Updated on 9-Aug-2021 for a new perspective in “What does PMBOK-7 mean for you, the exam taker?” section.
PMI has released PMBOK guide version 7! Currently (as of the first week of August 2021) this is available in the English version only, and will be available in other languages soon.
“The dawn of a new era!”, you might exclaim, as you understand the changes in the PMBOK-7 edition.
I’m almost inclined to call this PMBOK-007, because like Mr.Bond this guide has been completely unexpected this time, or unorthodox, compared to all the previous versions AND lean and mean, just like him (I was initially shaken, if not stirred). The new version about 1/10th the size of the previous version.
If you follow the genesis of the PMBOK® guide and the approach and structure of it over the years, what PMBOK 7th edition brings to the table is completely different from what it built upon in the previous 6 editions.
In order to appreciate how useful this is going to be for your own growth, we must take a quick look at how PMBOK has evolved over the years.
This is an exhaustive guide, so make sure you have your favorite drink to enjoy with, and a paper and pen to take some notes.
Don’t Miss PMI’s official infographic showing the difference in PMBOK 7th version in this article.
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Let’s jump right in!
In this primer guide, you will discover –
- A brief history of PMBOK®
- Why does PMBOK® change?
- What are the fundamental aspects influencing PMBOK® 7th edition?
- Changes between PMBOK®-6 and PMBOK®-7 in a nut-shell
- What is Standards Plus™?
- What does PMBOK®-7 mean for you, the exam taker?
- What does PMBOK 7th edition mean for you, PMP® credential holder?
- In Summary
- Download this PMBOK®-7 primer
Get your favorite drink, let us get started. This is going to be interesting, and you are in for some surprise!
Don’t miss Cornelius’ PMBOK®-7 edition based podcast episode and a downloadable version of this PMBOK-7 Primer Guide as you read through this article.
A brief history of PMBOK® guide
It all began way back in the Summer of 69 🙂 when The Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded by Ned Engman, James Snyder, Susan Gallagher, Eric Jenett, and J Gordon Davis.
In 1975 PMI described its objectives as “to foster recognition of the need for professionalism in project management; provide a forum for the free exchange of project management problems, solutions and applications; coordinate industrial and academic research efforts; develop common terminology and techniques to improve communications; provide an interface between users and suppliers of hardware and software systems, and to provide guidelines for instruction and career development in the field of project management.” [res]
That’s quite a mouthful.
And PMI has stood true to this objective ever since, and has been instrumental in bringing order and guidance to the project management practices.
In the 1980s though efforts had begun to standardize project management practices, procedures, and approaches, and put them together as a reference for project managers to consider.
That is the genesis of ‘A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge’ (a.k.a. PMBOK guide), which so far has undergone 6 editions.
The first version of PMBOK® was released in 1996.
Although the efforts to put together processes and guidelines to treat project management as a profession began in 1981, and a rough draft of ‘The Project Management Body of Knowledge’ was published in 1987. It had 8 sections, with 5-6 pages in each.
The updated version came to be known as PMBOK Edition 1 in the year 1996. This edition was an extended version of a white paper titled “Ethics, Standards, and Accreditation Committee Final Report“, which was published in the year 1983.
PMBOK® edition 2, in 2000.
While this edition corrected errors in 1st edition, it also included newer practices being evolved in the world of project management.
Remember, while some level of Agile project management efforts (RAD, UP, XP, DSDM, FDD etc) were going on during this time, it wouldn’t be until 6th edition that some amount of Agile guidelines would make their way into PMBOK.
9 knowledge areas, 39 processes, 211 pages.
PMBOK® edition 3, 2004.
By now you probably have noticed the pattern – a newer version every 4 years. Sounds sensible right, especially with project management as a profession slowing gathering recognition and being looked at as a skill to be developed.
PMI too began to standardize the process of basing information in PMBOK as “generally recognized as good practice used on most of the projects most of the time”.
