Project Management Glossary

Listed below is a set of commonly-used project management terms. Have a suggestion for this list? Email the CPO office.

Acceptance Criteria. Those criteria, including performance requirements and essential conditions, that must be met before the project deliverables are accepted.

Assumptions. Factors that, for project planning purposes, are considered to be true and do not require proof.

Budget. The approved funding estimate for completing the full scope of project work described in the work breakdown structure.

Business Case. A written document that describes the reasons for initiating a project; it also describes the resources, such as money, staff time and equipment required to achieve the specific business goals.

Change Control. The process of identifying, documenting, approving or rejecting changes to the project plan.

Communications Management Plan. A document that describes the communications needs for a project. It describes:

  • how, when, and in what form project information will be distributed
  • who will receive the information and the kinds they will receive
  • who is responsible for preparing the information

Constraint. A restriction which is either internal or external to the project that will restrict the performance of the project. For example, a fixed amount of money allotted for a project budget is a cost constraint, and a set date by which a project must be completed is a time constraint.

Deliverable. Any measurable, tangible, verifiable outcome, result or item that must be produced to complete a project milestone.

Duration. The period of time over which a task is completed. The duration of a task may be dependent on or independent of the resources assigned to perform the task. If a task has a fixed duration, its duration is not affected by the amount of resources assigned to the task.

Gantt Chart. A popular type of bar diagram that illustrates a project schedule. Gantt charts illustrate the start and finish dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project. The tasks and milestones in the Gantt chart are taken from the work breakdown structure of the project. Some Gantt charts also show the dependency relationships between activities and can be used to show the current schedule status of a project.

Lessons Learned. The learning gained from the process of performing a project. Lessons may be learned during any phase of the project and should be documented so other project teams can benefit from the knowledge gained.

Project. A temporary and one-time undertaking that has the following five characteristics:

  • is a one-time event
  • creates unique products or services
  • has time and cost constraints
  • is completed against certain specifications (requirements)
  • has a defined start and end date
  • consumes resources (e.g., money, people, material, and equipment)

Project Charter. A statement of the scope, objectives and participants in a project. It provides:

  • a description of the project objectives
  • a list of project assumptions
  • a description of project scope
  • a list of project milestones
  • a list of key project stakeholders
  • a description of the roles and the responsibilities of the project team members and other key stakeholders
  • a description of project funding and other resources
  • a list of high-level project risks
  • authority of the project manager
  • approval of the charter by the project's sponsor

The charter is signed by the sponsor to authorize the project to commence and use the specified resources.

Project Management. The discipline of organizing and managing resources (e.g., people, money, materials, and equipment) in such a way that the project meets:

  • the defined project scope
  • the time and cost constraints
  • the functional requirement and technical specifications
  • the customers' expectations
  • the required quality set forth in the project scope

Project Milestone. A scheduled event signifying the completion of a major deliverable or a set of related deliverables for a project.

Project Objective. Describes the business objective that the project seeks to address; explains how the project will add value to the organization and what strategic priorities are being addressed.

Project Phase. A set of logically related project activities to accomplish the completion of a major project deliverable. Phases are usually completed sequentially but will sometimes overlap.

Project Scope. Defines the boundaries of the project. The scope describes what will be delivered where, when, and how. It describes the services, functions, systems, solutions, or tangible products for which the sponsor will take delivery. The scope should include:

  • the major objectives that the project is expected to accomplish
  • the key time, financial, technical, and legal constraints
  • the significant assumptions

Requirement. A function or condition that must be met by a product, system or service as specified in the project plans and contracts.

Risk. An uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a negative effect on a project's objectives. The project team devises plans to identify and mitigate risks based upon the probability and impact of the events.

Risk Management. A structured approach to managing a project uncertainty through a sequence of activities including risk identification and assessment. Project team members develop strategies to manage and mitigate risks based upon the probability of the risk occurring and the impact to the project if the risk event occurs. These risk management strategies include:

  • transferring the risk to another party
  • avoiding the risk
  • reducing the negative effect of the risk
  • accepting some or all of the consequences of a particular risk

Risk Register (Risk Log). A tool commonly used in project planning that contains information on all of the project risks identified by the project team including:

  • a description of the risks
  • a summary of the analysis of the risk including the probability of the risk occurring and the impact to the project if it occurs
  • plans to respond to the risk

Stage Gate. Projects are evaluated and approved to move from one stage to the next. The decision point between stages is referred to as a stage-gate. Projects can be theoretically re-prioritized, slowed, expedited, or rendered inactive at any stage-gate.

Task. An action necessary to achieve a project milestone. The work involved to achieve a task is further broken out into activities.

Triple Constraints. A common model for looking at the relative priority and interdependence of a project's constraints of time, cost, and scope. The sponsor defines the priority of each of these constraints in a project.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A project management tool used to divide the total project scope into manageable pieces of work. It is typically presented as an outline or a tree diagram. The higher levels of a WBS describe deliverables and planned outcomes, and the lowest level of the WBS describe the tasks required to complete the deliverables and outcomes. The work breakdown structure is used to create the work schedule.

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