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Last modified date

Jul 19, 2024

Project Management Terms for Non-Project Managers

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Alexandra Cote

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29 min

Last modified date

July 19, 2024

Tip: Bookmark this article and get back to it whenever you encounter a project management term you want to understand.

Project management isn’t just for the experts. Understanding the project management terms, techniques, processes, and tools used for managing projects on a daily basis is a must. Not knowing what these stand for or how to use them can cause confusion and delay a project until all misunderstandings are fixed. This is why it should be easy for everyone to know when and how to use these.

Being a part of a project in a world where new technologies appear each day is hard. This is why we’ve created an easy-to-understand project management dictionary of the essential project management terms that anyone can learn regardless of their experience in this field.

We want to help all team members understand the language and terminology of their project manager without having to read dozens of articles or guides on the subject. We’ve added a few helpful links, videos, and diagrams to ensure that these project management terms are easy to understand.

Without further ado, here are all the project management terms you might come across during your career

A terms


Acceptance criteria – The requirements and conditions the final product or service should meet for a client to accept it.


Acceptance test – A type of test through which users try a product or service before accepting it to see if it meets user requirements and to find potential problems that would require additional work.


Acquisition process – The process of getting the necessary people and resources for a project according to the budget and schedule.


Activity code – A value (all text, numeric, or alphanumeric) that helps you group and filter activities (tasks).


Activity list – A list that contains all the activities (including their descriptions) you need to do to successfully complete a project.



Actual cost (AC) – The total cost of work completed during a specific period of time.


Adaptive project framework (APF) – A project management framework that rejects all traditional policies, adapting to the changing situations and requirements of your client. It allows you to create new plans and find better solutions whenever a change occurs.


Administrative closure – A series of activities and requirements that mark the formal end of a project. It’s the final part of a project and it’s done after the client has checked and approved all work.


Aggregate project plan (APP) – A strategy that creates objectives to determine what resources and team members will be needed for a future project according to demand and resource capacity. This improves the way in which leaders manage projects and ensures that the project reaches its goals.


Agile – A set of principles that requires the use of short delivery cycles (sprints) which are built on top of a dynamic work culture based on continuous team collaboration. Agile focuses on regular team feedback and client reviews to support the evolution of product or software development.



Analogous estimating (Top-Down estimating) – A technique that uses expert judgment and past project data to prepare budget and time estimates.


Analytical estimating (Bottom-Up estimating) – A technique that measures the duration and budget needed for individual activities and adds them together to determine the total time and cost estimates. The team members in charge of these activities take part in the estimating process as well.


Approach analysis – Part of project planning, this analysis examines all methods that can be used to reach a project’s goals and milestones.


Arrow diagramming method (ADM) – A technique for creating network diagrams where arrows represent activities and nodes represent events or milestones.



Artifact – In software development, these are products created, used, and updated to help align the product development process with its business objectives. Examples: use cases, business cases, lists, assessments, requirements, design documents, etc.


Assignment contouring – A term used to describe the process of adjusting employees’ daily work hours to avoid overbooking or underbooking them. Assignment contouring is done through project management tools.


B terms


Backlog – Used mainly in Scrum, it’s a list that stores and tracks tasks that need to be done during product development.



Balanced scorecard – A strategic tool you can use to see how tasks relate to each other and to the company’s business objectives.



Baseline – It refers to the schedule and budget you approve when you start the project. It’s used to monitor and evaluate project performance against the initial plan’s starting point.


Benefits realization management (BRM) – A framework you can use to manage the way in which resources and budgets are handled to make appropriate changes and reach the result the customer wants.


BOSCARD (Background, Objectives, Scope, Constraints, Assumptions, Risks, and Deliverables) – A tool that provides the terms of reference for new projects by considering their background, objectives, scope, constraints, assumptions, risks, and deliverables.


Brief –  A document created during the concept phase that contains all the requirements needed for further project development.


Budgeted cost of work performed (BCWP) – Part of the total budget that you dedicate to scheduled work you’ve already performed during a certain time period.


Budgeted cost of work scheduled (BCWS) / Planned value (PV) – Part of the total budget that is dedicated to scheduled (future) work that you need to perform during a certain time period.


Burn rate – The rate at which you use the project resources and budget. Larger projects have higher burn rates because they need more resources to complete daily activities.



Business analysis – A method that helps you find and solve business problems by identifying the business’s most valuable needs. Examples: process improvements, organizational changes, redefined strategies, new policies, waste reduction, improved project efficiency, etc.