Here, “Generally recognized” meaning that the knowledge and practices described are applicable to most projects most of the time, and there is consensus about their value and usefulness. “Good practice” meaning that there is general agreement that the application of the knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques can enhance the chances of success for many projects.
As you can imagine, PMBOK began to be accepted and used by many professionals to guide their thinking and action on their projects.
Process count jumped to 44.
PMBOK® edition 4, released in 2008.
One could say this edition gave birth to the current (6th edition) structure of PMBOK®. The 6 constraints – Scope, Schedule, Budget, Quality, Resources, and Risk – were introduced in this edition.
Process names were formalized into the current verb-noun format (‘Validate Scope’, ‘Control Quality’, you get the idea). A couple of processes were deleted, a few were added, and a few more merged into fewer.
Process count reduced from 44 to 42. ITTO count reduced from 592 to 517.
In 2011 an interesting shift happened. 30% of the questions were changed to confirm the latest (2011) Role Delineation Study.
Then came PMBOK® edition 5, in 2013.
Uh Oh, not 4 years later this time, but 5. Every rule has an exception, and for PMBOK it was the year 2009.
This guide saw some of the jar-shaking changes. Some of the processes were moved under proper knowledge areas. Communications management KA was split into Communications management and a new KA, Stakeholder management.
Overall process count moved to 47.
ITTOs jumped to 619!
The guide put on some weight to 589 pages.
Again, this was an exercise of not just adding more relevant information into the mix but also making sure that the processes and their placements made sense. Still, if you were studying for the exam during the time you would be happier when edition 6 arrived.
PMBOK® edition 6, was released in 2017.
This was the first time ever that the ‘Agile’ word, as well as agile practices-based content, is introduced in PMBOK (in short measures, of course).
Move over PMBOK-6, edition 7 is here. Not waiting for 4 years this time. 🙂 World is changing too fast.
PMI’s research found that in past 10 years technology and software are driving innovation and they are also creating new business models and new ways of working. There is a stronger focus on outcomes now than deliverables.
Why does PMBOK® change?
Simply put, PMBOK reflects the project management methodologies, practices, and processes being successfully used across industries and verticals across the world. Every few years PMI does a role delineation study to understand how the project manager’s role is evolving.
From the research it conducts PMI then refines the Examination Content Outline document – which is the syllabus based on which the PMP exam is conducted.
You didn’t think PMP is solely based on PMBOK, did you? More often than not PMI does update PMBOK to reflect the latest trends of project management and bases it on The Standard for Project Management (included as part of PMBOK guide itself).
When PMI updated the ECO document in 2019, it gave the revised date for the new exam to be the 1st of July 2020. But for this change in the exam syllabus, it did NOT update PMBOK edition.
Yes, that is possible too. You could have syllabus change without a corresponding change in the PMBOK version.
And now PMBOK® is moving from 6th edition to 7th edition.
The 7th edition of PMBOK® recognizes continuing evolution of project delivery methods and practices and condenses them into principles that can be utilized in any project across any industry to manage and deliver projects.
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What are the fundamental aspects influencing PMBOK 7th edition?
Primarily, as you might have guessed in view of the new syllabus introduced in 2019, the Agile and Hybrid project management approach make their way to mainstream content of the guide along with the existing Predictive delivery approach.
But this is not the fundamental change influencing PMBOK.
PMBOK 7th version moves away from a process-oriented approach to principles-oriented (one could even say outcome-oriented) approach – thus supporting ANY type of project delivery. Yes, you guess it right – the word ‘principles’ has a stamp of Agile paradigm.
You could say the ‘thinking’ from which PMBOK comes now has shifted. It has become broader.
Another marked change is a shift in scope – to address ‘project delivery’ in addition to ‘project management’. The idea seems to be more action-focused or practitioner-friendly. Also, the focus is on project outcomes than just the project deliverables.
One could say that PMBOKs scope is not widened to not just include the project management approaches, but also focus is also widened – to include project outcomes.
Two fundamental aspects influencing changes in PMBOK-7 are –
- Value Delivery System
- Project Delivery Principles
Let us swoop down a little bit and look at what do these cover.
