Do you know what these 10 project management terms mean?
Gantt charts are a common way of showing a project schedule and are best viewed in dedicated project management software like Schedule Reader. You see a list of tasks down the left and a horizontal bar chart on the right. The bar chart shows you how long each task will take and there are dates across the top. You can add a lot of other information to a Gantt chart such as who is going to do the work, dependencies and our next term, milestones.
Milestones are shown on your project schedule as diamonds, not task bars. That’s because they represent a task with a duration of zero. The milestone marks a point in time and it isn’t actually representing work you have to do.
A baseline is a version of something at a particular point in time. We normally talk about baselining project schedules so that you can look back and see what has changed and how well you did delivering to the original planned dates. You can also baseline a budget or pretty much anything else that you think will change. They are useful at the end of a project when you are looking back to see what is different and how the project changed over time.
A dependency is a link between tasks. Your project schedule will show all the tasks and your project management software will show lines between tasks where they are dependent on each other. For example, you have to build the walls in a house before you can paint them. Dependencies are useful for putting tasks in the right sequence. They show what has to happen in what order so they are helpful for planning.
Risk is probably a term you are familiar with already: we talk about risks in daily life and risks in project management are the same kind of thing. A project risk specifically is something that could impact the project but hasn’t happened yet (that distinction is important). Risks are recorded on the project risk register. Risks can be positive or negative although generally project managers put more effort into minimizing the impact of negative risks as these represent all the things that could go wrong on a project. We want to avoid those as much as possible!
Issues are like risks in that they affect the outcome of the project in a positive or negative way but the difference is that they have happened already. Sometimes risks happen and naturally materialize into issues. Other times you’ll be hit with an issue that you had no idea was coming and have to react accordingly.
A program is a group of projects. They will all have something in common. Each project will help the program deliver its overall goals, which is normally something transformative for the organization. Programs often have shared resources so if your project is part of a program you will have to work with other projects managers to get your hands on the people and equipment you need in a timely fashion.
Dashboards form part of your project management software and are a way of reporting information visually and quickly. They show key indicators: things like overall progress, budget spent, number of open issues and risks, key upcoming milestone dates, resource overallocation. They are highly customizable so you can pick the metrics that make the most sense for your team and project sponsor.
Related reading: Project Dashboards 101
Changes happen on projects all the time and the term 'change' relates specifically to something that is different from the original scope of what was agreed. For example, this could be a change to the deadline of the project, or a request to add more features into the scope of the work. Changes can happen at any time in the project but are easier to deal with the earlier you are in the project. That’s because you’ve got more time to adjust to whatever it is that needs to be different and to replan your tasks accordingly.
Resources on projects normally relate to the people involved in getting the work done but the term also includes the equipment and budget that you need to complete the project. For example, you might need construction equipment, computers, and a big injection of cash. These are all resources that are required to deliver your project.
Elizabeth Harrin is the author and award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. Review her other predictions for hot business trends on her blog.