It is quite likely that you are already familiar with PMBOK®. But if you happen to be just looking out to find out about the PMP®/CAPM® examination, or the basics of project management, then this lesson might be of help.
Even if you have gone through PMBOK® this lesson should act as a quick 2-minute refresher. So, I’d suggest you don’t skip this.
Recently PMI has introduced the 7th version of the PMBOK guide. You can read about the changes and how it’s a gamechanger move, in this article.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or in short ‘PMBOK’ is the project management standard for the PMP and CAPM exams, brought out by PMI, the Project Management Institute.
PMBOK contains standard terminologies, practices, and guidelines to manage a project, practically in any domain or industry. There may be other industry-specific project management practices prevalent in any industry and PMBOK prescribes common project management standards.
PMI was formed in 1969 in the USA. In 1983, PMI published a whitepaper with an aim to identify and collate generally accepted project management practices. This was then made as a standard. The first edition of standards was published in 1996 and the second edition in 2000.
PMI studied thousands of projects across various geographies to figure out what works and what does not, and put together these standards and practices.
3rd edition was released in 2004, with some major changes as compared to the previous edition. 4th edition was released in 2008. The 5th edition was released in 2013 and PMBOK 6th version on 26 March, 2018.
- PMP® was updated on 26 March 2018 to reflect new content in PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition.
- PMI-ACP® was updated 26 March 2018 to reflect new content in the Agile Practice Guide.
- CAPM® exam was made available as a pilot from 12 March – 20 May. The new exam was launched on 21 May 2018.
What does PMBOK® contain?
In a nutshell, PMBOK® describes the fundamentals of project management in terms of processes. Each project management activity is accomplished as a process. A process has some inputs. A set of tools and techniques are then applied on these inputs. As a result, some outputs are produced. These outputs may further become inputs to some other processes.
These processes are 49 in total (as of the PMBOK-6 version).
These are grouped into 5 Process Groups – they contain activities that appear to be happening in chronological order. However, please bear in mind that depending on project dynamics any activity can occur at any point in time, in any sequence.
- Monitoring & Controlling
Initiating process group
Initiating processes are performed at the beginning of a project, or a new phase. For the very first time, a project manager is assigned to the project and is authorized to take decisions and manage the project.
A project requires a strong business case, one that clearly shows the need for the project. There should be a sponsor who evangelizes the project, supports it throughout its life cycle, helps with funding and resource needs, and helps clear any blockers.
Who authorizes the project (or, who signs the project charter)?
Project Initiator or Sponsor. This person can be internal or external to the performing organization but will be outside of the project team.
PMBOK assumes that business case for the project, project approval and funding are handled outside of project boundaries. This is because need of the project are felt at program, portfolio or organizational levels.
Primary outputs of initiating process group are creation and authorization of project charter, and identification of and data collection of project stakeholders.
Planning process group
This is where the path to project success is laid out. The planning process group contains processes to strategize management of project activities in each of the knowledge areas – scope, time, costs, quality, human resources, communication, risk, procurement, stakeholders. Planning documents from these areas are called subsidiary plans and these are integrated into the project management plan along with baselines.
You consult stakeholders to understand their requirements in the planning phase. You turn these requirements into the project scope. From this scope, create the work breakdown structure, identify activities, understand dependencies among them, and estimate resources and costs required for each activity. Use all this information to create the project schedule.
Another important aspect of the planning phase is coming up with project costs and in turn the budget. You use activity level cost numbers from scheduling effort for this.
Apart from these, you document strategies for making sure that project deliverables are tested to satisfy requirements; put communication plans in place; document stakeholder management strategies. Identify and prioritize project risks, document their possible responses, and assign appropriate people to manage those risks.
If a part of the project is to be outsourced to a seller, then work out its planning part here. This includes ways of soliciting proposals, criteria for selecting sellers, rewarding the contract, and maintaining the relationship in order to get the required quality output from the seller.
Primary outputs from the planning process group are various subsidiary plans, project management plan, and baselines for cost, schedule, and scope.
Executing process group
This is where all the action takes place and as a project manager, you spend most of your time. You put together a good project team and train them on necessary skills after assessing skill gaps. Measure the performance of people and give them timely and constructive feedback. Manage conflicts. Perform project work as per project plan. Let the quality assurance team verify quality practices followed in the project. Many times, things do not go as per plan. When that happens raise change requests.
Communicate project information to the right stakeholders at the right time using pre-defined communication methods/mechanism. If a seller is involved in the project, validate their output and make payments as per the plan.
Primary outputs from this process group are the project deliverables, performance assessments, change requests and updates to the project management plan.
Monitoring & Controlling process group
This is an oversight area where you monitor project work, verify against baselines and project management plans, and put controlling measures when things go wrong. Raise change requests because of necessary corrective or preventive actions. Take them through the change control process and upon approval implement them, if necessary update baselines.
Monitoring project work helps identify areas of concern that can be immediately addressed.
In this process group you prepare schedule forecasts; manage change requests and update project management plan, get completed project deliverables validated and accepted by the customer.
