APM glossary of project management terms

APM’s glossary is a unique collection of popular project management terms sourced from the fifth, sixth and seventh editions of the APM Body of Knowledge and other APM publications. 

With hundreds of project management terms, including all the latest updates from the newly-published APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition, the glossary is the perfect companion for project professionals in their day-today work, for students studying for APM’s PFQ and PMQ qualifications and for training providers looking to create study materials.

Key benefits:

☑ Quick and easy to reference 
 Simple set of definitions 
 Useful reference tool and a study aid


Glossary of project management terms


A response to a threat where no course of action is taken.


Acceptance criteria
The requirements and essential conditions that have to be achieved before a deliverable is accepted.


The process of collecting and communicating financial information to meet legal requirements, business management requirements, plus internal and external stakeholders’ needs.


1. A task, job, operation or process consuming time and possibly other resources.

  1. The smallest self-contained unit of work in a project.


Activity duration
The length of time that it takes to complete an activity.


Activity-on-node network
A network diagram where the activities are represented by the nodes.


Actual expenditure
The costs that have been charged to the budget and for which payment has been made, or accrued.


Actual progress
A measure of the work that has been completed for comparison with the baseline.


A family of development methodologies where requirements and solutions are developed iteratively and incrementally throughout the life cycle.


Analogous estimating
See comparative estimating.


Analytical estimating
See bottom-up estimating.



A response to a threat that eliminates its probability or impact on the project.



A phase in the portfolio life cycle where the component projects and programmes are balanced in terms of risk, resource usage, cash flow and impact across the business.



The reference levels against which a project, programme or portfolio is monitored and controlled.



The quantifiable and measurable improvement resulting from completion of deliverables that is perceived as positive by a stakeholder. It will normally have a tangible value, expressed in monetary terms that will justify the investment.


Benefits management

The identification, definition, planning, tracking and realisation of business benefits.


Benefits realisation

The practice of ensuring that benefits are derived from outputs and outcomes.



A document defining and describing what a programme is designed to achieve in terms of the business and operational vision.



A body that provides sponsorship to a project, programme or portfolio. The board will represent financial, provider and user interests.


Bottom-up estimating

An estimating technique that uses detailed specifications to estimate time and cost for each product or activity.


Breakdown structure

A hierarchical structure by which project elements are broken down, or decomposed. Examples include: cost breakdown structure (CBS), organisational breakdown structure (OBS), product breakdown structure (PBS), and work breakdown structure (WBS).



The output of the concept phase of a project or programme.


Budgeting and cost control

The estimation of costs, the setting of an agreed budget, and management of actual and forecast costs against that budget.



A term used in critical chain for the centralised management of contingencies.


Business case

Provides justification for undertaking a project or programme. It evaluates the benefit, cost and risk of alternative options and provides a rationale for the preferred solution.


Business change manager

The role responsible for benefits management from identification through to realisation.


Business risk assessment

The assessment of risk to business objectives rather than risk to achieving project, programme or portfolio objectives.



An organisation’s normal day-to-day operations.



A phase in the portfolio life cycle where the component projects and programmes may be grouped according to shared characteristics.


Change control

The process through which all requests to change the baseline scope of a project, programme or portfolio are captured, evaluated and then approved, rejected or deferred.


Change freeze

A point after which no further changes to scope will be considered.


Change management

Change management is a structured approach to moving an organisation from the current state to the desired future state.


Change register

A record of all proposed changes to scope.


Change request

A request to obtain formal approval for changes to the scope of work.



The formal end point of a project or programme, either because it has been completed or because it has been terminated early.


Collaborative negotiation

Negotiation that seeks to create a ‘win-win’ scenario where all parties involved get part or all of what they were looking for from the negotiation.


Committed expenditure

Costs that have not yet been paid but cannot be cancelled.



The means by which information or instructions are exchanged. 

Successful communication occurs when the received meaning is the same as the transmitted meaning.


Communities of practice

Groups of people who share a concern or passion for an aspect of P3 management and develop expertise through regular interaction.


Comparative estimating

An estimating technique based on the comparison with, and factoring from, the cost of similar, previous work.



The combined knowledge, skill and behaviour that a person needs to perform properly in a job or work role.


