We understand there is an array of terms and acronyms involved with construction project management so we’re here to help! We created this glossary of terms to guide you on your way while you streamline your workflow.
Action Item — An assignment needing to get done to complete a project.
For example, a contractor is installing a new roof — action items include measuring the surface area of the roof and ordering the materials.
Activity — A single stage of a project made up of multiple action items. When one activity is completed, another activity can commence. The actual work during a stage of a project is the activity; the evidence of the activity’s output is the deliverable.
For example, setting the frame for a building is an activity. There are multiple action items (like ordering the materials and installing the support beams) and once the frame is set a new activity (like wiring the electrical system) can begin.
Approval — The construction project’s owner or stakeholder signs off on a particular item or result. Approvals are often required after an activity is finished as a signal that the next stage can begin.
Assumption — A project factor considered to be true without empirical evidence.
For example, a contractor may assume there is a large enough workforce to handle a project, therefore they don’t spend resources trying to hire more laborers.
AIA Billing — Created by the American Institute of Architects, this is the standardized method of billing between an architect and a contractor hired to assist in a project. Contractors itemize and set costs to the work they’re performing and then give the invoice, alongside the original contract, to the architect for proper payment.
Baseline — The starting point of a construction project plan. It outlines the expectations and deliverables before the project begins and is used as a reference point to monitor progress.
For example, a new construction company can use the number of clients they got in their first year of business as the baseline to compare their growth over the next few years.
Brainstorming — A company’s team gathers to discuss new ideas regarding a specific subject. Project managers and contractors use brainstorming to figure out a more efficient way to complete an action item.
Budget — The estimated amount of money available for the entire construction project lifecycle.
Budget Codes (Cost Codes) — A fixed set of codes used to track and report all costs related to a project. Materials, pay checks and machine rentals are all examples of specific construction budget items that have particular codes.
Budget Items — A list itemizing each category of a construction budget like labor, materials, machinery, utilities, taxes and insurance.
Change Order — A document establishing an amendment to a construction contract that shifts the scope of work. Change orders also ensure that all parties understand the new plan and their new duties.
For example, a project owner wants a wall installed in a different location than agreed upon. The change order formalizes the new placement of the wall to all involved in the project.
Construction Management — A style of professional techniques used to oversee the lifecycle of a construction project.
Contractor (General Contractor) — The person responsible for overseeing a construction project on a contractual basis. Specifically, a contractor manages the physical work being done during the project.
Correspondence — The communication between project members to discuss project related topics. Construction correspondence includes emails, inquiries and change orders among other forms.
Daily Log — A report detailing the significant occurrences of the day as well as the progress made at the jobsite. Contractors note incidents, accidents, inspections and important visitors among other topics.
Deliverable — A physical item produced as a result of the project that is given to the client. There are two types of deliverables:
- Internal (Project) Deliverable: Work undertaken and completed within the construction company such as a project design or a project budget report.
- External (Product) Deliverables — Work undertaken and completed for a client like finishing a new building or crafting their new social media websites.
Dependencies — The relationship between project action items. The start and/or finish of one action item is dependent on the start and/or finish of a different action item. There are four types of dependencies:
- Start – to – Start — An action item must be started (A) for another action item to begin (B). For example, a contractor can’t start giving out work assignments (B) until the workers have begun to arrive (A).
- Start – to – Finish — A latter action item must be started for the first action item to be completed. For example, when installing construction estimating software, the new software has to be implemented before contractors can deactivate the old software.
- Finish – to – Start — An action item must finish (A) before the succeeding action item can start (B). For example, the foundation cement must be dry (A) before the floor can be installed (B).
- Finish – to Finish — The proceeding action item must be completed (A) so the succeeding action item can also finish (B). The two action items can run parallel to each other, and they don’t necessarily have to end at the same time. For example, a contractor can paint a room in a new building (A) and when the painting is dry quickly start and finish adding furniture to the same room (B).
Equipment — The machinery, materials, tools and systems used to design, build and complete construction projects.
Equipment Logs — A document used to record the maintenance history of construction equipment while they’re being used on a jobsite.
Follow Up — A check-in performed by a contractor or project manager to find out the status of an action item or deliverable.
For example, a PM follows up with their logistics manager to make sure the resupply of materials was ordered.
