Upgrade your Project Management Skills
October 28, 2020

9 Key Project Management Terms, and How They Impact Your Project

By Brian McHale

Project management can seem daunting if this is your first time running a project.

From all the methodologies, to terms that sound downright mystical, it can be easy to develop a headache.

Fortunately, we’ve prepared a guide to the most important project management terms.

By understanding responsibilities and roles associated with each one, you’ll be able to successfully complete your projects.

Let’s take a look!


1. What Is a Scrum Master?

Scrum master is related to the Scrum project management methodology.

According to Scrum.org, the Scrum master is the person “responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum.”

In modern project teams, the role of Scrum Master is usually given to the project manager.

And as such, project managers have to make sure that everyone stays on track and adheres to the principles of Scrum.

The Importance of Scrum Masters in Project Management

As a Scrum master, you have to:

  • Make sure all the stakeholders understand why the project is important, and how to complete it
  • Manage and prioritize the product backlog, as well as Sprint backlogs
  • Communicate with the client to make sure you’re prioritizing and optimizing the product backlog
  • Coach your team and help them overcome obstacles
  • Facilitate Scrum events such as Sprints, accurately set goals, and ensure they’re achieved.


2. What Is a Program Manager?

If you’re running several projects that all share the same goal, then you’re a program manager.

According to the definition, a program manager “manages several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization’s performance.”

In general, programs have long-term goals, and achieve strategic outcomes. For example, you could be managing projects related to your company’s digitalization efforts.

The Importance of Program Managers in Project Management

If you’re a project manager, your set of duties is strictly related to the completion of tasks related to the project.

However, your responsibilities as a program manager are:

  • Organizing programs and activities that achieve and/or support the organization’s strategic goals
  • Managing long-term goals and developing programs that support them
  • Evaluating different projects under the program, and optimizing them as needed
  • Communicating with and reporting to stakeholders
  • Managing risks and changes.

Program Managers


3. What Is a Project Manager?

The man or woman of the hour! Project manager is no longer just a profession, but a job responsibility.

But what is it exactly?

According to the definition, a project manager is a person responsible for “successfully initiating, designing, planning, controlling, executing, monitoring, and closing a project.”

The Importance of Project Managers

As a project manager, you:

  • Guide your team towards success
  • Communicate with and report to clients and top management
  • Manage risks and changes
  • Take appropriate actions for the project to result in a successful outcome
  • Handle technology, communication, and organization for your team, and when communicating with external stakeholders (top management and clients)
  • Assemble and/or prepare the relevant project documentation
  • Assess performance.

We’ve written extensively about the role of project managers here.


4. What Is a Project Sponsor?

Every project needs a sponsor – a person, or multiple people, responsible for giving the teams the support they need to successfully complete a project.

Traditionally, we think of project sponsors as clients or top management.

However, the role depends on every project. Project managers are often project sponsors, as well.

The Importance of Project Sponsors

As a project manager, you’re a project sponsor because you:

  • Coach your team
  • Provide the necessary resources
  • Evaluate progress, approve deliverables, and control processes
  • Assign and manage tasks to make sure the project’s business benefits are fully realized.

Top management are project sponsors, as well.

They give the teams the resources they need; from funding to time.

If there is a significant issue, project managers can escalate it to top management.

Finally, clients are project sponsors in the simplest terms, as they receive and approve deliverables.

In general, whenever starting a new project, you should establish levels of sponsorship.

There should be a hierarchy that allows you to escalate issues, and know exactly who to turn to for decision-making.


5. What Is a Project Coordinator?

Project coordinators is the project management term for someone who works under project managers.

They often take care of budget, scheduling, and control.

In modern project teams, project managers are project coordinators, as well.

The Importance of Project Coordinators

Project coordinators control the process and ensure that everyone is staying on track.

They also plan and schedule activities, so it’s crucial to provide them with the right tools for the job.

Free Project Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Project Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

6. What Is a Stakeholder in Project Management?

Now, this is a pretty common term.

Your gut response may be to think of stakeholders in terms of top management and external clients.

However, stakeholders are all the people affected by the project, and capable of affecting the project:

  • Clients
  • Customers
  • Project teams
  • Project managers, coordinators, and sponsors.

And many more!

The Importance of Stakeholders

It’s crucial to communicate with all the stakeholders that can affect the project.

Our advice is to prepare a communication plan during the project initiation phase, so you keep everyone in the loop.

Make sure you understand why every stakeholder is invested in the project.


7. What Is Statement of Work?

Statement of Work (SoW) is one of the most important documents in project management.

Your Statement of Work should include:

  • Project-specific activities
  • Deliverables
  • Timelines.

The Importance of Your Statement of Work

Think of your SoW as the document that makes sure you and the clients are on the same page regarding work requirements.

Your SoW can also help you accurately schedule resources.

Since it requires you to break down the work related to your project, you’ll know how many people you need, and what other resources are necessary for successful project completion.


8. What Is a Feasibility Study in Project Management?

Before you start working on a project, you need to define whether it’s even possible to achieve the goals.

And for that, you can run a feasibility study.

The Importance of Project Management Feasibility Studies

Feasibility studies look at the following areas:

  • Technical feasibility – Is it technically possible to complete the project and achieve the goals? Do you have enough resources?
  • Economic feasibility – Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Businesses often run cost-benefit analyses at this point.
  • Legal feasibility – Can you legally complete the project and produce the outcomes?
  • Operational feasibility – Are the organization’s needs achieved by the project?
  • Scheduling feasibility – Is it possible to complete the project in time?

In short, running a feasibility study helps you validate your project.


9. What Is Critical Path in Project Management?

Finally, when you start planning a project, you need to know how long it will take to produce the desired outcomes.

And since guesswork is not a scientific method, project managers use the Critical Path Method to schedule their project-related activities.


Critical Path Method

Source: Lucid Chart

The Importance of Critical Path

You can create your project’s critical path in a few simple steps:

  • List all the activities that need to be completed to finalize the project
  • Identify the duration of each activity
  • Identify the dependencies between different activities
  • Mark milestones and deliverables.

Then, calculate the longest possible path of planned activities to logical end points (the end of the project).

CPM will also help you schedule activities productively, so you won’t be wasting any precious time.

And there you have it!

Understanding the meaning of each of these project management terms is only the beginning, but it’s a good start for getting to know what’s going on around you as a new project manager.

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