Project Jargon Explained

"Whiteboard"

For my day job as an IT consultant, I sit in an office all day, either in meetings or in front of a computer. I’ve picked up a lot of corporate jargon over the years, the type you hear all the time from business schmucks like me who don’t have much of a life outside work. So without further ado, I hereby present Leanne’s official guide to office speak.

Meeting: A chance for all the stakeholders to get together, disagree and get confused for 80% of it, then spend the last 20% agreeing that everyone is on different pages and they all need to go away and do more research.

Stakeholders: The people who it’s widely agreed should have an interest in seeing that the project or piece of work goes well. Also the people who don’t actually have any interest until the meeting–upon which they suddenly find a great deal of it when they realise all the parts that concern them are wrong.

Stakeholder agreement: What is achieved after weeks and months of circular conversations and meetings, once all the stakeholders have been worn down enough and can’t bear the thought of yet another meeting. Usually ended by the line “Close enough.”

Scope: The amount of work required to complete the project. Always triples in size by the end of the project, mostly to accommodate the exceptional circumstances that affect 0.0001% of their clients. These circumstances are usually thought up by the stakeholders, after they start getting very concerned.

Budget: Usually the only thing a project team is able to exceed greatly.

Project Team: Siloed groups working diligently on their own parts, until everything needs to come together and everyone realizes that nothing fits together properly. This usually results in crunch time.

Crunch Time: The period when the project team realises that the work they did in the first 95% of the drop has a lot of issues , mostly because no one else in the team was aware of what the team was doing. Usually involves the team doing far more work in the remaining 5% of the schedule than they did in the first 95%.

Drop: The division of project work into theoretically logical groups of functionality. Inevitably falls apart when the teams getting into the nitty-gritty of things realise that items in each drop have a large dependency on other items being delivered in later drops.

Dependency: Stuff that needs to happen before other stuff can be designed, built or tested. Usually only discovered once someone has started designing, building or testing the aforementioned “other stuff”. Results in not only falling behind schedule, but being yanked along behind it with a short rope along rocky ground.

Functionality: The things that stakeholders claim they want to be able to do once the project goes live. Usually very different to what they actually want to be able to do.

Schedule: When everything is supposed to happen. Most of a project is spent getting back on it.

Change Request: A tedious process to obtain approval for the project team to fix up everything it got wrong, or to increase the scope. The process itself takes ten times as long as the actual work it’s for.

Triage: Used in larger project teams, to determine which defects have the highest priority and severity and should be fixed first. The answer to that is usually “all of them”.

Defects: The stuff that seemed perfectly logical during the design or build phases, but in hindsight…

Status Report: The pretty pictures and snappy dot points that go to senior management to dazzle them with figures and reassure them that the project will be back on schedule next week.

Senior Management: People who have a ton of knowledge and experience, and know exactly how the project should come together. However, they have no time to share it with the project team because they’re too busy working out things like scope, schedules, dependencies and budgets, wading through paperwork, or reporting to even more senior management.

Go-Live: The day that everything is turned on for Real Life Users. Also the day that the project team discovers nothing works properly and scramble to redo 80% of the work they’ve spent the past months (or year) working on–in a single week. The day-turned-week does not include proper meals or sleep.

Real Life Users: People who never asked for the new functionality, don’t know what to do with it, and are told that they must now use it.


Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.

Photo by Patrick Byrne, via Flickr

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