1. Value Delivery System
Value Delivery System is the holistic system through which projects deliver business value. Business value, as conceived by Peter Drucker, is the tangible and intangible benefits received by customers, employees, and partners of the business. And projects are the main vehicle that delivers business value by achieving business objectives of the organization.
The 7th Edition of Standard for Project Management, on which PMBOK is based, shows how good strategy leads to intended business value in the organization.
This is done through defining organizational strategies that help identify business objectives, which then turn into actionable initiatives such as portfolios, programs, and projects, which produce deliverables, which increase capabilities of the organization, producing tangible or intangible outcomes, thus creating benefits for the customers and end-users, which turns into business value produced by the organization.
The system that enables this flow in a smooth and predictive manner would be the value delivery system to be built in the organization. And this is made possible by the efficient propagation of information and feedback through the predefined channels.
The value delivery system comprises portfolios, programs, projects, and operations, and uses a governance system to manage issues, enable workflow, and support decision-making capabilities.
2. Project Delivery Principles
These are the whats and whys of project management that guide the thinking and behavior of people involved in project delivery (note here, we are not talking about ‘management’ but ‘delivery’) so they can apply their efforts towards a strong project outcome.
Noticed the use of ‘delivery’ and ‘outcome’? You knew PMBOK’s scope is expanding!
There are 12 principles defined in the Standard for Project Management –
- Be a diligent, respectful, and caring steward
- Build a culture of accountability and respect
- Engage stakeholders to understand their interests and needs
- Focus on value
- Recognize and respond to systems’ interactions
- Motivate, influence, coach, and learn
- Tailor the delivery approach based on context
- Build quality into processes and results
- Address complexity using knowledge, experience, and learning
- Address opportunities and threats
- Be adaptable and resilient
- Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state
Sounds a bit familiar like Agile principles?
While we do not have access to PMBOK-7 at this time to validate, I’m wondering whether there will be any change in Ethics and Professional Responsibility part in view of these principles.
Listen to the podcast episode where Cornelius Fichtner interviews Cynthia Dionisio, Mike Griffiths and Stephen Townsend about about PMBOK-7.
Click to play now:
In this episode you will finds out –
- the reason behind moving from process-based to principles-based standard,
- what will happen to the current set of domains and knowledge-areas,
- how the PMBOK-7 edition guide will cover the entire delivery spectrum,
- why it will be much shorter than the current edition, and more..
Changes between PMBOK®-6 and PMBOK®-7 in a nut-shell
Before we deep dive, here is an excellent way of understanding changes between PMBOK-6 and PMBOK-7, as depicted by PMI –
Image courtesy PMI.org
1. The Standard for Project Management focus has shifted.
Image: Standard has changed from 5 Domains to 12 Project Delivery Principles
PMI defines Standard as, “a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, which provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.“
In PMBOK 6th edition, The Standard for Project Management primarily focused on processes (considered as good practices on most projects most of the time) organized by Process Groups –
- Monitoring & Controlling
In PMBOK 7th edition, The Standard for Project Management primarily focuses on Value Delivery System and a dozen Project Delivery Principles!
We saw the delivery principles above, and these are referenced in PMBOK-7 as below –
|Project Delivery Principles
|Be a diligent, respectful, and caring steward
|Build a culture of accountability and respect
|Engage stakeholders to understand their interests and needs
|Focus on value
|Recognize and respond to systems’ interactions
|Motivate, influence, coach, and learn
|Tailor the delivery approach based on context
|Build quality into processes and results
|Address complexity using knowledge, experience, and learning
|Address opportunities and threats
|Opportunities & threats
|Be adaptable and resilient
|Adaptability & resilience
|Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state
PMBOK® 7th edition is moving from Process-based Standard to Principles-based Standard!
It will further include,
- Models, methods, and artifacts
2. Primary structure changes!
Image: Structure has changed primarily from 10 Knowledge Areas to 8 Performance Domains
In PMBOK 6th edition, the primary focus was on 49 processes categorized under 10 Knowledge Areas.
