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Project management is a diverse discipline that can be found in any industry at any level. There is a broad demand for skills in the process of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing the work of a team to achieve the desired outcome. As a result, with a Graduate Diploma in Project Management, you could find yourself communicating with people from multiple backgrounds in a wide range of specialisations.

So, here’s a guide to ten of the most important terms that all project management professionals should understand. It’s a resource you might want to share with some of your colleagues.

Project Plan

As defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge, the project plan is, ‘a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control.’ It’s one of the most important documents in project management which is prepared by and relied on by the project manager.

In its most basic form, a project plan explains:

  • why the project is being undertaken
  • what work the project involves
  • who will perform the work; 
  • and includes a timeline of when work will be completed.

Along the timeline are milestones, which are dates where specified work must be completed and where progress, budgets and resources can all be measured.

Team working on post it notes wth ideas in a meeting

Agile

Agile is a form of project management that identifies priorities in the project and works on them in sessions called sprints. The team focuses their attention on each sprint, then reviews their work with the client to identify issues or opportunities before starting the next sprint. Agile is popular in software development as the client interaction often highlights new priorities and allows work in previous sprints to be revisited.

Scrum is a form of agile which is often misunderstood as the only way of being agile. But there are others such as extreme programming, dynamic system development model, crystal methods, lean development and more!

Waterfall

Waterfall is another, more traditional form of project management that is popular outside of software development, in industries such as manufacturing and construction. With the waterfall methodology, the client is consulted during the planning stage to break the project into sequential phases. The phases in waterfall are staggered, where the end of each phase is marked with a milestone, and the next phase does not start until the previous phase was completed.

Unlike agile, the waterfall method doesn’t allow previous phases to be revisited. This is because construction involves physical objects such as frames, bricks, windows and roof tiles. In the construction of a house, windows can’t be installed before frames and bricks – and going back to alter any of those things is a costly and challenging exercise.

Scope

If the project plan is one of the most important documents in project management, then the scope statement is one of the most important parts of the project plan. A scope statement outlines the common understanding among stakeholders of what work will go into the project and what outcomes will define its success. Sometimes the client, or other stakeholders, will ask the project manager to undertake work that isn’t part of the scope statement or is out of scope. If the project manager agrees, they risk scope creep, which can blow out budgets and timelines.

Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a visual representation of the individual tasks in a project. It’s a bar chart that would form part of your project plan with a calendar running along the top (x-axis) and the list of tasks running down the side (y-axis). Each task is represented as a bar along with the dates on which it is scheduled to occur. Related tasks can be linked to show their relationship.

While you’re studying a Graduate Diploma in Project Management online, it’s an excellent opportunity to develop your Gantt chart building skills. You can schedule your uni work, daily responsibilities and even make time for a little bit of relaxation too!

Colleagues working on a Gantt chart together in the office.

Risk

A risk is an event that may or may not occur, but if it does, it will impact negatively on the project. Project managers prepare for risks with a risk assessment. First, they have to assess the likelihood of the risk, then decide what precautions to take. If the risk is very unlikely, they may take no precautions, or if it’s more likely, they may prepare a contingency plan. For more significant risks, there may be a section of the budget allocated to compensate, or even special equipment purchased to mitigate that risk.

Issue

While a risk is something that hasn’t happened yet, an issue is something that has happened – whether it was a risk or not. An issue is basically a problem that must be resolved.

It can be as simple as resources not arriving on time, or something so complex that the entire project grinds to a halt. For example, an $85 million hotel project in the United States recently experienced the worst kind of issue when the construction collapsed, killing two workers. It appears that this issue may have been preceded by risks that could have been addressed.

Status report

Generally prepared weekly or daily, a status report is a standardised update on the project that is distributed to stakeholders. It describes the project’s current situation, highlights any risks or issues and reviews milestones. Status reports use consistent measurements, terms, layout and distribution to make it easy for all stakeholders to access and understand. All of these factors are usually decided upon in the planning stage of the project.

Sponsor

The sponsor is effectively the head of the project. They may be the owner or general manager of the organisation who has requested the project. Or they may be a representative of a large organisation or government for whom the project is being undertaken. The project manager reports to the sponsor who has the capacity to make executive decisions, approve budgets and agree on the final specifications.

Change Management

Outside of project management, change management is concerned with assisting employees with a change in strategy or a change in culture. In project management, the focus of change management is quite different. It’s about managing changes to the project plan with relation to the scope, the budget or the timeline. These changes may be prompted by risks, issues or requests from the sponsor. Of course, you’ll put your heart and soul into preparing an effective project plan, but it’s wise to remember that one of the constants in life is change.

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