How To Speak Like A Project Manager

Two men in an office looking at a computer together

Have you been managing projects in your professional (or personal) life and think you could do a great job as a project manager, but are not sure where to start? The SPC Workforce Institute Project Management Training Program is here to help! Here are 10 terms you need to know to start speaking like a project manager.

Get information on how you can learn more about these fundamentals or how to get a certification as a project manager without having to be enrolled in a degree program here.


Project scope is “the work required to output a project’s deliverable.” To put it simply, the scope of the project describes the parameters and boundaries of the project: what will the project do, not do, and what will the outcome and goal of this project be. Usually there is a list of requirements/deliverable for the project (see below for requirements definition). All of these help make up the scope. Source: PMI


A stakeholder is formally defined as “an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of the project.” As you may have guessed, a project can have many stakeholders. Usually stakeholders will include the project team who is working on the project, the sponsor of the project or client wanting the project done, the end user or customer, suppliers/vendors affected by the project, and even regulatory agencies who may have a role in the project. Source: PMBOK, 5th Edition

Subject Matter Expert

More commonly referred to as “SMEs” (pronounced “smeez”, “shmeez”, or “S.M.E.s”), Subject Matter Experts role is somewhat self-explanatory. Subject Matter Experts are those individuals who have a detailed knowledge and background in a particular part of a project. They know the best practices of their field, typical processes, historical outcomes, usual timelines for certain tasks, and an overall plethora of knowledge of their industry. Subject Matter Experts are commonly called upon by the Project Manager to assist in things such as scheduling, problem solving, etc.

Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a type of chart that shows tasks/activities broken down by task name, date, and length. Essentially, it shows you “what has to be done (the activities) and when (the schedule). They are typically used to help track the schedule of the project. Think of it this way, if you combined a list of your activities and all of the tasks needed to complete that activity in an outline/overview format and combined it with a calendar, you would have a Gantt chart. Source:

 Here is an example of a very simple Gantt chart:

Gantt Chart
Gantt Chart

Project Plan

The Project Plan or Project Management Plan is “a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control.” Think of it this way, the Project Scope discusses what will be completed. The Project Plan details how it will be completed.  Beyond that, it also details how the project will be monitored, controlled, executed, and closed. The Project Plan covers topics such as risk management strategies, communications management strategies, procurement management strategies, and so on. Source: PMBOK


The sponsor of the project is essentially the person who is financially backing the project. They typically provide the project funding, approves any major changes to the deliverables, and approves any scope changes (as well as assist in resolving any scope-related issues). Sometimes some of this authority is delegated out, but typically, the sponsor is the head honcho. Source: PMBOK

 Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) refers to a “graphical, hierarchical chart composed of nodes that are logically organized from top to bottom. It represents all of the work and only the work to be performed on the project. Each node on the WBS has a unique number used to locate and identify it.” Although sharing some similarities as a Gantt chart, the WBS is illustrated similar to an organization chart and does not provide a set of dates for certain items. The main basic purpose is to show what work needs to be done on a project, organized in a hierarchical fashion, and how long each of the steps in completing the project will take.  Source: The PMP Exam Book, Crowe;

 Here is a sample snippet from a WBS on a project related to building a house:

Work Breakdown Structure
Work Breakdown Structure

Waterfall Methodology

Among several methodologies used in project management, waterfall methodology is one of the most popular. This methodology applies to the typical workflow you would use through a project. This methodology is linear in nature, as you work through each phase of a project one at a time, only moving to the next phase when the current phase is completed. Once you complete a phase, you cannot go back. Although the process and flow of this methodology is very easy to understand and describe to a potential client, there are several risks associated to having such a regimented timeline. Source: PMI

 Example of the Waterfall Methodology in software development:

Waterfall Methodology
Waterfall Methodology

Agile Methodology

The Agile Methodology is another methodology used in project management, brought to life after some found disadvantages to the Waterfall Methodology. The main difference between the two is that rather than use a step-by-step sequential approach, agile used a bite-sized or incremental approach to completing projects. They work on one small portion of a project (aka a one-week or one-month “sprint”, where they work primarily on that one task) at a time. They then analyze the work tone on that portion, test for errors, get feedback, and incorporate all of these lessons learned before running the next “sprint”. One downfall of this methodology is that there is not as strict, if any, set timeline and structure, increasing the risk that the project costs more money or time in the end. Source: PMI, testmanager

Agile Methodology
Agile Methodology


Scrum is a term that falls under the agile umbrella. It is an approach to agile, along with others such as Lean or Kanban. This approach enables organizations to breakdown their work into bite-sized pieces and increase collaboration between the project team and the customer.  Typically, the person in charge of overseeing this process is known as the “Scrum Master”. This approach includes the use of “sprints” as mentioned in the agile description above. Also included are “daily scrums” or short, stand-up meetings to discuss progress. Source: PMI;

Now that you know ten of the most common terms used in project management and by project managers, you are ready to take the next step. SPC’s Workforce Institute has regularly scheduled non-degree classes in project management. From Project Management Fundamentals, to Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Exam Prep, to Microsoft Project training, you will find everything you need to become a successful and marketable project manager.

If you have any questions or would like to sign up for a class, please contact Kaitlyn Sussex, SPC Workforce Institute Program Coordinator, at (727) 341-4553 or

  • Want to know more about the current outlook for jobs in project management? Read more.
  • Not sure if you really need a certification in project management? Here’s 3 reasons why you do.
  • Interested in earning a degree focused on project management? SPC’s College of Business is now offering a program track in project management. Find out more information here.

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