Closing process group
This is where a project or phase is formally closed. You perform all necessary activities for administrative and procedural closure. Take a formal acceptance of completed deliverables are from the customer. Update the lessons learned in the organizational process assets knowledge base. Conduct a formal assessment of the performance of project team members.
Even if a project is terminated prematurely these processes are to be executed.
Further, the same 49 processes are grouped in another fashion – based on the knowledge it takes to execute them. This grouping is called Knowledge Areas. There are 10 of them.
- Project Integration Management
- Project Scope Management
- Project Schedule Management
- Project Cost Management
- Project Quality Management
- Project Resource Management
- Project Communications Management
- Project Risk Management
- Project Procurement Management
- Project Stakeholder Management (introduced in PMBOK 5th edition)
The mind map below shows a brief introduction to each of these knowledge areas –
Click on the image to open in a new window.
Figure 2: Understanding 10 Knowledge Areas
Here is another mind map that helps you understand the processes as part of Knowledge Areas. Am sure you can’t read it, so click on the image to open the mind map in a new window.
Figure 3: PMBOK® processes grouped as per Knowledge Areas and Process Groups
Relax. Do not try to remember these yet. Just go over this figure every now and then to get a hang of process names and associated knowledge areas. These processes are logically sequenced and grouped.
In the 6th version of the PMBOK guide, PMI introduced the whole new Agile-angle to the whole proceedings. From version 4 to version 5, there were few signs of the tilt towards Agile, when the Iterative project management methodology was introduced.
But in version 6 though, every knowledge area gets ‘trends and emerging practices’, ‘tailoring considerations’, and ‘considerations for Agile/Adaptive environments’ – that pretty much focus on how the knowledge area lends itself to projects that use Agile methodology.
This is a welcome change.
With 0ver 70% of organizations using Agile approaches either as a short-term or long-term project management method (source: Project Management Institute report), it is only imperative that PMI included real-life agile practices.
This whole change brought to PMBOK in version 6 has made it more logical, streamlined, and easier to grasp. Of course, we have to deal with ITTOs and others, but understanding the processes and their inter-dependencies has become a whole lot easier!
PMI introduced the Agile Practice Guide as part of its PMBOK publication, which is a wonderful read.
Here are few videos from that guide about what Agile ‘components’ are included in the PMBOK guide, the 6th version.
Video 1: “Are you a specialist?”
Video 2: “Agile: One family tree, multiple branches”
Video 3: “No ‘I’ in the team!”
Video 4: “Is the Project Continuum Flat?”
Video 5: “To Be or Be Not Agile!”
Difference between “Work Performance” terms
In PMBOK 4th edition the terms work performance information and work performance measurements were a bit misleading to understand in the context that they are used. PMBOK 5th edition has done a beautiful change to these and elaborated them very clearly.
PMBOK 6th version talks about three “work performance” terms as below –
Work Performance Data
This is simply the raw data, such as the start date of an activity, the number of defects found in a feature, number of change requests per release.
Work Performance Information
The data collected above needs to be analyzed and integrated across knowledge areas within a context in order to derive value out of it. The implementation status of change requests – not just the number of change requests, which is raw data – is an example. The average budget spent per control account is another example.
Work Performance Reports
The analyzed work performance information is represented in a report format, pictorially or textually, physically or electronically is a Work Performance Report. Status reports, proposals, and design documents are some examples.
In fact, these are 3 of the 6 groups of tools and techniques, formally declared by PMI. About 60+ tools and techniques are grouped as such, and there are about 70+ more ungrouped tools and techniques!
But if you are wondering how to remember these many ITTOs, don’t worry – here’s an article that shows you how to prepare yourself to answer ANY of ITTO based questions on your PMP exam!
Basically, PMP® certification is a foundation for every professional who manages projects or is involved in the project management team, and PMBOK® helps one in getting this strong foundation.
I have been also using Agile software development methodology for several years. I was thinking that PMP® might not be necessary for me. However, one swipe through PMBOK® convinced me that this knowledge is complementary to any of the project development methodologies one might be using. The methodologies, principles, and standards you would study for PMP® is the overall picture one needs to have in order to manage any type of project.
It is not an exaggeration to say that these principles are applicable to even our personal lives. If you are doing interiors of your new house or planning for a distant vacation – this knowledge helps a ton.
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Here’s a PMP insight you need to understand
One of the main reasons for PMP failure is lost momentum. With more pressing needs surfacing and demanding your time, PMP study gets a backseat more often than not.
We have community pages designed to solve this problem.
Now you can maintain study momentum by signing up for LinkedIn group and Facebook community – two places where you can get daily questions, find study and accountability partner, and ask any question related to PMP preparation.
You can also get early exclusive access to my books and training courses.
Who creates PMBOK Guide?
No, it is not created by the PMI staff sitting in their offices.
“PMBOK guide is created by project managers for project managers,” says Cyndi Dionisio who chairs the PMP efforts.
Watch this video for some of the interesting nuances of the PMBOK guide –
Last but not the least, you can always write to me for any help you need for your PMP or CAPM preparation.
Thanks for your time and good luck! Go ace that exam.
-Shiv Shenoy, PMP
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