Project Management Terminology – Guide to Success

Every industry has its own terminology and “shop talk”, which is fine for those who are in the know, yet leaves the rest of us feeling like foreigners in our own country or even business. Terminology is an important part of getting any job done, especially if it requires coordination between parties. Lack of understanding of basic concepts can lead to tasks slipping through the cracks, conflict, frustration or even failure.

In light of this, it’s time to get a grip on project management terminology. At one point or another in our lives, we will find ourselves a part, or even the leader of a team assigned to the execution and completion of a certain project. Understanding and using the proper project management language will bring us closer to success.


A project is an endeavor taken on by a person or team to bring on some type of change to a product, service, or event. It is temporary in nature and has a defined beginning and end that comes with the completion of the goal.


A product of work done, usually commissioned contractually. It can be almost anything, ranging from a tangible product, to software, or even a document.

Gantt Chart:

Gantt charts help provide any business a visual detail of a project to visually see how things are progressing. It shows the project at a glance with tasks and timelines.


The distribution of something towards a task or goal, usually that something being resources like money, manpower, or time.

Cost Overrun:

This is something that no project manager wants to hear. It means that more was spent on the project than was estimated and budgeted for.


In a project, there are many tasks that are linked. A dependency is a link that connects two or more of the project’s terminal elements. A simple example is that a cake has to be baked and cooled before it can be frosted, and frosting has to be made before it can be put on the cake.


A float is a term used to describe a time buffer. This is the amount of time that a task can be delayed before it affects a linked task or the timing of the entire project.


There are many different kinds of stakeholders. There are those who are financially linked to the outcome of the projects, like those who own stocks, as well as those who have alternative motives and associations with the outcomes of the project.


Establishing the scope is an important part of the project planning process. It outlines all the products that the successful completion of the projects will bring as well as the features that define them and their requirements.

Scope Creep:

Another term that might be brought up, but you should beware of. Scope creep means that over time, the scope has changed and the direction of the project no longer addresses the original scope. This can be avoided by defining the scope well in the first place, having it documented and reiterated often at meetings, as well as controlling it during the project planning and execution processes.


Usually one of several other actions that are completed to address a greater job or assignment. One of the basic building blocks of a project.

Vertical slice:

Tracking progress is an important part of project management. That’s why taking a vertical slice, so a look at all components of a project at once, is essential on a regular basis. The hope is to see progress in all aspects of the project at that particular moment in time.

Work Stream:

A work stream is the flow that is between linked tasks and activities and how they satisfy a particular scope. It is followed from its beginning to its end for a full picture.

Hopefully this review of project management terminology will help you with communicating with your project manager in the future. Remember that proper and clear communication is key to success, and when in doubt, ask for clarification of terms that you don’t understand. It’s better to admit to not knowing what something is than doing something incorrectly because of a misunderstanding.

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