Business case – A document that highlights all possible project results like benefits, costs, risks, solutions, capabilities, and effects to show the purpose and motivation behind starting the project.


Business imperative – A goal or strategy that can radically change a business. This objective must be reached to achieve the desired benefit, avoid potential damage, and gain success.


Business model – A strategic plan that shows you how an organization will execute its projects according to customer demands, products, and costs to generate revenue and gain profit.


Business process – A method or activity set that structures all related tasks in a personalized sequence to create a specific product or service for an individual customer/client.



Business process modeling (BPM) – An analysis and evaluation method that presents business processes through a visual representation in order to help you improve them.

C terms


CAPEX (capital expenditure) – The money spent on buying fixed physical assets or upgrading existing ones to extend their use. Examples: equipment, vehicles, buildings, properties, etc.


Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) – An entry-level certification that project practitioners can receive from the Project Management Institute. It helps them gain and prove their knowledge of basic project management processes and terms.


Champion – A project champion is a person in charge of the project’s success. They achieve this by motivating the project team, supervising project development, ensuring best practices, collaborating with stakeholders, and offering support to project managers.


Change control – A term used to define the process of analyzing, accepting, and making changes to a project to ensure their use is beneficial for the final product or service. Change control also deals with change adjustments.


Change control board (CCB) – A group of stakeholders who are in charge of evaluating possible changes. They also decide whether these should be approved or not based on the benefits they would bring to the project.


Change freeze – The point in time after which project changes are no longer allowed.


Change management plan – A plan that contains all team roles, activities, budgets, and schedule details needed for change control.


Change request – A document sent to the change control board (CCB) that asks for the approval of a change.


Closing phase – The final phase of the project management process during which every activity and role is officially wrapped up. Examples: sending the final service/product to the client, getting client approval, ending contracts with suppliers, releasing the project team, creating performance reports, etc.


Code of accounts – A tool that gives unique alphanumeric identifiers to all project work breakdown structure (WBS) components so that you can easily distinguish between them.


Collaborative negotiation – An approach to collaboration that allows all parties to get a part of what they requested during negotiations.


Communications log – A document that tracks all communication types that took place during a project including the people who participated in the conversation, the time and place of the discussion, what information was shared, how it was delivered, and what the outcomes were.


Communications management plan – A written plan that contains all the details on who will send and receive information regarding a project, what details they are allowed to communicate, what the appropriate message formats are, and when these should be sent.


Communities of practice (CoP) – Groups of people who have the same profession (in this case, interest in project management), share their knowledge with each other, and contribute to the further development of their fields of work and interest.


Concept phase – The first part of any project research where all opportunities, possible issues, and solutions are presented to examine whether the project is worth pursuing and what its benefits would be.


Conceptual project planning – The creation of documents that will help the development of a project’s planning and control process.


Concurrent engineering (CE) – A methodology where tasks related to design and development are done at the same time when creating a new product so that it can be delivered faster.


Configuration – The adjustment of a product’s features, functions, and characteristics to meet the client’s needs and ensure that they’ll be able to use it.


Configuration management (CM) – An approach that ensures that a final product meets its technical, operational, and design-related specifications and requirements to guarantee its correct performance and functionality.


Constructability (Buildability) – A technique you can use to review complex construction projects with the purpose of reducing possible problems and delays even before the actual construction begins.


Contingency plan – A plan that contains all possible obstacles and issues that could happen in the future of the project development process. It includes all the details needed to avoid and fix these problems to prevent delaying or ending a project.


Contingency reserve – An amount of money and time kept in case an obstacle or issue negatively impacts the evolution of the project development process. You can use these funds in an emergency situation or not use them at all if nothing derails the project.


Contract administration (Contract management) – The process through which contracts with clients, vendors, partners, and other parties are negotiated and managed according to the established standards and policies.


Contract closeout – A term that describes the process of ending all contracts with clients, vendors, partners, and other parties after checking whether all contract terms have been followed.


Control chart (Shewhart chart) – A graphic chart that shows the evolution and changes of a control process over time according to past data. This can highlight possible control-related problems that will need further analysis and fixing.


Corrective action – An action or series of actions taken to eliminate a problem that negatively impacts a project after it happens.


Cost engineering – A method you can use to handle the costs that go into a project management process including cost estimation, cost measurement, cost control, investment analysis, and so on.


Cost management plan – A plan that contains all the guidelines and procedures needed to manage costs including how these are planned, estimated, financed, and controlled.


Cost overrun (Budget overrun) – Funds that exceed the estimated budget and require finding new resources to cover these additional money spendings.


