Making Sense of the PMBOKⓇ Guide

project integration management technical Jan 22, 2023
Making Sense of the PMBOK Guide

The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®) is the de facto standard for project management. It's used by many project professionals responsible for the outcomes of projects, including those in information technology, construction, engineering, biotech and pharmaceuticals, and other industries with similar workflows. Although the PMBOK has been updated over time to reflect industry changes and new technologies, it had a significant restructuring in 2021.

What is PMBOK?

The PMBOK is a set of standards for project management. It’s not a process but a framework to help you develop your own processes. The PMBOK Guide describes how to use that framework, so it’s essential to understand the guide before diving in and implementing it.

The best way to think about PMBOK is like this: imagine you're building your own home, and someone gives you all the materials required for construction (wood, nails, paint) but doesn't give you any instructions on how exactly those materials should be put together. That's what PMBOK looks like—it gives you lists of tasks without telling you which order they should be completed in or even how many times they need to be completed before moving on to the next step (though there are some recommendations around this). In short, it is a non-prescriptive standard.

The Seventh Edition is the latest

The Seventh Edition of the PMBOK Guide was published in August 2021, the latest version. PMI has been changing its guidelines to keep up with changing trends in project management practices and technologies, such as Agile and Lean methodologies and cloud computing. In addition, the organization wants its certification to be still relevant when you apply for jobs years after you get certified.

The seventh edition is unique in that, according to PMI, the Sixth Edition still contains valuable information electronically incorporated into the Seventh Edition. In addition, the Seventh Edition introduces principles and performance domains.

The 12 principles guide strategy development, decision-making, and problem-solving. They are aligned with the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and are complementary to them.

The eight performance domains are related activities essential for successful project outcomes. They are intended as a shift from the former 12 knowledge areas.

As with the Sixth Edition, the Seventh emphasizes tailoring the various activities of project management to meet the needs of different project types, including predictive, agile, and hybrid projects. This puts much of the necessary decision-making on the project management practitioner to decide how best to apply the standards to their projects’ circumstances.

Finally, the Seventh Edition is supplemented by a new product, PMIstandards+™. This is where PMI is placing the Sixth Edition artifacts, such as process groups and knowledge areas. Due to their continued importance, we must look at these to understand the depth and breadth of the framework fully.

Process Groups

The five Process Groups are building blocks of project management. Each process group has a set of processes grouped to form a standard body of knowledge for managing projects. The Process Groups are:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

Process Groups describe the overall scope of a project or program.

Knowledge Areas

The PMBOK Guide also contains 10 Knowledge Areas. The knowledge areas further define the work that is done within each of the process groups. For example, Risk Management can be found in the planning, executing, and monitoring and controlling process groups. In the planning group, risks are identified and analyzed; in the executing group, risk responses are implemented; in the monitoring and controlling group, the project is watched for risks to occur.

It's the gold standard for project management

The PMBOK Guide is the gold standard for project management. It is a guide for project managers and is used around the world. The PMBOK framework helps project managers manage projects effectively by understanding what to expect during different phases of a project and how to keep them on track.

The PMBOK Guide has grown significantly, from around 50-100 pages as an initial white paper to over 1,000 pages in the combined Sixth and Seventh Editions. This is why Ray has written, and PPC Group, LLC has published the Accidental Project Manager series. When writing these books, the PMBOK Guide was searched for the least common denominators – practices and skills needed for all projects of any size. Designed to increase success, these books are for accidental and new project managers, beginning project management learners, and those exploring project management careers or looking for a refresher. Told in a business fable, concepts are put in simple terms, mnemonics, and stories to make them more memorable.

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