Project management glossary’s project management glossary provides definitions and information for many common – and not so common – terms used in the complex field of project leadership and management.

project management pm glossary

As in many specialized fields, there is a host of terms that hold a specific meaning, and the world of project management (PM) is no exception.  Although project management professionals have an understanding of these specific complex PM terms, the vernacular may not be as intuitive for professionals in other fields. 

These PM terms define not only what is being done, but also provide some very specific guidelines for how, where and/or when these terms are applicable. The field of PM is highly complex with skillsets that are employed widely within almost all industries; exposing the field to a global audience.

The project management field spans 10 interconnected knowledge areas and incorporates the use of 47 processes organized into five process groups (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and close-out) -- making it a complex field to understand and navigate. As project management is applied within small businesses to large multi-national organizations and to virtually any industry in some form, anyone from the CEO of a large international organization to employees within a small business can benefit from understanding these PM terms.

Since project management involves careful planning, execution and management of people, processes, timelines, deliverables, technologies and other resources in a way that aligns with overall strategic objectives, successfully executing a project, can be almost impossible absent the understanding of these PM terms.

The terms outlined in this glossary hold a specific meaning, but may be applied somewhat differently and at different times depending on the industry and project nature.  This glossary serves to provide professionals at all levels with a foundational knowledge of the project management terms and how they are generally applied within the field.

5 project phases

The five project management phases are: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring/controlling and close-out. The term “phase” and “process group” are used interchangeably and cover all processes and activities within a project from start to finish.

10 project management knowledge areas

In project management, knowledge areas illustrate a set of concepts, terms and actions that encompass professional and project management field specializations. In total there are 10 knowledge areas that overlay within the five project management phases. The 10 knowledge areas are: project integration management, project scope management, project time management, project cost management, project quality management, project human resource management, project communications management, project risk management, project procurement management and project stakeholder management.

Accepted deliverables

These could be finished products, documents, services, or any results that are approved by the project initiator/owner, or authorized individual. This could also refer to partial products, documents or services within a phase or project that has been canceled. The key here is that it has been approved.

Business need

This can be created when internal or external factors like changes in regulation, legal requirements, technological advances or limitations, changes in the market, or competition shifts. It influences business decisions and creates a need to take action. The business need is considered an input within the project statement of work (SOW) document.

Change control board (CCB)

A group formally formed to review, evaluate, approve, schedule or reject, and communicate project change requests submitted by the project team.

Change requests

These are formal requests scheduled and submitted by the project team to the change control Board (CCB) to either prevent or correct an action, repair some sort of deficiency or make changes to a policy plan procedure or even costs/budgets or revise a schedule. These change requests are considered an output within the integrated change control process.

Close-out phase

In project management, this is the final phase/process group where processes are performed at the end of a project to formally conclude project activities. It involves confirming and documenting the customer is satisfied with, and accepts the project outcome(s). It also releases all resources/ stakeholders, concludes project activities, terminates all agreements, insurers updates to any project documents are complete, formally closes the project, and documents any lessons learned throughout the project.

Composite organization

Usually refers to organizations that involve a combination of the previous structures and may have some middle-management, strategic and operational management that interact with project managers on all levels.

Cost forecasts

This measures the costs at a point in time against a cost baseline and is used to calculate the estimate to complete (ETC). It is usually expressed as a cost variance (CV) and cost performance index (CPI).


These are typically tangible products or results of the project that are distinctive and verifiable, needed for the purpose of completing the project or a part of the project.

Earned value (EV)

This measures how much work has been completed in comparison to the approved budget for the work.

Enterprise environmental factors

An organization’s internal factors that can influence/impact the outcome of a project and can include government/legislative changes, internal processes and practices, technologies, staff, and management and stakeholder risk tolerance, communication practices, and even corporate culture.

Enterprise project management office (EPMO)

A more strategic PMO that focuses all efforts on executing projects in alignment with overall business strategy. All projects and related activities are undertaken with the goal of supporting business objectives; ensuring projects are not initiated if they do not provide sufficient value to the business overall.

Executing phase

The processes involved in this phase/process group involve actually performing the work defined in the project management plan required to complete the project.  Throughout this phase, there may be changes to the cost, quality, time, resources etc. that may trigger change requests that need to be approved, and this may in turn require a need to revisit and update the project management plan and associated documents. This is the phase where a significant amount of the financial budget is spent as the actual work occurs here.

Expert judgment

This can refer to the judgment of the organization’s internal project managers, a project management office, other professionals, technical associations, or other sources, and relates to administrative activities required to close a project.

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