Published here September 2016

Introduction | What is Program Management? | GAPPS Program Typology
Distinctive Attributes of Projects, Programs, Portfolios
Is it a Program or a Project? | Summary and Conclusions


One of the benefits of the Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms is that it is a great learning tool. By following the associated links from a given definition, one can learn a lot about the subject matter in question. But Glossary v5.5 is now four years old and is in need of an overhaul, especially in the light of recent project management developments. In these four years we have continued to add new definitions, and revisions to existing definitions to our glossary reference database.

These additional definitions come from a wide variety of sources such as papers, articles and new book publications like those we have reviewed on this web site. Interestingly, most of the new terms added relate to program management and project portfolio management. So what we now have in the database is over 400 new terms, although in our overhaul we have purged over 300 definitions that now seem obsolete or at least redundant. That still leaves us with close to 7,000 entries. However, 7,000 does seem like an overwhelming number, especially when many of the new terms have apparently different meanings when applied to different project management uses.

Indeed, in the course of our research over the last few years we have noticed a number of developments. The first and perhaps the most fascinating is that the intent of some terms have either expanded or changed focus. The most notable of these of course is the shift in meaning of the term "Project Management" itself. As we described in our paper The Potential for A Project Management Framework Standard: Are we ready?,[1] in most instances the term Project Management now refers to a whole hierarchy from Governance to Tools & Techniques.

Meantime, a number of sources of "official" definitions still continue to define project management as the management of a single project. This issue is not new of course, having been raised over a decade ago. Still, it does now seem that the term Project Management to mean the whole gamut of project activities from project to portfolio management is much more prevalent, and more readily accepted today. So it is high time that this shift is accepted and fixed amongst the "official" Glossaries.

The second development is that many authors have found the need to introduce new terms to help explain their specific discourse. Each of these we have studiously added to our Glossary database but, as might be expected, not all authors agree. That is, different authors with different backgrounds and different subject matter have different ideas about defining essentially the same labels. So thinking that all terms can be boiled down to one definition is a happy delusion.

But now, how can we make the Glossary presentation more useful in the next update?

Let's assume, as indeed we believe, that project management exists as a hierarchy from Project Governance down through Project Portfolio Management, to Program Management, to (single) Project Management, to Tools & Techniques. We think that in general, someone working in the field of, say, Portfolio Management, is unlikely to be very interested in Tools & Techniques. Conversely, those who make a living from applying project management's Tools & Techniques might appreciate a Glossary specifically dedicated to that particular area.

However, it's not that simple. Not only is there a range of "levels" of project management, but there is also a large array of project management application areas. For those working in, say, Engineering, Procurement and Construction, are they interested in a large number of definitions mostly applicable to, say, Information Technology? Would they find that a Glossary more dedicate to their area of interest more useful? We think that is quite possible. Would such a Glossary include relevant Tools & Techniques? We think it should.

So, for the past nine months we have been working our way through the 7,000 odd Glossary entries trying to identify which definition belongs where — and at this time, we are still at it.

But now we have encountered another significant problem. For example, is Program Management really different from Single Project Management (SPM), or is it just SPM on steroids? For many, the jury is still out on this one. If the answer is the latter, then it hardly deserves a separate level in the project management hierarchy described above. So let's examine that issue first.


1. See this page specifically Expansion of the Term Project Management
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