Competence framework

A set of competences and competencies that may be used to define a role.



A personal attribute of an individual.



Complexity relates to the degree of interaction of all the elements that comprise P3 management and is dependent on such factors as the level of risk, range of stakeholders and degree of innovation.



Concept is the first phase in the project or programme life cycle. During this phase the need, opportunity or problem is confirmed, the overall feasibility of the work is considered and a preferred solution identified.



Functional and physical characteristics of a product as defined in its specification.


Configuration management

Configuration management encompasses the administrative activities concerned with the creation, maintenance, controlled change and quality control of the scope of work.


Conflict management

The process of identifying and addressing differences that, if left unresolved, could affect objectives.


Consumable resource

A type or resource that only remains available until consumed (for example a material).



A collective term for the governance and setting of a project, programme or portfolio.



Resource set aside for responding to identified risks.



An agreement made between two or more parties that creates legally binding obligations between them. The contract sets out those obligations and the actions can be taken if they are not met.



Tracking performance against agreed plans and taking the corrective action required to meet defined objectives.


Critical chain

A networking technique that identifies paths through a project based on resource dependencies, as well as technical dependencies.


Critical path analysis

The procedure for calculating the critical path and floats in a network diagram.


Critical path

A sequence of activities through a network diagram from start to finish, the sum of whose durations determines the overall duration. There may be more than one such path.



Used in Monte Carlo analysis, the criticality index represents the percentage of calculations that resulted in the activity being placed on the critical path.


Cybernetic control

The form of control that deals with routine progress tracking and corrective action using a feedback loop.



The phase of a portfolio life cycle where the projects, programmes and change to business-as-usual required to meet strategic objectives are identified and evaluated.



The third level of a typical maturity model where processes are documented and standardised.



The second phase of a project or programme life cycle where requirements are refined, the preferred solution is identified and ways of achieving it are identified.



The practice of giving a person or group the authority to perform the responsibilities of, or act on behalf of, another.



A product, set of products or package of work that will be delivered to, and formally accepted by, a stakeholder.



The controlled dispersal of personnel and disposal of assets when they are no longer needed on a project, programme or portfolio.



A relationship between activities in a network diagram.



A consequence of change perceived as negative by one or more stakeholders.


Do nothing option

The result or consequence of not proceeding with the project or programme. Usually explained in the business case.



The removal of funds from an agreed source resulting in a reduction of available funds.


Earned value management

A project control process, based on a structured approach to planning, cost collection and performance measurement. It facilitates the integration of project scope, time and cost objectives and the establishment of a baseline plan of performance measurement.


Earned value

The value of completed work expressed in terms of the budget assigned to that work. A measure of progress which may be expressed in cost or labour hours.



A response to an opportunity that increases its probability, impact or both.


Enterprise project management office

An organisation that is responsible for the governance infrastructure of P3 management.



The circumstances and conditions within which the project, programme or portfolio must operate.



The process by which issues are drawn to the attention of a higher level of management.



An approximation of time and cost targets, refined throughout the life cycle.



The use of a range of tools and techniques to produce estimates.


Estimating funnel

A representation of the increasing levels of estimating accuracy that can be achieved through the phases of the life cycle.


Ethics frameworks

Sets recognised standards of conduct and behaviour within the P3 profession.



Control actions or reports that are triggered by a specific event are referred to as ‘event-driven’.



A response to an opportunity that maximises both its probability and impact.


Extended life cycle

A life cycle model that includes the operation of outputs and realisation of benefits.


Financial management

The process of estimating and justifying costs in order to secure funds, controlling expenditure and evaluating the outcomes.



A dependency in an activity-on-node network. It indicates that one activity cannot finish until another activity has finished.



A dependency in an activity-on-node network. It indicates that one activity cannot start until another activity has finished.



A term used to describe the flexibility with which an activity may be rescheduled. There are various types of float, such as total float and free float.


Forecast expenditure

The estimated and predicted use of money.



The means by which the capital required to undertake a project, programme or portfolio is secured and then made available as required.


Gantt chart

A graphical representation of activity against time. Variations may include information such as ‘actual vs. planned’, resource usage and dependencies.



