Starting Somewhere: Project Management Terms for Beginners

April 19, 2019

Trying something new is a challenge at any age.

But take solace in knowing it’s not impossible. If you want to try sewing, you can take a class. If you have the perfect spot for a new garden, you can go to Lowe’s and talk to a gardening specialist about whether petunias would grow well in your light.

And if you want to completely switch up your career, you can learn some new skills, become certified or study for another degree, and completely change the course of your professional life.

More specifically, I am talking to those who are interested in project management. This is a growing industry with a constant need for detail-oriented, growth-driven individuals.

If you’re interested in pursuing a project management career, no matter where you’re at in life, allow me to walk you through what you’ll need to know.

Project management terms for beginners

Like many highly specialized roles, project management has a language of its own. What’s a Gantt chart, and what’s the PMBOK? These are all made-up words, right?

Gantt Example

 Additionally, project managers have to understand the varying documentation needed for different steps in the project, and different project types.

Because I’ve written on many of these topics at length in their own articles, I won’t overwhelm you with brand new content. Rather, this article will act as a central resource that leads to in-depth pieces detailing what you need to know.

If you’re ready to take the first step, let’s go over everything you need to know when beginning your journey into project management.

Additionally, learn more about project management by performing extra research into what is a project management plan

1. Project life cycle

The project life cycle is the series of steps all projects go through from beginning to end. This cycle is generic enough to be relevant no matter what approach or methodology you take. Steps in the project life cycle are initiation/ideation, planning, execution, control, and closure.

2. Business case

A business case is the documentation that helps project managers convince stakeholders and executives that a project is worth pursuing. A business case is written before a project ever begins and includes such details as the project brief, alternative solutions to the business problem, and any constraints that could make a project difficult.

3. Feasibility study

A feasibility study helps project managers and teams determine whether a project is a feasible pursuit for your particular team at this particular time. These studies arrive at a conclusion by performing a business analysis, developing a market assessment, and creating an organizational structure among other things.

4. Project charter

A project charter lays out the essentials of a project. This documentation identifies a project’s scope or scale, defines objectives and deliverables, and outlines key players.

project charter example

 Project charter example courtesy of Ulysses Room

More specifically, a project charter will name the project’s stakeholders and verbalize the authority the project manager has regarding this venture. Charters tell a project manager they have permission to begin work on a project.

5. Project team

Arguably the most important part of a project is the people working on it. Arm yourselves with an amazing project team to help get the job done. Elements of a project team are the project manager, the project team members, project stakeholders, executive stakeholders, and business analysts.

6. Project plan

If you’re going to do a project right, you have to do it with a project plan. A good project plan is prefaced by tons of research and communicates expectations in advance so team members and stakeholders can provide vital input.

7. Risk management

Project managers have to learn to expect the unexpected. Even if all your ducks are in a row, your project could still experience delays due to something out of your control.

risk management framework

Image courtesy of Aviva plc

That’s why we plan for risk through a risk management strategy. In any project, you should understand the potential for failure and have a plan to combat it.

8. Change management

Change management is a sub-genre of project management. If your team is about to undergo minor or major changes, you might want to develop a change management process to proactively transition your team into new horizons. Preparing for change — as opposed to avoiding it or trying to slide it under the table — will improve employee adoption tenfold.

9. Project milestones

We measure our lives by their major moments: weddings, vacations, babies. We do something similar in project management by scheduling out project milestones. Understanding what deadlines or actions represent major accomplishments within the project will help you plan the overall schedule, as well as stay on track.

Only the beginning

The topics listed here are only the beginning of what you can be prepared to learn in your project management journey!

Come back for more PM-focused articles, including information on how to get your certification and become a more official student of project management. 

Starting Somewhere: Project Management Terms for Beginners There’s no shame in starting out. If you’re interested in learning more about project management, use this project management terms for beginners guide to help you get familiar with the basics.
Grace Pinegar Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)

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