Loyola University Chicago

Information Technology Services

Glossary of Project Management Terms


Assumptions – Assumptions are factors that, for planning purposes, are considered to be true, real, or certain. Each assumption is an "educated guess", a likely condition, circumstance or event, presumed known in the absence of absolute certainty. Once identified, assumptions should be evaluated from a long term perspective, according to confidence level (i.e. How confident are you that this assumption will be proven correct?), followed by a related "if-then" risk counterpart analysis (i.e. If this assumption is proven incorrect, what will be the likely consequences for the project?).

Constraints/Risks – Constraints are applicable restrictions that will affect the performance of the project. A constraint can be any factor that affects when an activity can be scheduled. The primary impact of project constraints is the likelihood of delaying the completion of the project. There are three types of project constraints: technological, resource and physical. The technological constraints relate to the sequence in which individual project activities must be completed. For example, in constructing a house, pouring the foundation must occur before building the frame. Resource constraints relate to the lack of adequate resources which may force parallel activities to be performed in sequence. Project risks can be further aligned with the specific project triple-constraint variable that they may impact if not addressed: schedule, budget and quality. The team needs to identify the potential issues / risks that will need to be managed in order to mitigate their impact to the project’s success. 

Critical Success Factors – These factors are important to those who will benefit from the project and those who are responsible for determining the success criteria. Critical success factors (CSFs) are the essential activity that must be completed well if you are to achieve the mission, objectives or goals of your project. By identifying your CSFs, you can create a common point of reference to help you direct and measure the success of your project. As a common point of reference, CSFs help everyone on the team know exactly what's most important to the customer.

Deliverables – A deliverable can be an outcome to be achieved or a product to be provided. It becomes a set of specified outputs for each project milestone. A deliverable is a tangible or intangible object produced as a result of the project that is intended to be delivered to a customer. A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgrade or any other building block of an overall project. A deliverable may be composed of multiple smaller deliverables. It may be either an outcome to be achieved or a product to be provided. A deliverable differs from a project milestone in that a milestone is a measurement of progress toward an outcome whereas the deliverable is the result of the process. For a typical project, a milestone might be the completion of a product design while the deliverable might be the technical diagram of the product. In technical projects, deliverables can further be classified as hardware, software, or design documents.

Milestones – The milestones are only estimates and can be revised during any phase of the implementation.  A milestone is a measurement of progress toward an outcome, whereas the deliverable is the result of the process. For a typical project, a milestone might be the completion of a product design while the deliverable might be the technical diagram of the product. 

Scope – Project scope is focused on what needs to be accomplished to complete the project and deliver the product, service or result with specified features and functions. The project’s scope can be identified through discussions with the project’s sponsor and key stakeholders. Managing the project’s scope is one of the fundamental responsibilities of a project manager. It is important for the project manager and team to understand the project’s scope in order to be able to recognize scope creep as it occurs. As important as identifying what will be included in the project is to clearly identify what will not be part of the project (i.e. out of scope). 

Stakeholders – Stakeholders are persons or groups who are actively involved in the project or whose interest may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project. Stakeholders may exert influence over the project, its deliverables, and the project team members. For each project, both internal and external stakeholders must be identified in order to determine the project requirements and expectations of all involved groups. Stakeholder identification is a continuous process and can be difficult to finalize. Identifying stakeholders and understanding their relative degree of influence on a project is critical.