Gantt Chart — A popular method of laying out a project’s schedule. The Gantt Chart is a bar chart contractors use to keep a bird’s eye view on the project’s progress. Deadlines, resources and the relationship between tasks are tracked and measured.
Integration — The process of combining two or more things in an effective way. Being able to integrate different types of construction software — like accounting and payroll — helps a contractor streamline their administrative processes.
Job Costing — The process of tracking and reporting the costs of a project, both indirect and direct. Construction job costing involves labor, materials and overhead among other cost categories.
Job History — A record of completed jobs performed by a construction company. Job history reports are used for reference when companies develop a budget for similar projects.
Job Reports — Reports filed by construction companies indicating how many employees they have and how much each employee earns.
Kickoff Meeting — The initial meeting for a construction project involving the whole team assigned to the project. The purpose is to inform everyone of the following: the scope of work, the timelines for deliverables and the end goal. Project managers also use this as an opportunity to review the digital dashboard so all workers can track project data if needed.
Labor Dispatch — Hiring temporary workers for a construction project using a third-party dispatch employment agency. The agency manages the dispatched laborers instead of the construction company. Contractors will use labor dispatch services during large projects when more workers are needed just until completion.
Materials — The building elements used for construction. Drywall, carpet, planks of wood, nails and paint are all examples of materials.
Material Logs — A document recording how many resources are used to perform each action item or task. They’re used as a reference when contractors need to reorder supplies.
Meeting Agenda — An outline used to organize a meeting to help contractors cover all important topic.
Meeting Minutes — A record of the construction meeting discussion. Project members can reference meeting minutes for additional updates on deliverables and adjusted scopes.
Milestone — The completion of a significant event in a project used to measure progress toward the end goal.
Consider the building of a new department store: milestones include laying the foundation, setting the structure and installing the electrical system.
Photo Logs — A photographic record of daily progress at the jobsite; also used to note damage done to equipment or property after an incident.
Profit — The amount of money a company makes for a project after subtracting overhead, labor and material costs. By using construction accounting software contractors can track where every dollar goes and use that information to forecast the profit of a project.
Project — The organized collection of tasks that combine to reach a specific outcome.
Project Dashboard — A single page that lets a contractor see project updates and progress at a glance.
It displays key data, visuals and qualitative information.
Project Lifecycle — The whole life of project from design to completion with five main phases including:
- Initiation — A contractor wins a bid for a job and before any official planning can begin the team must sort out the ultimate goals for the project.
- Planning — Management gathers relevant information and develops the road map for completing the job. This is the stage where the project plan, the budget and the scope are established.
- Project Execution — The company carries out the actual, physical work needed to complete a project.
- Project Performance — The measuring and monitoring of a project to make sure the deliverables are meeting the expected requirements as agreed upon during planning.
- Project Close — After the project is completed the team tests the quality of the finished product against the intended project outcome to make sure every deliverable was achieved. The final result is then presented to the client.
Project Manager — The person overseeing a construction project’s lifecycle. Specifically, the project manager supervises the administrative processes of the project.
Project Owner — The executive in charge of a construction project. The project owner is accountable for the overall success or failure of a project. They hire — among other positions — the project managers and contractors overseeing the projects.
Project Plan (also referred to as Statement of Work) — A formal, approved document outlining the project’s goals, scope, timeline and budget as agreed upon by the client and the project owner. Contractors use the project plan as a guideline throughout the project’s lifecycle.
Project Schedule — The physical timetable representing the project timeline. All deliverables and their due dates are included. There is also the list of who is performing what task and which resources are being used when.
For example, when constructing a building, installing the roof is a deliverable. The project schedule will show the date ranges for installation, the estimated number of materials needed to complete the job and who exactly is doing the work.
Project Scope — The document defining the specific goals of the project as well as the deliverables and action items involved in completing the job. Contractors use project scopes to determine the budget and timeline.
Project Stakeholder — A person who is directly involved in a construction project or is impacted by the project’s result.
For example, a lumber company who supplied the wood for a building is a stakeholder because if that project is a success, they can use it as a reference to garner future business
Project Summary Report — A document outlining all of the essential details of a construction project including the goals, the timeline and the scope.
Project Timeline — A schedule of the entire construction project from start to finish and includes a chronological list of tasks, deliverables and milestones.
Purchase Orders — Formal requests required when a construction company is purchasing materials, equipment or supplies from a vendor. They’re sent from a buyer to the supplier and include the price, the scope and the expectations of the products.