- Project environment
- Role of the project manager
- 10 Knowledge Areas
Want an easy way to remember in the SAME order?: “Integrating scope & schedule costs our quality resources to communicate with a risk of procuring stakeholders”.
Yes, it’s silly, and that’s why it sticks. Repeat this couple of times for 2 days and on the third day you can recall it with ease. For more such brain-friendly study resources (and 2hrs of free video training), check out this page.
In PMBOK 7th edition, the guide will focus primarily on Performance Domains.
- Models, methods, and artifacts
- 8 Performance domains
- Life cycle
- Navigating Uncertainty & Ambiguity
- Project work
What is Standards Plus™?
As a project management practitioner or someone with educational or research interest StandardsPlus is a way to quickly refer to Project Management Institute standards and guides. PMI states that “Standards Plus was created specifically to help you apply the standard to your work“.
This digital platform connects PMBOK to content specifically created to help practitioners implement standards at work.
StandardsPlus has tons of content in the easy-to-consume format such as articles, videos, audios, and downloadable templates. You can search for areas that you need help with at your job, and find relevant content. The beauty of this is that you will be able to refer to a specific part of PMBOK (Standards perspective) for every content you find – and be able to put PMI Standards to work.
This way you will have direct access to the best practices from the trenches (remember PMI standards are always created based on research into what is happening on the ground), and be sure of getting the best results at work!
You can also understand how these standards apply to the specific industry you work in. Lastly, you can learn all about Agile project management practices.
What does PMBOK-7 mean for you, the exam taker?
Well, this means that if you are interested in taking the PMP® exam based on PMBOK-7 you got to wait. As of now, this guide is not available, and once released PMI allows several months’ time before basing the PMP® exam on the new version of PMBOK®.
However, consider this perspective.
PMP certification has a tremendous impact on the ability to perform one’s job efficiently as well as increasing one’s value in the market. If you are eligible to take the exam, prepare to take it in the current format.
At the time of writing this guide, the PMP® exam is about to change to the newer version of Examination Content Outline (the ‘PMP® syllabus’). More info here.
Going over PMBOK 7th version now, here is a perspective to consider –
- Size of PMBOK 6: 756 pages; Size of PMBOK 7: 274 pages!
- Does PMBOK-7 version has the process table, processes, ITTOs? : NO!
- Can you say that most of what is mentioned in the PMBOK 7th version is common sense, and ‘sort of’ already present in the expectations of a PM?: YES
What this, and with what we know thus far, we can surmise that PMBOK-6 will be relevant even after the PMP exam officially moves to 7th version.
Also, as a corollary, right now to take up PMP exam if you want to read PMBOK-7, you will only find it useful (without being confusing or conflicting)!
Once you are PMP® certified, you need to earn 60 PDUs to fulfill CCRS requirements and maintain your credential validity over a period of 3 years. Once the PMBOK-7 based exam rolls out, whatever time you spend on updating your knowledge, you can claim PDUs for that effort!
What does PMBOK 7th edition mean for you, PMP® credential holder?
If you are already PMP certified, you can only wait. Again, when PMBOK-7 is released utilize the opportunity to earn PDUs.
Here are the main takeaways as the world moves from PMBOK 6th edition to PMBOK 7th edition –
- The primary takeaway is that PMI is moving from a process-based approach to a holistic principle-based approach, similar to Agile world
- The Standard for project management has moved from Domains (5 of them) to Project Delivery Principles (12 of them)
- The skeleton structure has moved from Knowledge Area (10 of them) based categorization to Performance Domains (8 of them)
Of course, the PMBOK® guide itself is still undergoing review and changes. The earliest expected release date is sometime in early 2021.
I will bring you more information as more is known. If you have any questions, leave them in the Comments section below.
Still have questions?
Chances are you still may have questions about the PMBOK 7th version.
No worries, click here to download PMI’s official FAQ document.