The point between phases, gates and/or tranches where a go/no go decision can be made about the remainder of the work.


Go/No go

A form of control where a decision is made whether or not to continue with the work.



The set of policies, regulations, functions, processes, procedures and responsibilities that define the establishment, management and control of projects, programmes or portfolios.



The point in the life cycle where deliverables are handed over to the sponsor and users.


Health and safety management

The process of identifying and minimising threats to workers and those affected by the work throughout the project, programme or portfolio life cycle.


Host organisation

The organisation that provides the strategic direction of the project, programme or portfolio and will be the primary recipient of the benefits.


Human resource management (HRM)

Managing people-related activities within an organisation to meet its strategic goals.



The act of affecting the behaviours and actions of others.


Information management

The collection, storage, dissemination, archiving and destruction of information. It enables teams and stakeholders to use their time, resource and expertise effectively to make decisions and to fulfil their roles.



Provides support for projects, programmes and portfolios, and is the focal point for the development and maintenance of P3 management within an organisation.



The first level of a typical maturity model where processes are typically ad hoc and occasionally chaotic.


Integrated assurance

The coordination of assurance activities where there are a number of assurance providers.


Integrative management

The application of management processes that integrate some or all fundamental components of scope, schedule, cost, risk, quality and resources.


Interpersonal skills

The means by which people relate to, and interact with, other people.


Investment appraisal

A collection of techniques used to identify the attractiveness of an investment.



A formal issue occurs when the tolerances of delegated work are predicted to be exceeded or have been exceeded. This triggers the escalation of the issue from one level of management to the next in order to seek a solution.


Knowledge management

The systematic management of information and learning. It turns personal information and experience into collective knowledge that can be widely shared throughout an organisation and a profession.



The relevant legal duties, rights and processes that should be applied to projects, programmes and portfolios.



The ability to establish vision and direction, to influence and align others towards a common purpose, and to empower and inspire people to achieve success.


Learning and development

The continual improvement of competence at all levels of an organisation.


Lessons learned

Documented experiences that can be used to improve the future management of projects, programmes and portfolios.


Life cycle

The inter-related phases of a project, programme or portfolio and provides a structure for governing the progression of work.


Linear sequential model

See waterfall method.



A scheduling technique for delivery of repetitive products that shows how resource teams move from product to product rather than the detail of individual activities.



The fourth level of a typical capability maturity model where metrics are gathered on process performance and used to control future performance.


Management plan

A plan that sets out the policies and principles that will be applied to the management of some aspects of a project, programme or portfolio. Examples include a Risk Management Plan, a Communication Management Plan and a Quality Management Plan.


Management reserve

A sum of money held as an overall contingency to cover the cost impact of some unexpected event.


Maturity model

An organisational model that describes a number of evolutionary stages through which an organisation improves its management processes.



A key event selected for its importance in the schedule.



Ensures that the project, programme or portfolio has appropriate organisational and technical infrastructures and mechanisms for putting resources in place.


Monte Carlo analysis

A technique used to estimate the likely range of outcomes from a complex process by simulating the process under randomly selected conditions a large number of times.



A discussion between two or more parties aimed at reaching agreement.


Network analysis

A collective term for the different ways in which a network diagram may be analysed, including for example, critical path analysis, program evaluation and review technique and critical chain.


Network diagram

A model of activities and their dependencies comprising nodes and links.



Predetermined results towards which effort is directed. Objectives may be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes and/or benefits.


Operations management

The management of those activities that create the core services or products provided by an organisation.



A positive risk event that, if it occurs, will have a beneficial effect on achievement of objectives.



The fifth and last level of a typical maturity model where continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies.



The management structure applicable to the project, programme or portfolio and the organisational environment in which it operates.



The changed circumstances or behaviour that results from the use of an output.



The tangible or intangible product typically delivered by a project.


P3 assurance

The process of providing confidence to stakeholders that projects, programmes and portfolios will achieve their scope, time, cost and quality objectives, and realise their benefits.


P3 management

The collective term for project, programme and portfolio management.


P3 management team

A collective term for those involved in the sponsorship and day-to-day management of a project, programme or portfolio.


Parallel life cycle

A life cycle where phases are conducted in parallel.