Construction company A submits a purchase order to a lumber company to purchase more wood.
Quality — The act of finishing a construction project within the guidelines of the set scope without any defects.
Quality Assurance — The process of reducing mistakes in a project by creating rules that enforce standards.
For example, mandated inspections and reoccurring audits are components of quality assurance.
Quality Control — A process that inspects deliverables to ensure they meet the standards and guidelines expected.
For example, during and after a roof installation there are checks to guarantee zero leaks.
Request for Information (RFI) — A document requesting clarification on details regarding a project.
For example, a contractor may request clarification on measurements before installing a structure.
Real-Time Alerts — Immediate electronic updates about the jobsite used to reduce the amount of time spent making decisions.
For example, with equipment monitoring technology a contractor receives an alert when a piece of equipment experiences technical difficulty — the machine is inactivated before anyone is hurt and a repair is scheduled quickly.
Reporting — Formal documents giving critical project information to stakeholders and project owners. For example, contractors file multiple field reports, site safety reports and site inspection reports throughout a project’s lifecycle.
Resource Allocation — Assigning resources to specific tasks during a project.
For example, when laying a foundation, a contractor may allocate 50 pounds of cement for the job.
Resource Availability — Information regarding the resources involved in a construction project including when resources are being used, which tasks they’re being used for and what other resources are available instead.
For example, a contractor needs to use a crane, they’ll check a resource availability schedule to see when the machine is accessible.
Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) — A list identifying all the resources a project needs including materials, licenses, labor and equipment. An RBS is divided into categories based on function and need so that contractors know where the resources are being used and why. This list helps construction companies estimate budgets and develop scope.
Resource Calendar — A calendar that tracks the schedules of both the workforce and the resources. Contractors and project managers can know each worker’s availability as well as equipment availability.
Resource Management — The process of managing the resources in a construction project including labor, equipment and materials.
Revenue — The total amount of income a company earns by the sale of their goods or services. Revenue is determined before taking out any taxes or deductions.
Risk — Any circumstance that threatens the progress or completion of a construction project such as a resource shortages or adverse weather.
Risk Management — The overall practice of identifying and addressing the risks at a jobsite, it’s introduced early in the planning phase so contractors can implement rules that offset potential risks.
Risk Mitigation — Implementing procedures to minimize the impact risks have at a jobsite.
For example, a construction company can enforce a strong safety program to reduce injuries and keep their labor force safe and working.
Status Report — A document describing the state of a project during a specific time period. A contractor compares the status report to the project plan to measure progress.
For example, a contractor will organize a status report in November and compare the report to the project plan to see if the project is still on track to be completed by December.
Subcontractors — Independent workers serving under the General Contractor to perform specific jobs in a project.
For example, the General Contractor is constructing a mall and hires a Subcontractor to install the electrical system.
Subcontracts — The legal agreement between a General Contractor and a Subcontractor identifying the portion of work the Subcontractor is agreeing to perform.
Submittals — A document created by a contractor detailing the materials and equipment necessary to construct a project. Architects or engineers receive these forms to review and approve —confirming the correct tools and materials are being included.
Task — Small, specific jobs needing done but, they may or may not contribute to the overall progress of the construction project (like refilling printer paper and cleaning the jobsite).
Time Management — The process of developing a timeline for project completion, and implementing a schedule to meet deadlines. Time management normally overestimates how long each deliverable will take to leave space for unforeseen risks like adverse weather or illnesses.
Weather Log — A daily record of the weather experienced at the jobsite. Contractors use weather logs to monitor how long project pieces or project materials are exposed to inclement conditions.
Web-Based — Electronic programs or systems used to manage jobsite data and protect sensitive information. Using web-based software as back-office solutions is common practice in the construction industry because the products help streamline administrative processes.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) — A method in which a complex project is broken down into more manageable pieces using the step-by-step approach.
For example, a construction company is building an apartment complex. Using the WBS method, the project is be broken down into phases like laying the foundation, setting the structure, installing internal wiring, fit the flooring etc.
Work in Progress (WIP) — Any aspect of a project not yet completed. Contractors monitor WIPs to measure progress and determine workflow efficiency.
Work in Progress Limit — The maximum amount of WIPs a project can have during each phase of the job. Having a limit reduces overflows because workers are required to complete deliverables before they can add more to their schedule.