Cost performance index (CPI) – A method for calculating the cost efficiency of a specific project through the following formula: CPI = earned value (EV) / actual cost (AC).


Cost variance (CV) – The difference between the real cost of the project and what was planned before its start.


Cost impact analysis – A process that determines what effects a change in the project would have on its cost.


Crashing – A technique you can use to reduce a project’s schedule and speed up task completion by adding resources to critical path activities or by cutting down on project requirements.


Critical chain project management (CCPM) – A project management method that revolves around project timing, buffer determination, length estimates reduction, activity completion notification, progress measurement, and priority establishment.


Critical path – The longest sequence of dependent or floating activities that you need to complete in order for a project to be finished on time.



Critical path method (CPM) – A project management method that helps you schedule and prioritize tasks to determine the longest series of activities that need to be completed on time for a project to reach its deadline.


Critical success factor (CSF) – A key success factor or task that you need to complete to ensure the success of a project.


Criticality index – A percentage that shows how often a critical activity happened during a project’s risk analysis and simulation.


D terms


Decision tree analysis – A graphic that shows all alternative solutions that can influence a final decision or result to help you choose between different action paths.



Decomposition – The process of separating final products or services into smaller structures and tasks that can be managed more easily and save you time.


Defect repair – A term that refers to the process you can use to fix or replace a final product that can’t be used or is not in accordance with the client requirements and product standards.


Deflection – The transfer of a risk to a third party such as an insurance agency through an official contract. The other party will be entirely responsible for handling any risk you’ve agreed to transfer through the formal agreement.


Deliverable – A final physical product or results that will be given to a client or stakeholder at the end of an entire project development process. Examples: documents, plans, software products, upgrades, buildings, cars, and many more.


Delphi technique – A method you can use to create estimates for the possible outcomes of a future event or action by gathering information from experts. A group of experts inside a company exchanges their personal opinions and assumptions on how an event will impact a project until an agreement is reached.

Dependency – A logical relationship between tasks that shows the order in which activities will begin and when they need to be done.


Dummy activity – The simulation of activity to show the logical relationships between two tasks in the arrow diagramming method (ADM).


E terms


Early finish date – The earliest point in time when work on a task can be finished.


Early start date – The earliest point in time when work on a task can start.


Earned value (EV) – A method you can use to estimate and measure the schedule and budget performance of a project. The final results will give an estimation for the resources needed until project completion based on previous work that was already finished.


Enterprise environmental factors (EEFs) – Environmental elements that might have an impact on a project. The project team has no control over these factors. Examples: climate, government standards, political situation, organizational structure, market conditions, etc.


Enterprise modeling – A term that refers to a process through which a model based on an organization’s structure, information, processes, and resources is created to show how that company works.


Estimate at completion (EAC) – An estimation of the total cost of the project. This is calculated based on the following formula: EAC = actual cost (AC) + estimate to complete (ETC).


Estimate to Complete (ETC) – An estimation of the additional costs that are needed to finish the remaining of the project’s tasks. This is calculated based on the following formula: ETC = estimate at completion (EAC)actual cost (AC).


Event chain diagram – A graphic of a schedule network that marks the relationships between tasks to show how an event can affect an activity.


Event chain methodology – A schedule network analysis method you can use to find out and manage how risk events affect a project’s schedule.


Execution phase – The part of a project that starts after getting the client’s consent. All activities that are part of the approved project management plan are now put into action.


Executive sponsor – A senior member of the company’s executive board who is accountable for the success of the project. They also provide guidance to project managers to ensure that the project meets all business requirements and objectives.


Extreme programming (XP) – An Agile framework you can use primarily in software development. It highlights the importance of constantly answering with results and changes to customer requirements in order to improve the final product’s quality.



Extreme project management (XPM) – A fast-paced framework that uses flexible scheduling, planning, and budgeting for complex projects where requirements change often.


F terms


Fallback plan – A backup plan action created in case a risk happens and a contingency plan is unable to help avoid the effects of the risk.


Fast-tracking – A term that defines a technique that shortens the length of a critical path by performing activities simultaneously to reduce the time needed to complete a project.


Feasibility study – An analysis of client requirements, available resources, and the project management plan that can show the likelihood of a project’s success.


Finish-To-Start (FS) – A type of task dependency where an activity must be completed before the next one can start.



Finish-To-Finish (FF) – A type of task dependency where an activity cannot end before the previous one ends.



Fixed duration – An activity where the time needed for completion is fixed.


Fixed price contract (FPC) – A contract where the payment is established from the very beginning, without suffering any changes.


