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There are dozens of project management terms you might come across and many are abbreviated to make things quicker. Here are some of the most common terms every project management professional (PMP) should know.

project abbreviation

AC – Actual Cost. At the outset of a project, costs are estimated. The AC is tallied at the project’s completion to show the true and final cost of the project.

CV – Cost Variance. This is a calculation of the project costs that quantifies the difference between the actual cost (AC) and the earned value (EV), as represented by the equation EV – AC = CV.

EV – Earned Value. Earned value has to do with tracking budgetary progress over the course of a project. It is determined by comparing the budget to actual costs and work completed at any given time, as a means of forecasting whether or not the project will ultimately stick to the budget.

KPI – Key Performance Indicator. In any project, you’re going to have several goals to accomplish and your ability to do so with consistency (both throughout a given project and during future projects) relies on tracking and measuring progress. KPIs include both the goals that are to be measured and the measurement of performance as related to those goals. These will vary from one project to the next and we’ve looked at some of them here. A few common KPIs are project schedule, labor costs, resource allocation and estimated time for project completion.

PC – Percent Complete. This is an estimate of how much work has been completed at any given point during a project.

PMBOK – Project Management Body of Knowledge. Issued by the PMI (see below), this is a comprehensive publication pertaining to the practice of project management. It is updated frequently and available to PMI members for free.

PMI – Project Management Institute. A non-profit organization for project management professionals, providing resources, advice and opportunities for professional members of the community as well as information about project management terms.

PMP – Project Management Professional. The exact PMP meaning is not always agreed upon. Technically, it requires certification from the PMI, but it is sometimes used informally, with PMP meaning anyone in a project management role.

PV – Planned Value. This is sometimes also referred to as Budget at Completion (BAC) because it accounts for the total planned budget for the project, generally authorized during the planning phase, encompassing all scheduled work and required resources.

RAM – Responsibility Assignment Matrix. There are many tools available for project management, this one is used to organize the work that is to be completed into elements and comparing it to resources. This is to ensure that adequate resources are available to complete the planned work.

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SF – Start-to-Finish. Some project management abbreviations have more than one meaning. SF can also be used to denote “Scheduled Finish Date”, but context should help you to understand what the acronym stands for in any given situation. Start-to-Finish is a concept related to workflow, in that certain tasks must be completed before others can begin. This entails a logical progression from one task to the next, leading from the start of the project all the way to completion.

SME – Subject Matter Expert. Project managers often require information, advice and input for a variety of aspects during projects with which they aren’t familiar. Subject matter experts are professionals in other fields who have the education, skill and experience to help you properly plan, execute and complete your project. It is also one of those project management abbreviations which can mean something else, in this case it sometimes also denotes “Small to Medium Enterprise”

SOW – Statement of Work. A binding, legal document used to outline the scope of work completed and to ensure that all parties agree to the terms before work commences.

WBS – Work Breakdown Structure. The WBS is an organizational tool used to break down a project into manageable objectives to be assigned to team members.


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In the Gartner Market Guide for Adaptive Project Management & Reporting guide, Gartner, Inc. provides recommendations and evaluation criteria for executives and PMO leaders assessing Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions. This guide outlines the adaptive project management and reporting process flow as well as a market review of current providers in the following categories:

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