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Project Management Acronyms Debunked

PM Acronyms Terms

Using acronyms in every day conversation has become par for the course. Just a few weeks ago, LOL and OMG were added to the Oxford English Dictionary, officially inducting these terms into the English language (which is either interesting or terrifying, depending on your perspective). Project managers have been using acronyms for years, but it can get a little confusing for those of us who haven’t gotten our PMP Certification yet. Don’t have a dictionary handy? LP (that’s LiquidPlanner if you didn’t catch it) is here to help.

AF (Actual Finish Date)

We’ll start off simple: The Actual Finish Date is the exact point in time when work ended on a scheduled activity. Sometimes, “substantially complete” can also count for saying a project is “finished.” In LiquidPlanner, you just check off the “Done” button on any individual task and your AF is logged and your supervisors are notified. You can also go back and change the “done date” to keep your records accurate. Easy!

WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)

As any project manager knows, a project can be made up of various levels, tasks and subtasks, which is where a Work Breakdown Structure comes in. Tasks are commonly organized by using a hierarchical tree structure and broken down into smaller tasks, like you can do in LiquidPlanner. Some teams like to have a sub-folder for each phase of a project, while others prefer to have a flat list. Either way, it’s important to document all the work that needs to be done so you can create an accurate schedule.

PERT (Program or Project Evaluation and Review Technique)

This is a project management technique designed to analyze and represent the tasks involved in a project. This can be especially helpful in identifying how much time will be needed to complete each task and also to determine the overall amount of time needed to complete the project in its entirety. PERT time estimates are broken down into three levels:

  • Low (seen as “optimistic”)
  • Medium (“most likely”)
  • High (“pessimistic”)

I like the idea of having a visual representation of a project, but I think this technique can only provide a false sense of comfort. PERT tries to capture uncertainty but overall, it won’t really help you manage your project. There are better ways to visualize critical path, especially with LiquidPlanner where you have access to schedule bars that show uncertainty and critical path highlighting in the same view.

CCPM (Critical Chain Project Management)

This is basically the anti-PERT method. This approach to project management puts a major focus on the resources required to finish a task in a project. Introduced in 1997 by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, CCPM includes three stages: Planning, Executing, and Monitoring, the last stage being what some consider as the greatest advantage to the CCPM method.

We love the fact that this method accepts that people can’t be overloaded at 300%, which is what a lot of tools will let you do. In LiquidPlanner, you can’t overload somebody. If an employee has some free time, we try to give them lower priority work, which is a more realistic approach to planning. One of the things we like in CCPM is the idea of tracking buffers. LiquidPlanner doesn’t have a built-in feature for this, but it’s easy to work around by dedicating a task as a tracking buffer and managing it that way.

EVM (Earned Value Management)

This project management technique tracks project performance and progress by combining measurements of range, schedule and cost in a single incorporated system. Interest and use of EVM has increased in the last few years because when done right, it can accurately predict project performance problems. And who doesn’t need that?

This technique is interesting to me, but I feel it’s a lot like PERT where it will be essential on big projects but overkill on everyday projects. From a LiquidPlanner perspective, we want to take these ideas and make them appropriate for everyday projects, not just projects that are large-scale. You shouldn’t have to have an advanced degree to figure out how to manage a project portfolio.

Did I miss any especially confusing project management acronyms? Feel free to add your favorites (and not-so-favorites) in the comments!


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