Fixed units – An activity where the number of resources needed for completion is fixed.


Fixed work – An activity where the amount of effort needed for completion is fixed.


Focused improvement – A strategy that aims to eliminate one limitation at a time until it no longer influences project performance.


Formal acceptance – An official step or document through which all stakeholders and clients give their approval to end a project once it has met all of their requirements and standards.


Free slack (Free float) – The amount of time by which a task can be delayed without affecting the start date of the next task in line.


Future state – A detailed image of what a company’s business processes will look like in the future after a series of updates and improvements.


G terms


Gantt Chart – A bar chart-based technique you can use for planning tasks and tracking project schedules by displaying each activity against a time frame.

Project Management Terms Gantt-chart

NOTE: A Gantt tool is the best choice for determining the critical path of a project and how budgeted hours align with the overall project timeline.


Go/No go – A point in time when you need to decide whether to continue working on the project or not.


Gold plating – A term that refers to the practice of adding features, updates, and improvements to a product that were not requested at the beginning to ensure the client’s satisfaction. Since these are considered unnecessary, gold plating is regarded as a bad practice.


H terms


Handover – A point in the project’s evolution when a final product or service is given to the client or the end-users.


HERMES 5 – A method created by the federal administration of Switzerland and currently used primarily in IT, service and product development, and business organizations. It adapts to all projects regardless of their complexity because it’s reduced to the fundamental elements of project management.


I terms


Initiation phase – The first step that marks the start of a project. It involves finding out the exact goals and requirements of your client to see if you have the right resources to successfully complete the project.


Input – Any product, information, or process that goes into the start of project development.


Integration planning – The process shows how different parts and tasks of a project will be coordinated with each other and how changes that can affect the project will be handled.


Integrative management – A term that refers to the process of managing all project aspects including budget, schedule, risks, quality, and resources.


Ishikawa diagram (Fishbone diagram) – A diagram that shows all possible outcomes of an effect or problem. It’s mainly used in product design to discover quality-related issues.



ISO 10006:2003 – A guideline that was created by the International Organization for Standardization to be used for applying quality management to projects.


Issue log – A list or document that’s part of project management software. It contains all project issues, their status, people responsible for solving these problems, and other relevant details.


Iteration – The act of repeating and reviewing a procedure or task several times over an agreed schedule period until the final product can be sent to the client. It’s mainly used in the Scrum framework through small fixed time cycles for product development.


K terms


Kanban – A manufacturing method adopted by IT teams in recent years. It consists of a visual board where tasks (represented through cards) go through different stages (represented through columns) until they are finished.



Kickoff meeting – The initial meeting held between the project team and clients before the official start of project execution. You can use it to review requirements and goals and to set the standards that will guide the project development process.


Key performance indicator (KPI) – A value that shows the success rate of a project or how effective its development has been in reaching the set targets. This business metric is usually established even before work on project execution starts.


L terms


Lag time – Used in Gantt Charts, it’s a break or delay between the predecessor activity and the successor one. It’s a period of time that needs to pass before work on the next task can start.



Late finish date – The latest point in time by when work on a task can be completed without affecting the project’s development.


Late start date – The latest point in time when work on a task can start without affecting the project’s development.


Lead time – On a Gantt Chart it’s the amount of time by which the successor activity that depends on the predecessor one can be advanced. Work on the second task can start even before the first one is finished. Adding lead time to tasks that depend on each other on a critical path can reduce the time needed to complete an entire project.

Project Management Dictionary Lead


Lean production – Originally a product manufacturing method that reduces the number of wasted resources and lowers production costs while still keeping productivity at its peak and providing the same high-quality results to the client.


Lean Six Sigma – A methodology that prevents and eliminates waste of resources, variations, time delays, downtime, and final product defects while cutting down on costs to improve team and work performance.


Lessons learned – A term that refers to a process or document you can use to gather all the important outcomes, results, and knowledge gained from a previous project. You can also use this information as a reference point for your following projects.


Level of effort (LOE) – Support work done in parallel with actual project work that doesn’t contribute directly to the final product but offers additional help during project execution. Examples: customer communication, team coordination, maintenance, accounting, etc.


Life cycle – The complete project management process you can use to build the final product or service. A project’s life cycle is divided into five other stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring & control, and closure.


Logic network – A diagram that marks the relationship between different tasks in a chronological sequence.


M terms


Management reserve – An amount of money and time kept to fix unexpected situations and problems that can negatively impact the evolution of a project.


