When you’re a newbie entering the world of project managers, it can feel like they have their own language. And they kind of do — a Google search of project management terms will surface long lists of words that can be used to familiarize yourself with the lingo.
With the evolution of traditional to digital project management, new challenges, solutions, and tools have resulted in a slew of new terms. As these lexicons continue to grow longer and longer, it has become harder to keep track.
We’re here to help. Here’s our list of key digital project management terms you need to know.
Project management terms: A-F
While Agile gets thrown around by project managers, and is used to describe everything from teams to tools, it’s actually a project management methodology that was originally created with software development in mind. Depending on who you talk to, you may run into wildly varying definitions for what constitutes Agile. But the Agile manifesto that laid out the foundations of this methodology pushed four core principles:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
In other words, Agile is about being flexible, and collaborating with your customers and internal teams to build something that is actually valuable to the end user.
Software teams use a product backlog to keep track of all the work they need to do and plan ahead. Other teams can use this concept as well, making the backlog a versatile tool for project managers needing to consolidate project-specific tasks.
No, it’s not the rate at which you’re thinking up ‘sick burns’ for team members. Burn rate is the rate at which a project (or company) is burning through its budget.
Change management is exactly what it sounds like — the plan or process put in place to deal with unexpected changes on a project.
When using concurrent engineering, design and development are done at the same time. It’s used to shorten development life cycles so you can release products more quickly.
Deliverables are the quantifiable goods or services that are delivered at the end of a project.
Dependencies represent a relationship between tasks or projects where the initiation or completion of one is dependent on the completion or initiation of the other. Worth noting: dependencies can cause challenges for project managers, as a delay in one task can result in a domino effect for all dependent tasks.
Project management terms: G-L
This is one of those project management terms that, if you aren’t familiar with it, can send a chill down your spine. Don’t fret! Gantt charts aren’t all that mystifying or intimidating! They’re just horizontal bar charts that visually represent a project’s tasks over time. Gantt charts are actually great tools for illustrating dependencies as well.
Job stories are a device used to facilitate team conversations. They’re used to shift the discussion focus :
- from assumptions to context;
- from subjectiveness to causality;
- and from personas to motivations.
Kanban is a very visual project management methodology in which tasks and projects are organized on a board. The board is broken into sections representing your workflow — a typical breakdown is “To-Do,” “Doing,” and “Done” — and tasks move through each of these categories throughout a project. Kanban gives team members a quick, digestible overview of the state of a project and highlights bottlenecks. Want more detail? Check out our beginner’s guide to Kanban methodology.
KPI is an acronym that stands for Key Performance Indicator. Project managers and other leaders use KPIs to break goals down into specific, quantifiable metrics. An example of a KPI could be achieving $1,000,000 in annual revenue.
Project management terms: M-S
A milestone is a key event in a project that marks a significant development or change. They are particularly valuable for long-term projects in which multiple deliverables will be completed at different stages. Essentially milestones let you know if you’re on track throughout a project, so you don’t only notice something is off when you miss that final deadline.
An MVP doesn’t have the most goals in a season. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product, meaning a version of a software product that has enough features to satisfy a customer need and generate feedback for future development. While mostly used in software development, MVPs can be created for other projects, too.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. Each OKR is composed of an objective, supported by a number of metrics (often three) to measure the objective’s success. For instance, an objective could be “Generate massive pre-launch buzz around Product X” while key results would be “500 waiting list sign-ups ahead of launch” or “200% increase in incoming media requests.”
Prioritization involves deciding what projects or tasks have a higher urgency than others. Its frequency of use depends on the size and scale of projects — but we all prioritize every morning when we decide what we’re going to work on.
Product managers are often referred to as the “CEO of their product.” They take care of devising strategies, planning work, and matching a product to specific customer needs. Usually, this role is found in tech and software companies.
Product management is the process by which a product goes from concept to launch. It also encompasses continuing efforts to keep a product relevant on the market after launch.
Project coordinators are people who do whatever needs to be done to help a team successfully deliver on a particular project. Where project managers oversee a project as a whole, project coordinators work on the minutiae, such as making sure a team has the tools it needs to succeed.