Parametric estimating

An estimating technique that uses a statistical relationship between historic data and other variables to calculate an estimate.



The major subdivision of a life cycle.



Determines what is to be delivered, how much it will cost, when it will be delivered, how it will be delivered and who will carry it out.



A grouping of an organisation’s projects, programmes. Portfolios can be managed at an organisational or functional level.


Portfolio management

The selection, prioritisation and control of an organisation’s projects and programmes in line with its strategic objectives and capacity to deliver. 


Precedence network

A network diagram in which activities are represented by rectangles (nodes) and their dependencies are represented by arrows.



A project management methodology. It is an acronym standing for Projects INControlled Environments.



The phase of a portfolio life cycle where priorities are set by strategic objective, return on investment or any other chosen metric.



Procurement is the process by which products and services are acquired from an external provider for incorporation into the project, programme or portfolio.



A tangible or intangible component of a project’s output. Synonymous with deliverable.



The application of expert and specialised knowledge within a specific field and the acceptance of standards relating to that profession.


Program evaluation and review technique

A network analysis technique that calculates standard deviations for the schedule based on three-point estimates of activity durations.



A group of related projects and change management activities that together achieve beneficial change for an organisation.


Programme management

The coordinated management of projects and change management activities to achieve beneficial change.



A unique, transient endeavour undertaken to achieve planned objectives.


Project management

The application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.


Project management plan (PMP)

The output of the definition phase of a project or programme.



A person or company that provides goods or services.


Provider selection and management

The processes of identifying and selecting management providers through the P3 life cycle.



The fitness for purpose or the degree of conformance of the outputs of a process or the process itself.


Quality management

A discipline for ensuring the outputs, benefits and the processes by which they are delivered, meet stakeholder requirements and are fit for purpose.



A response to a threat that reduces its probability, impact or both.



A response to an opportunity where no action is taken.



The second level of a typical maturity model where basic processes are established and the necessary discipline is in place to repeat earlier successes.



  1. The presentation of information in an appropriate format (e.g. management report).
  2. A written record or summary, a detailed account or statement, or a verbal account.


Requirements management

The process of capturing, assessing and justifying stakeholders’ wants and needs.


Resource allocation

The process by which resources are attributed to activities.


Resource availability

The level of availability of a resource, which may vary over time.


Resource levelling

A scheduling calculation that delays activities such that resource usage is kept below specified limits. It is also known as resource limited scheduling.


Resource management

The acquisition and deployment of the internal and external resources required to deliver the project, programme or portfolio.


Resource scheduling

A collection of techniques used to calculate the resources required to deliver the work and when they will be required.


Resource smoothing

A scheduling calculation that involves utilising float or increasing or decreasing the resources required for specific activities, such that any peaks and troughs of resource usage are smoothed out. This does not affect the overall duration. It is also known as time limited resource scheduling.



All those items required to undertake work including people, finance and materials.


Responsibility assignment matrix

A diagram or chart showing assigned responsibilities for elements of work. It is created by combining the work breakdown structure with the organisational breakdown structure.


Re-usable resource

A resource that when no longer needed becomes available for other uses. Accommodation, machines, test equipment and people are re-usable.



A review is a critical evaluation of a deliverable, business case or P3 management process.



The potential of an action or event to impact on the achievement of objectives.


Risk analysis

An assessment and synthesis of risk events to gain an understanding of their individual significance and their combined impact on objectives.


Risk appetite

The tendency of an individual or group to take risk in a given situation.


Risk attitude

The response of an individual or group to a given uncertain situation.


Risk context

Describes the institutional and individual environment, attitudes and behaviours that affect the way risk arises and the way it should be managed.


Risk efficiency

The principle of risk-taking to achieve the minimum level of exposure to risk for a given level of expected return.


Risk event

An uncertain event or set of circumstances that would, if it occurred, have an effect on the achievement of one or more objectives.


Risk management

A process that allows individual risk events and overall risk to be understood and managed proactively, optimising success by minimising threats and maximising opportunities.


Risk register

A document listing identified risk events and their corresponding planned responses.


Risk response

An action or set of actions to reduce the probability or impact of a threat, or to increase the probability or impact of an opportunity.