Management Science (MS) – A field of interdisciplinary study that helps companies find better solutions and make effective business decisions by using scientific research data and techniques.


Megaproject – A complex type of project that requires a high number of resources and investments. They are often difficult and take a few years to complete, but bring more benefits and a higher profit than normal projects.


Milestone – An important event or progress stage on a project timeline that marks when a part of the project has been successfully completed.


Mission statement – A document or declaration of a company’s goals and objectives that will offer further guidance during the project development process.


Monte Carlo method – A simulation tool you can use to list all possible effects that a series of decisions can have on a project. By taking all variables into consideration, this method will also show you how likely they are to happen and what risks they imply.


MoSCoW method (Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have) – A prioritization technique that relies on close communication with stakeholders to establish the order and priority of their needs so that their requirements are clearly understood and met.



Most likely duration – An estimation of the most probable length of time necessary to finish a task efficiently.


N terms


Network path – A series of related tasks that are connected to each other and displayed visually using a network diagram that may be written or not. It helps you organize your activities and assign them to a project team member.


Nonlinear management (NLM) – A series of actions that allows a business to grow and face new challenges through the use of flexibility, self-organization, and proactivity when it comes to handling changes and risks. It’s the opposite of linear management that offers a strict organizational structure to the management of tasks.


O terms


Operations and maintenance (O&M) – The stage when a project is given to other team members that bring it into operation and carry out maintenance to solve any changes or problems.


Operations Management – A series of tasks that help you make sure that a project’s operations (related to production, accounting, manufacturing, support, etc.) and day-to-day tasks are working towards meeting your business goals and client requirements by maintaining control of all processes.


Opportunity – A factor, activity, event, situation, or choice that can positively impact the outcomes and effects of a decision and help you reach your business and project objectives. It’s a type of risk that has a positive impact on the project.


Optimistic duration – The estimation of the shortest and best possible time length you’ll need to complete a task or project.


Organizational breakdown structure (OBS) – A method that shows how an entire company works by creating a hierarchy of its departments and identifying their tasks, the relationship between them and each department, and their responsibilities.


Organizational enabler – A tool, information, method, skill, or anything else that helps a company reach its business goals successfully.


Organizational planning – A process that consists of establishing certain strategies, team roles, responsibilities, and organizational hierarchies to help a company successfully meets its business goals.


Organizational process assets (OPAs) – A series of plans, policies, procedures, gained knowledge, and processes that are owned and used by a company for all of its projects.


Organizational project management (OPM) – A strategy that sets the rules and standards for managing a company’s projects, programs, and portfolios to reach its business goals.


Organizational project management maturity (OPM3®) – A series of guidelines used to analyze, compare, and improve a company’s capability of meeting its goals through task management.


Output – Any product, information, or process that represents the end of a project or results from it.


Overall change control – The process of analyzing and making beneficial changes to a project to ensure that they can be integrated into the project without delaying or compromising any tasks.


P terms


Parallel life cycle – A set of project stages in which some phases overlap to reduce the time needed to complete a project.


Pareto principle (80/20 rule) – A guideline and method that helps your business and projects become more effective once you understand that approximately 80% of effects (outputs) are results of 20% of causes (inputs). Examples: 20% of salespeople are accountable for 80% of the total sales, 20% of clients create 80% of a company’s profit, 20% of employees produce 80% of work results, etc.

Pareto priority


Perform Integrated Change Control – A process for reviewing, approving, and managing all project changes and their effects even if they happen only during a specific part of a project as this could impact its entire development.


Performance measurement baseline (PMB) – A plan or set of guidelines you can use to assess a project’s performance according to its schedule, cost, scope, and other relevant factors.


Performance reporting – The act of informing clients and project stakeholders about the project’s performance and future expectations.


Performing organization – A group that includes all team members and resources directly involved in a project and used to complete a series of activities.


Pessimistic duration – The estimation of the longest and worst possible time length you’ll need to complete a task or project.


PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological) analysis – A method you can use to analyze how political, economic, social, and technological factors can affect a project’s development and its outcomes. It can help you find possible strategic opportunities and avoid any issues from the very beginning.



Phase gate – A point during project development when its leaders decide whether they should continue work or not based on the project’s past performance and goals. Work on the project can also be ended or revised at this point.


Planning phase – The stage of a project development process where you make all plans, select a team, create a schedule based on the activity estimations, and get your client’s approval to start working on the project.


Planning poker (Scrum poker) – A game-like method that uses a group of team members to make simultaneous effort estimates that will then be analyzed until a proper one is selected.