A project manager is a person ensuring that a project is completed within budgets and deadlines. They don’t typically manage a team directly but coordinate work across multiple teams and collaborators.
Project management is a discipline covering the application of processes, expertise, and tools, in order to meet project goals and requirements according to a specific deadline.
Project management consultant
A project management consultant is an outside expert — usually a project manager — that a business brings in to consult on project management practices and workflows.
Project portfolio management
Project portfolio management is about managing groups of projects and their relationships with each other. That means making sure they don’t overlap too much, properly splitting up resources, and managing the portfolio’s overall health.
RACI is an acronym used to identify the roles of various people involved in a project.
- R = the person responsible for a project
- A = those accountable for the project’s outcome
- C = team members who must be consulted or involved in the project work
- I = people who need to be kept informed of a project’s status
When a project ends, you can’t just jump right into the next one. Retrospectives (or retros) are a chance for the project team to come together after it ends to look at what worked well and what didn’t. It’s used to help implement changes and improve processes for future projects. Retrospection is one of the most important skills for project managers.
The scope is basically the work that needs to be done in order to complete a project. You want your team members to be heavily involved in scoping a project before it begins — especially if you’re producing work for an external client. Only they know how much work will be required to complete that final deliverable.
It sounds terrifying and for project managers it really is: scope creep is when your project starts to exceed its initial scope — often due to factors outside of your control. Sometimes you realize more work is needed than you initially thought. Other times you may run into unforeseen issues. But often, it’s just stakeholders or clients requesting extensive changes or additional deliverables. You always want to address scope creep as soon as possible and, where it is in your control, nip it in the bud.
This can mean one of two things. Firstly, scrum can mean an approach to Agile project management where teams work iteratively in short sprints to make incremental changes or produce deliverables. Alternatively, scrum can also refer to a daily meeting of your team, where every person shares their tasks for the day and any roadblocks they’re facing. Scrum meetings are great for making sure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goal.
SMART goals are goals that follow specific characteristics according to the SMART acronym: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
A sprint planning meeting is when a team examines a product backlog to figure out the main goals for their next sprint.
The person or group of people who are affected by the outcome or achievements of a project. You can have internal stakeholders (colleagues who initiated the project or who are affected by its outcome) and external stakeholders (typically clients).
Statement of work
Also frequently called a SoW, the statement of work is the document that comprehensively details all deliverables expected from a project.
Strategic planning is when you take your organization’s abstract goals and turn them into a concrete strategy. The resulting plan usually includes your organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Project management terms: T-Z
Technical debt encompasses the shortcuts taken when prioritizing speed in software projects. This means projects can launch sooner, but resources will have to be sacrificed down the line to rework these shortcuts and pay down that debt. This concept can be applied to other projects as well; all projects have their shortcuts.
A situation in which a product may be useful. For instance, a reader needing a quick definition for a specific project management term would be a use case for this blog post.
Waterfall is another approach to project management in which a project is completed in distinct step-by-step stages. The next stage cannot be started until the one previous is complete. Gantt charts are one visualization option for waterfall.
Work breakdown structure
The work breakdown structure is a hierarchical breakdown of all deliverables required for a project to be considered complete. Project managers often use this methodology to track dependencies between tasks.
Workflows are a map for getting routine work done in the fastest, most efficient, and most satisfying way possible. Even if you don’t use the term, any part of your job that you do repeatedly in a very ordered way is a workflow. A project management workflow covers all the tasks that take a project from start to finish. Unito is a workflow management platform, meaning we help you organize and optimize your workflows across projects, teams, and tools.
A workflow audit is a process through which a project manager finds the weak points of a particular workflow, usually to improve it.
Workflow management covers the different approaches a project manager might take to streamline their workflows, make them efficient, and reduce the frequency of common blockers. Unito is a workflow management platform, allowing project managers to integrate their tools for smoother workflows.
The workflow process covers the steps involved in building a workflow, mapping it out, and being able to communicate it to other teams.
There you have it! 41 new digital project management terms we think you need to know about in 2021. As the field continues to grow and expand, we’ll revisit this list each year and update it with new, more relevant terms you should know, so stay tuned!
How do project managers save time?
They use Unito to sync crucial data across Trello, Asana, Jira, and more.