Risk techniques

Used to identify, assess and plan responses to individual risks and overall risk.


Rolling wave planning

The process whereby short term work is planned in detail and longer term work is planned in outline only.



A timetable showing the forecast start and finish dates for activities or events within a project, programme or portfolio.


Schedule management

The process of developing, maintaining and communicating schedules for time and resource.



The totality of the outputs, outcomes and benefits and the work required to produce them.


Scope management

The process whereby outputs, outcomes and benefits are identified, defined and controlled.



A graphic display of cumulative costs, labour hours or other quantities, plotted against time.



The identification, assessment and mitigation of the risks posed to information, assets and people.



The relationship of the project, programme or portfolio with its host organisation.



A response to an opportunity that increases its probability, impact or both by sharing the risk with a third party.


Slip chart

A pictorial representation of the predicted completion dates of milestones or activities compared to their planned completion dates.


Solutions development

The process of determining the best way of satisfying requirements.


Spiral life cycle

A life cycle model that combines features of both iterative development and the waterfall method.



An important senior management role. The sponsor is accountable for ensuring that the work is governed effectively and delivers the objectives that meet identified needs.



A regular repeatable work cycle in Agile development. Also known as an ‘iteration’.



A sub-division of the development phase of a project created to facilitate approval gates at suitable points in the life cycle.



The organisations or people who have an interest or role in the project, programme or portfolio, or are impacted by it.


Stakeholder management

The systematic identification, analysis, planning and implementation of actions designed to engage with stakeholders.



A dependency in an activity-on-node network. It indicates that one activity cannot finish until another activity has started.



A dependency in an activity-on-node network. It indicates that one activity cannot start until another activity has started.


Statement of work

An annex to the main body of a contract that defines the detail of deliverables, timescales and management procedures.


Strategic management

The identification, selection and implementation of an organisation’s long term goals and objectives.



A group of activities represented as a single activity in a higher level of the same project.


Success criteria

The qualitative or quantitative measures by which the success of P3 management is judged.


Success factors and maturity

Management practices that, when implemented, will increase the likelihood of success of a project, programme or portfolio. The degree to which these practices are established and embedded within an organisation indicates its level of maturity.


Sunk costs

Costs that are unavoidable, even if the remaining work is terminated.



An environmental, social and economically integrated approach to development that meets present needs without compromising the environment for future generations.



A group of people working in collaboration or by cooperation towards a common goal.



The decommissioning and disposal of a deliverable at the end of its useful life.



A negative risk event; a risk event that if it occurs will have a detrimental effect on the objectives.


Three-point estimate

An estimate in which optimistic, most likely and pessimistic values are given.


Time chainage

A form of graphical schedule that shows activity in relation to physical location as well as time.



Control actions or reports that are triggered by the passage of a defined interval (e.g. monthly) are referred to as ‘time-driven’.


Time scheduling

A collection of techniques used to develop and present schedules that show when work will be performed.



The production of project deliverables in circumstances where time and resources, including funding, are fixed and the requirements are prioritised and vary depending on what can be achieved within the timebox.



A permissible variation in performance parameters.


Total float

Time by which an activity may be delayed or extended without affecting the overall duration or violating a target finish date.



A sub-division of the delivery phase of a programme created to facilitate approval gates at suitable points in the life cycle.



A response to a threat that reduces its probability, impact or both by transferring the risk to a third party.



The group of people who are intended to receive benefits or operate outputs.


V life cycle

A graphical representation of a life cycle where horizontal lines connect related front and 

back-end phases.



A standard, principle or quality considered worthwhile or desirable. In value management terms value is defined as the ratio of ‘satisfaction of requirements’ over ‘use of resources’.


Value engineering

Concerned with optimising the conceptual, technical and operational aspects of deliverables.


Value for money ratio

The ratio of monetary and non-monetary benefits to the investment made of resources committed.


Value management

A structured approach to defining what value means to the organisation. It is a framework that allows needs, problems or opportunities to be defined and then enables review of whether these can be improved to determine the optimal approach and solution.


Value tree

A graphical representation of the relationship between different factors that drive value.


Waterfall method

A type of life cycle where phases are sequential.


Work package

A group of related activities that are defined at the same level within a work breakdown structure.


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