Planning poker explained

Portfolio – A set of multiple programs and projects gathered under a single structure.


Portfolio management – The action of monitoring and handling organization’s portfolios and all methods, processes, and tools that are a part of them.


Precedence diagramming method (PDM) –  A technique for creating network diagrams where arrows represent dependencies and nodes represent tasks. This shows you the order in which activities should be completed according to the relationship between them and their duration.



PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) – A project management method developed by the UK government. This method offers great control over resources and risks, regular review cycles, and highly-organized planning and execution phases that focus on the person who will be using the final product or service.



PRiSM (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods) – A sustainable methodology that considers all environmental factors that go into the project management process. It helps project managers lower pollution levels, eliminate waste, and save more energy.



Probability and impact matrix – A visual tool that helps project managers prioritize the order in which they will handle risks by considering what the probability of them happening is and how these will affect the project.



Problem statement – A clear written description of a problem that you need to fix and its possible solutions.


Process – A series of recurrent activities that have a definite outcome.


Procurement management plan – A written plan that contains all the details, requirements, and procedures that will help an organization get the resources and supplies it needs to complete a project.


Product breakdown structure (PBS) – A visual tool you can use to analyze, register, and share all project components, results, and outcomes in a hierarchical order.


Program – A set of multiple projects gathered under a single structure.


Program management – The action of monitoring and handling an organization’s programs and all methods, processes, and tools that are involved in them.


Progress analysis – The evaluation of a project’s status in comparison with the performance standards you’ve set at the beginning to help you fix possible issues.


Progressive elaboration – The act of constantly updating your project management plan after reviewing the project’s status and gaining new knowledge or vital information as the project evolves.


Project – A temporary endeavor and sequence of connected tasks that aim to reach a series of business objectives and either create something unique or change an existing product, service, or organization.


Project accounting – The act of recording, analyzing, and reporting the status of each project’s costs so that these can be tracked throughout the entire project development process.


Project baseline – A series of standards and project policies you can use to evaluate and control the performance of a project from the very beginning of its development.


Project charter (Project statement) – A formal document that contains all the information project managers need regarding team roles and organization, available resources, procedures, stakeholders, or objectives of a project. It also authorizes them to use these according to certain policies so they can start work on the project.


Project profitability – using the terms profit (for currency) and “profit margin” (as a percentage), project profitability helps business owners and project managers assess whether their projects generate more revenue than their incurred expenses without taking their cash flow into consideration.


Project cost management (PCM) – A method that uses software and other digital tools to estimate, evaluate, and manage the finances of a project.


Project integration management plan – A written document that contains all the details, requirements, and procedures that will help an organization handle its integration management and the changes that can impact a project.


Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) – A book that contains all the standards and guidelines for project management as set by the Project Management Institute (PMI).


Project management office (PMO) – A department within an organization that creates a series of internal project management policies or rules and ensures they’re being followed appropriately during project development.


Project management process – A series of recurrent tasks throughout a project’s development that you can use to meet an organization’s business objectives.


Project management professional (PMP) – A title awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to those who finish a series of formal project management training, experience hours, and an exam that testifies the PMBOK knowledge.


Project management software – A tool or series of digital features that will help you evaluate and control project management processes. Some of the features these provide include task management, Kanban boards, Gantt Charts, resource scheduling, time tracking, project accounting, and reporting, to name a few.


Project manager – A person who is accountable for leading the entire project from start to finish and for ensuring that it reaches the company’s business objectives and the client’s requirements.


Project network – A graphic that shows the relation between a project’s tasks and guides the entire project development process.


Project phase – A point or stage in the project management process that contains a series of related activities that must be completed for the next stage to start.


Project management plan – A document that has been approved by project managers, sponsors, and stakeholders before the execution of the project. It contains all the details regarding the project budget, schedule, scope, and communication.


Project scope statement – A document that contains all the information about a project’s goals and outcomes and how they can be reached.


Project tiers – A series of categories that you can use to separate projects based on their complexity, number of team members involved, and duration. These will help you identify the best methods and procedures that you should use for each project.


Proof of concept (PoC) – A piece of evidence that results from a project simulation, test, or experiment. It shows if and how an idea can be applied to make a project successful.


Q terms


Qualitative risk analysis – A technique that evaluates how likely a risk is to happen and what its outcomes would be.


Quality assurance (QA) – A method that helps project managers oversee and successfully manage project processes by preventing any errors or problems from happening.


Quality control (QC) – A method that uses established rules to deliver a final product or service that is in accordance with the client’s requirements.


