Whether you’re a college grad jumping into the workforce for the first time or a seasoned professional taking on an unexpected opportunity, entering a new field is both challenging and exciting. There are new people to meet, new rules to follow, a new language to learn, and never enough time to get your bearings. If you pick up the basic concepts and continue to learn as you work, however, the sky’s the limit.
If you’re new to the worlds of marketing or project management (or both at once), you may find yourself asking questions like “What is scrum?” or “What’s a waterfall project?” or “What does CTA stand for?” If those questions sound familiar, don’t worry. We’ve put together a summary of common marketing and project management terms you should know as you take your first steps in your new career.
Basic Project Management Terminology
Project management has its own large and ever-expanding vocabulary. You could spend years reading all the books that have been published on trends and concepts in the world of project management, but then again, no one’s paying you to read books. Here are a few essential terms to remember in your early days of working on projects.
- Critical Path is the term for the specific chain of tasks or deliverables that must be completed in sequence for a project to finish on time. One of a project manager’s first jobs when starting a new project is to review the list of tasks and determine which ones are part of the project’s critical path.
- Float means the amount of time that a specific project task can fall behind schedule without having a direct effect on the overall project timeline. By definition, there is zero float for any task on the critical path, because any delay on a critical path task will carry forward as a delay for every other task on the path.
- Gantt Charts are a type of horizontal bar chart, commonly used to display project activities over the life of the project. Most project management software contains functionality to create a point-in-time Gantt chart based on a timeline and list of tasks. More advanced software, like Clarizen, lets project managers go a step further and use interactive Gantt charts to edit and reorder tasks directly in the chart.
Software and Beyond
The software industry was one of the first to adopt large-scale project management practices, and the industry has been highly influential in developing new PM techniques and methodologies. Many common project management terms began as software-specific concepts but have gradually come into use in other industries.
- Agile project management has its roots in an innovative approach to software development. Rather than setting project requirements in stone at the beginning of a project and moving inexorably toward the final goal, the agile approach is based on a repeating cycle of activities, in which newly uncovered information is used to refine requirements and develop better solutions. While still most commonly used in the software industry, agile methods are increasingly popular in other fields as well.
- Scrum is one of the most common agile methodologies, which focuses on team collaboration and adaptability, rather than relying on predefined roles and processes. A scrum project team typically consists of a product team, whose members complete the necessary work, along with a scrum master, who stays in contact with all members of the team and works to remove obstacles and facilitate communication. Scrum teams also include a product owner, who defines the final deliverable and provides feedback from the customer’s point of view.
- A sprint is a relatively short period of activity, usually a matter of a few weeks, in which an agile project team sets a goal, works to complete it, and then evaluates what worked and what did not. As a team goes through sprint after sprint, team members are able to correct past mistakes and improve the final product in a series of small steps.
- The waterfall model is the traditional alternative to agile methodology. When using a waterfall approach, a project team goes through a pre-defined series of steps from discovery and design through testing and implementation. In a waterfall project, one phase of the project does not begin until the previous phase is complete.
Key Marketing Terms
Marketing, perhaps more than any other industry, has completely transformed since the advent of the internet. Members of a marketing team in any organization should be familiar with the terms below.
- Inbound marketing is the use of website content to draw in and engage potential customers who may be searching for information on a particular product or service. Inbound marketing typically involves creating blog posts, articles, white papers and other content to educate readers and prepare them for the sales process.
- CTA is an acronym for “call to action.” This term applies not only to online marketing, but to marketing material in any form that encourages the audience to take a specific action. The action called for can be anything from clicking on a website link to making a phone call to registering for a seminar.
- A/B testing is a highly valuable technique that addresses one of the most common marketing problems: determining which combinations of image and text will have the greatest impact on the audience. A/B testing has become much easier in the internet age, as marketers can post two versions of a marketing piece (the A and B) in different places and watch their website analytics to determine which version performs better.