion. Examples of megaprojects include the development of new city infrastructure, the building of a power plant, or the execution of a massive sporting event like the World Cup. 


A milestone is a marker that indicates a major goal, task, or event within a project. They are often used to divide a project into discrete phases and to plan the resources and actions that must be completed by a specific time.


Monitoring is the process of regularly checking the progress of a project and its associated tasks. Project managers monitor a project to ensure that it stays on track and to resolve any obstacles that may hinder its completion (a process known as “control”). 


An OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It's a goal-setting framework that helps organizations, teams, and individuals define and track their objectives and measure their progress toward achieving them. This involves defining clear objectives, which are inspiring and ambitious statements that describe what you want to achieve. Alongside the objectives, key results are set as measurable outcomes that indicate the success of the objective.

PERT chart 

A program requirement and review technique (PERT) chart is a project management tool that visualizes a project’s tasks and dependencies using boxes and arrows to represent the project graphically in a flow chart format. PERT charts can be used on projects large and small and can help improve efficiency and clarity by providing a central reference point for stakeholders. 


Procurement is the essential process of acquiring goods and services that a company or organization needs to function effectively. Every business requires various products, such as office supplies, and services, like copy machine maintenance, to support its operations. To ensure maximum profitability, buying equipment, services, and stock from reliable suppliers at competitive prices is crucial. This enables businesses to optimize their profit margins and thrive in the marketplace.

Product life cycle management (PLM) 

Product life cycle management (PLM) is the process of managing a product as it moves through its life cycle, which typically consists of an introduction, growth, maturity, and decline stage. PLM centralizes information for all stakeholders, including documents pertaining to the product, tasks, workflow, and any changes. 

Project budget 

As its name implies, a project budget is the specific budget for a particular project. The budget plays a critical role in the project planning process, impacting everything from how many people work on the project to its timeline and what can feasibly be accomplished. The budget should estimate the total costs for the project and how much will be spent – and on what – for each phase of it. 

Project calendar 

Project calendars display a project’s timeline within a calendar format so that all stakeholders can have a clear view of what needs to be accomplished and by when. Calendars allow members of a project team to visualize how the project will unfold over time, providing them with a glimpse of the detailed steps it will take to complete it by its deadline. 

Project Coordinator 

Project coordinators assist project managers with the administration of a project’s tasks. In their day-to-day work, project coordinators must usually communicate with team members, assign tasks, and organize a project’s details to ensure that it functions smoothly and meets its deadlines. 

Project Manager 

Project managers oversee the planning, organization, and execution of a project from beginning to end. In their role, project managers must work within budget constraints to effectively plan and organize projects, while also leading their teams to complete projects within a specified timeframe. Project managers can be found in a wide variety of fields, such as marketing, construction, and software development. 

Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®)

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) is a standardized collection of guidelines and terms used for project management that are presented in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) published by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Originally published in 1996, the PMBOK guide is regularly updated by PMI and is now in its 7th edition, which is used as a reference for exam materials. 

Project Management Institute (PMI)

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a professional association for project management that provides globally recognized standards for the field, professional certifications, and online educational courses. PMI publishes A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and administers industry-recognized credentials like the Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certifications. 

Project Management Institute (PMI) Certification

Project Management Institute (PMI) Certifications are credentials that indicate the holder’s proficiency with a particular project management skill set. There are multiple certifications offered by PMI for both beginning and advanced project managers, including those that specialize in a specific methodology like Agile or subfields like portfolio and risk management. Certification may help improve your chances of landing a related job. 

Project management life cycle 

The project management life cycle is a framework that provides step-by-step organization for a project from beginning to end. Typically, the project management life cycle is divided into four stages: initiating, planning, executing, and closing a project. 

Project management plan 

A project management plan details the process used to manage a project. While a project plan gives stakeholders an overview of the project and its ultimate goals, the project management plan describes the method used to achieve those aims.

Project management office (PMO)

A project management office (PMO) is a group of project-oriented professionals within a larger organization who provide organization-wide project support. In addition to supporting project managers, PMOs are often also responsible for project documentation, planning, resourcing, and monitoring. 

Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification 

Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification is a credential offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) that indicates the holder’s expertise in the field of project management. To obtain the certification, you must have 36 months of professional project management experience, undergo 35 hours of training, pay a test fee, and pass an exam covering a wide range of project management methodologies, skills, and processes. 

Project management software 

Project management software refers to software that is specifically designed to assist in the management and planning of projects. Today, there are many different types of software available for project management purposes, which enable project managers to do everything from assigning tasks to individual team members to setting project milestones and switching between different visualizations of a project’s timeline and plan.

Some popular project management software include Asana, Monday, Microsoft Project, Jira, Wrike, and Airtable.

Project objectives 

Project objectives are the ultimate goals of the project. The precise objectives of any project will vary from one to another but can be anything from business and financial goals to the creation of a new product or the roll-out of a marketing campaign. Typically, objectives should follow SMART methodology, meaning they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Project planning 

Project planning is the second stage of the project management life cycle in which the concrete steps to complete a project are formulated. During the project planning stage, project managers outline timelines, establish budgets, set milestones, conduct risk assessments, and assign tasks to team members. 