Quality management plan – A document that contains all client requirements and quality standards. It also outlines how quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) should be used to meet them.


Quality, cost, delivery (QCD) – A method you can use to assess production stages and components when it comes to quality, cost, and delivery to help project managers make better decisions and understand their effects.



Quantitative risk analysis – A technique that uses numerical operations to see how likely a risk is to happen and what its outcomes would be. It’s usually performed after the risks have been prioritized during the qualitative risk analysis.


R terms


RAID (risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies) log – A tool that tracks the evolution of risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies during a project in such a way that none of these aspects are forgotten.


Request for proposal (RFP) – A formal document that asks for the stakeholders’ approval of an invitation, bid, purchase, or idea.



Requirements management plan – A written plan that contains valuable information on how you can handle and reach your project requirements.


Requirements traceability matrix (RTM) – A document that comprises all project and client requirements. It uses tests to ensure these demands are found in the final product or service and that all standards are met.



Resource allocation – A plan or process for assigning available resources to the tasks that need to be completed.


Resource breakdown structure (RBS) – A list or diagram of the resources a project needs, ordered according to their priority, type, or function.


Resource calendar – A document or timetable that shows which resources are available for use during a project and that can vary according to work hours, free days, and holidays.


Resource leveling – A technique you can use to create schedules based only on the available resources. This way, you can set the limits of how often and how many resources you can use for a project to eliminate waste.



Resource smoothing – A technique that limits the use of resources in time to avoid schedule delays when meeting the deadline is vital to the project’s success.


Resource-limited schedule – A schedule where all start and end dates are set based on the resources available.


Responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) – A chart that shows you the roles and duties of all the people: accountable for all tasks, in charge of ensuring that work is successfully completed, and aware of the project’s status.


Return on investment (ROI) – The profit you estimate to get at the end of a project. It shows you how efficient your decisions were, being expressed through the following formula: ROI = net income/cost of investment



Risk – An event, action, situation, or factor that might affect the project’s development, schedule, budget, resource, objectives, and outcomes.



Risk acceptance – A method of accepting that risk can happen and not taking any measure to prevent this from happening. Risks are accepted if they don’t affect your deadline and project outcomes or if it would cost you too much to handle them.


Risk assessment – A method you can use to evaluate the risks that can occur during a project and see how they would impact the final results.


Risk avoidance – A method of completely avoiding any possible issue, hazard, or problem that can negatively impact a project’s outcome.


Risk breakdown structure (RBS) – An organized list or diagram that contains all the risks that can impact a project according to its category.



Risk category – A group of structured risks that have the same causes and effects.


Risk efficiency – The concept of handling risk in such a way that its impact would be minimal or that its effects would be beneficial and bring more positive results than negative ones.


Risk enhancement – A method of making sure that a risk that can positively impact a project is more likely to happen.


Risk management – A series of actions taken to identify, evaluate, prioritize, and find solutions for handling risks so that they don’t negatively impact the outcome of a project.


Risk mitigation – A method of eliminating risks and lowering the probability of negative risks derailing the project.


Risk monitoring and control – A method of keeping the evolution of risks under control and making sure they don’t evolve in time by using a risk management plan.


Risk owner – A person in charge of finding the right solutions for risk and of making sure that it doesn’t prevent a project from reaching its objectives.


Risk register – A tool or document that is constantly updated based on the status of risks and their effects on the project.


Risk response planning – A method that shows you how risk should be handled to avoid any further problems.


Risk-sharing – A method you can use to handle a risk together with another person or organization who has more risk management experience.


Risk threshold – A point when a risk’s impact becomes too high not to negatively affect the project’s outcomes. Action should be taken to prevent this from happening.


Risk tolerance – The degree of a risk’s influence that you’re willing to accept if it doesn’t derail the project.


Risk transference – A method you can use to put someone else (usually a third party who has more experience in risk management) in charge of handling risk.


Risk trigger – A situation or factor that causes a risk to happen.


S terms


Schedule baseline – The timeline you’ve set and approved at the beginning of the project. It should be effectively followed throughout the entire project development process.


Schedule compression technique – A technique you can use to lower the length of the project and its critical path to reach the project’s end faster without any delays.


Schedule network analysis – A technique you can use to create a project’s schedule after identifying the earliest and latest start and finish dates of tasks and the relationships between them.


Schedule performance index (SPI) – A metric that shows if a project is within the established schedule using the following formula: SPI = earned value (EV) / planned value (PV)


Schedule variance (SV) – A metric that shows how much value was gained during project development using the next formula: SV = earned value (EV)planned value (PV)


Scope – The range of goals and outcomes that need to be reached for a project to be successful.



