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Project management dictionary

When learning the skills and methodologies of project management, it’s likely you’ll come across terms you’re yet to understand. We’ve put together the ultimate project management dictionary for beginners so you can complete your studies easier and more productively.

Updated on: 7th November 2019


The person/people who directly benefit from a project or service, and who the task was undertaken for in the first place.


These are limitations that are beyond the control of the project team and therefore need to be taken into consideration when planning the project, a good example being resources.

Critical path

The sequence of activities that have to be completed on schedule in order for the project to be completed on time.


Any tangible result produced by a project; this could be one result or many, and can range from documents, plans, computer systems, and even buildings. 


A major problem that impedes the development of a project, that can’t be resolved by the project manager, generally avoided by a determined issues management process.


The process followed in order to build the deliverables expected from a project, examples being the Waterfall lifecycle which consists of planning, analysis, design, testing, implementation and support, or the iterative development model consisting of package implementation, research and development.

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A predefined event signifying the completion of a pivotal deliverable that is scheduled ahead of time, and helps to illustrate a project’s healthy progression.


A non negotiable statement outlining what the project realistically needs to achieve, and which is evaluated once a project is completed to ascertain as to whether it was successful.


A unique task of varying size meant to ultimately achieve a specified set of deliverables.

Please note, definitions of a project can vary depending on body of knowledge, so for example:

PMI’s definition – A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

PRINCE2 definition – A temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case.

Six Sigma definition – Measures the cost benefit of improving processes that are producing substandard products or services, with the goal to produce statistically significant improvements in a process.

Project manager

This is one individual who manages a project, and who is 100% responsible for the set of processes used to manage a project, including defining the work, building the workplan, management, budgeting, scope and risk management.

Project plan

The document that describes the processes, tools, and techniques used to manage and control the project, including change, issue, risk, document and time management.


A set of specific descriptions of the way a product or service should perform, generally referring to the features and functions of the project deliverables, and regarded as part of the project scope.


Certain potential events could have a negative effect on a project, so risk is the realisation of the probability of an event occurring and how much this will impact on a project should it occur.

If seen as a high risk, a proactive plan is put in place to manage the event when/if it occurs.


The boundaries of a project defined by what the project will and won’t deliver.

Set out in the project definition, high level scope includes all deliverables and boundaries of a project, which, if changed, requires approval through scope change management.


The person with the primary and ultimate authority over a project, they provide funding, resolve any issues through scope change, approve deliverables, champion the project across a company and provide high level direction.


An external or internal person or group of people who have a stake in the outcome of a project.

Work breakdown structure

The WBS is a hierarchical list of main deliverables that the team must fulfil throughout the course of a project, often used to visually breakdown the project into manageable pieces.

Now you’ve got a good grasp in some of the most common project management terms used across various methodologies, you’re well on your way to becoming a project manager!

If you’re yet to begin your studies, why not browse the project management courses we offer.