Project scope 

Project scope is a part of the planning process of the project management life cycle in which a project’s boundaries, objectives, tasks, deadlines, and deliverables are established. Project managers use a “scope statement” to document all such features so that team members can remain focused on the project’s overall objectives as they progress through it. 

Project Timeline

A project timeline is a visual representation of a project’s tasks and events in chronological order from start to finish. Typically, a project timeline is visualized using a horizontal bar chart consisting of color blocks that indicate each task and its timeline for completion. Project managers use project timelines because they give all team members a full picture of everything that must be completed in a project and by when. 

RACI chart method 

In project management, a RACI chart (or RACI Matrix) is a spreadsheet used to categorize stakeholders into one of four role types: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed. Taken together, these four types create the acronym RACI, which indicates a stakeholder’s relationship to a project’s tasks. For example, those who actually complete a task are said to be “responsible” for it, while those who review the completed task are “accountable,” and those who provide guidance on it are “consulted.” Finally, those who must know about its status are simply “informed.” 

Resource calendar 

A resource calendar is a project management tool that tracks the availability of team members and indicates their skill set so that they can be efficiently scheduled on dates and times that ensure the project is completed in a timely manner.  In addition to helping project managers schedule who will complete what task, resource calendars also flag potentially important dates like holidays and non-work days that may impact resource allocation throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Resource leveling 

Resource leveling is a project management technique in which scheduling conflicts and over-allocated resources are resolved by redistributing and adjusting them. Resources can include the human resources required to complete a task or the actual tools and raw materials used during it. Resource leveling ensures that projects are completed efficiently and in a timely manner. 


A retrospective is a collaborative meeting held by a team at the conclusion of a project. It aims to reflect on the project's overall performance, evaluate its achievements and shortcomings, and identify opportunities for improvement. By collectively reviewing the project, the team gains insights and understanding that can be utilized to enhance future projects.

Scope creep 

Scope creep is when a project’s scope is changed or expanded after the project has begun. Often, scope creep results due to a poorly defined project scope, miscommunication, or project mismanagement. Scope creep can be costly to businesses and impede the progress of a project’s development. 

Scrum Master 

A Scrum Master facilitates the use of Agile methodologies within a team. While project managers oversee a project from start to finish, Scrum Masters work with teams and individuals to ensure that they achieve their objectives.

Learn more: Master the Scrum framework and boost your project delivery with Scrum Courses.

Scrum Master certification 

Scrum master certifications are credentials that indicate the holder’s competency in implementing Scrum project management principles. There is a wide range of certifications offered by a variety of professional organizations, including Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) both of which are offered by the Scrum Alliance. Certification may improve your chances of landing a related position. 

SMART goals

In project management, SMART is a simple criterion for goal setting. SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound,” and it is used to guide the development of achievable goals within a project. Occasionally, when a goal has not been attained, it could be the result of not adequately defining one of the SMART elements. 

Software development life cycle

The software development life cycle is a step-by-step project management framework for developing software from beginning to end. While the exact stages contained within it vary from one organization to another, the cycle usually includes brainstorming, planning, writing code, launching the product, and maintaining it over time. 


In project management, stakeholders are anyone invested in a project’s outcomes. As a result, they can include a wide range of individuals and entities, including team members, executives, sponsors, executives, users, and customers. 

Statement of work (SOW)

A statement of work (SOW) is a document that outlines the boundaries of a project for a team and their client, indicating the work they will and won’t do. As a result, an SOW acts as a single source of truth for all stakeholders and contains the project scope statement for reference. 

SWOT analysis

In project management, SWOT is a tool used to analyze a project’s strengths and weaknesses so that stakeholders know what to expect before undertaking the project. SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.” When project planning, a project manager may conduct a SWOT analysis to identify each relevant element of the project before visualizing them in a chart or matrix to inform the other stakeholders about them.    

Task management 

Task management is the process of tracking, monitoring, and executing a task within a larger project and its life cycle. Task management is a fundamental part of being a project manager as each task is integral to the completion of a project. 

User acceptance testing (UAT)

User acceptance testing (UAT) is the final stage in software development during which software is tested in a real-world environment to assess its functionality. As the final stage of the project development process, UAT is only concerned with observing how the software operates in clients’ real-world systems and remedying any obstacles that may result from their integration. 


VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The acronym, which was introduced by the US Army War College, dates back to the 1980s and the Cold War. While originally used to describe challenging conditions on the modern battlefield, the term has since been adopted in various other fields, including project management, to highlight the complex and unpredictable nature of the business environment.

Waterfall model 

The waterfall model is an approach to project management in which a project’s phases are ordered sequentially so that one phase will only begin once the preceding phase has been completed. In contrast to Agile methods, which consist of short, iterative project cycles, the waterfall method is typically used to map out long, complex projects that are not suitable for constant changes. When presented visually, the waterfall model consists of tiered phases that resemble a waterfall, hence its name. 

Ready to elevate your project management skills today?

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