Scope change management – The process of controlling, reviewing, and making appropriate changes to the scope you’ve agreed upon.


Scope creep (function creep) – A series of scope changes that happen without an existing approval or plan. They can negatively impact the budget and schedule of a project.



Scrum – An Agile framework used mostly for product management or for software industry projects. Scrum usually divides your workload into smaller cycles of 2 weeks that are used to review finished work, problems, and tasks that need to be done on a regular basis through daily stand-up meetings.



Six Sigma – An approach that focuses on quality control and reducing defects, bugs, and errors. Any nonconformities to the original specifications will be eliminated before further problems appear.


Slack time (Float) – The length of time during which you can delay a task without postponing other tasks or the project’s deadline.


Slippage – A situation when a project’s deadline is missed due to constant delays. Project slippage also refers to the discrepancy between planned and real project dates.


Sponsor – The person who makes the most important decisions and offers support during the project management process.


Sprint – A time unit that spans across a few weeks during which a project or part of it goes through an entire development life cycle and is reviewed.


Stakeholder – A person or group of people who influence or are influenced by the success of a project. Examples: clients, management, employees, administrators, suppliers, investors, community groups, government organizations, etc.


Start-To-Finish (SF) – A type of task dependency where an activity must start before the next one can be finished.



Start-To-Start (SS) – A type of task dependency where an activity can’t start before the previous one starts.



Statement of work (SoW) – A list or document that contains the details of everything that you need to deliver to a client and the deadlines for these outcomes.


Steering committee – A group of stakeholders who decide the strategic priorities of a project.


T terms


Task analysis – A process that states all the steps, details, and resources needed to finish a series of tasks.


Theory of constraints (TOC) – A concept that states that project performance is always limited by constraints. Identifying and solving these problems can help you reach your objectives successfully once again.


Threat – A type of risk that can negatively impact a project and its outcomes.


Time Impact Analysis (TIA) – A technique you can use to create schedules by taking into account the effects of any unexpected events that might delay your project.


Timeboxing – A technique that gives importance to meeting deadlines efficiently by establishing fixed time frames called time boxes.


Triple Constraint (Project management triangle) – A visual graphic in the shape of a triangle that shows the relationship between the project’s scope, cost, and schedule in an attempt to support project quality.



U terms


Unified process – A cycle-based framework for software development that takes a project through four stages (inception, elaboration, construction, and transition) that are meant to deliver an improved version each time an iteration is finished.


Use case – A list of all the actions and decisions a user has to go through to reach a final goal or finish a task. Useful for software testing and to see how a user would interact with the final product or service.


User story – A recorded or written statement of features from the end users’ point-of-view, containing their requirements and reasons for wanting to use that specific feature, product, or service. Example: As a user, I want the app to respond immediately to my actions so I finish work quickly.



V terms


Value tree – A diagram that places a product or service’s features in a hierarchical order to determine their value based on objectives, sub-objectives, and performance metrics.


Vertical slice (VS) – A point in time or indicator that highlights your progress during different elements or stages of a project.


W terms


Waterfall model – An approach that breaks your work into a series of related tasks you must complete in a strict order. You have to finish each activity before starting the next one. This approach supports the idea that putting more time into early development phases can help you avoid problems and save maintenance time.



What-If scenario analysis (WISA) – A technique you can use to simulate a series of possible situations or plans so that you’ll predict different outcomes and find solutions to meet your business objectives.


Work authorization system – A process that a project has to go through for work to be authorized and completed within a set timeframe and in the right order.


Work breakdown structure (WBS) – A diagram-based tool that organizes all the products and services that you need to deliver to a client and are a part of a project’s scope.



Work breakdown structure (WBS) dictionary – A document that contains all the information on the elements of the work breakdown structure (WBS).


Work package – A group of related activities or units that you can divide a project into.


Workstream – A series of related tasks that you need to work on from start to finish in order for a project to reach its objectives.


Workaround – A method of fixing a problem or unidentified risk that doesn’t have an obvious solution through creative, uncommon methods.


Liked our list of project management terms? Don’t forget to bookmark this project management dictionary to check it from time to time as we frequently update it or share it with someone else who might be interested.

Alexandra Cote


Alexandra Cote is a SaaS content writer and strategist with a passion for workplace productivity, social media marketing wonders, conversion rate optimization, artificial intelligence, and keyword research. Reach out to her via LinkedIn.

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