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The description of the knowledge of the project management profession by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Explanation of PMBOK. (1987, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013).

Contributed by: Jean-Michel DE JAEGER


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What is PMBOK? Description

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) is an internationally recognized standard (IEEE, ANSI and ISO 21500) that deals with the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet project requirements. The PMBOK Guide defines a project life cycle with 5 process groups, 10 knowledge areas and 47 processes of the project management profession.

A project team operates in 10 knowledge areas through a number of basic processes as summarized below:

  1. Integration Management. Develop the Project Charter, Scope Statement and Plan. Direct, Manage, Monitor and Control Project Change.

  2. Scope Management. Planning, Definition, Work Break-down Structure (WBS) Creation, Verification and Control.

  3. Time Management. Planning, Definition, Sequencing, Resource and Duration Estimating, Schedule Development and Schedule Control.

  4. Cost Management. Planning and Resource Acquisition, Cost Estimating, Budgeting and Cost Control.

  5. Quality Management. Quality Planning, Quality Assurance and Quality Control.

  6. Human Resources Management. HR Planning, Hiring, Developing and Managing Project Team.

  7. Communications Management. Communications Planning, Information Distribution, Performance Reporting.

  8. Risks Management. Risk Planning and Identification, Risk Analysis (Qualitative and Quantitative), Risk Response (Action) Planning and Risk Monitoring and Control.

  9. Procurement Management. Acquisition and Contracting Plan, Sellers Responses and Selection, Contract Administration and Contract Closure.

  10. Stakeholders Management. Identification, Planning, Managing and Controlling Stakeholders Engagement.

For each process, activity, or practice, a description of input, tools and technique and output (deliverables) is made.

Origin of PMBOK. History

The Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded in 1969, initially to identify common management practices in projects across industries.

  • The first edition of the PMBOK was published in 1987. It was the result of workshops initiated in the early 80s by the PMI. In parallel a Code of Ethics was developed and guidelines for accreditation of training centers and certification of individuals.
  • Later, a second version of the PMBOK was published (1996 and 2000), based on comments received from the members. PMBOK was recognized as a standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1998, and later by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
  • The third version of the PMBOK Guide was published in 2004, with major improvements in the structure of the document, additions to processes, terms and domains of program and portfolio.
  • The fourth version of the PMBOK Guide was published in 2008 with minor improvements such as a reduction of the number of processes from 44 to 42 and a  modification of process effectuation into the process matrix.
  • The fifth version of the PMBOK Guide was published in 2013 with significant improvements in its structure, adding a new knowledge area “Stakeholders Management” and a fourth process (“Plan”) to the following knowledge areas : Scope, Cost, Time, Stakeholders, as well as a reallocation of a few processes.

The launch of PMBOK version 5 matches with the publishing of the new ISO standard for Project Management 21500 with a similar structure. The PMI Institute was one of the main contributors to this international standard.


Usage of PMBOK. Applications

All kinds of project, programs and portfolio management. Application areas include:

  • Management programs (general)
  • Departmental projects (functional)
  • Engineering projects (technical)
  • Industry specific processes
  • Product development (marketing)
  • Government programs (public)
  • Development programs (international organizations)

Steps in PMBOK. Process

A Project is accomplished trough the integration of the project management processes. PMBOK uses a variation of the Deming Cycle (PDCA) for continuous improvement with a 5 -step lifecycle applicable on both the whole project and on each phase:

  1. Initiating. Main elements:PMI PMBOK Processes
    • Authorize the project
    • Commit the organization to a project or phase
    • Set the overall direction
    • Define top-level project objectives
    • Secure necessary approvals and resources
    • Validate alignment with overall business objectives
    • Identify stakeholders
    • Assign project manager
    • Develop project charter
  2. Planning. Main elements:
    • Define project scope
    • Refine project objectives
    • Define all required deliverables
    • Create framework for project schedule
    • Provide forum for information sharing for team members and stakeholders
    • Define all required activities
    • Sequence all activities
    • Identify required skills and resources
    • Estimate work effort
    • Risk analysis and avoidance
    • Define and estimate all required costs
    • Obtain project funding approval
    • Communication plan
  3. Executing. Main elements:
    • Coordinate the resources, team development
    • Quality assurance
    • Select and approach subcontractors
    • Distribute information
    • Work the plan
  4. Monitoring and Controlling. Main elements:
    • Manage team, stakeholders, subcontractors
    • Measuring progress and monitoring performance (overall, scope, schedule, costs, quality)
    • Take corrective actions if and where needed. Issue resolution and escalation
    • Change request management
    • Risk Management (technical, quality, performance, project management, organizational, external)
    • Performance reports. Communications
  5. Closing. Main elements:
    • Finalize activities
    • Administrative close out (gather, distribute, archive information to formalize project completion, acceptance/signoff, evaluation, member appraisals, lessons learned)
    • Contract close out (completion of the project contract including resolution of open items and final formal acceptance)

The Project Manager is responsible for the project objectives to deliver the final product that has been defined, within the constraints of project scope, time, cost and required quality.

Strengths of PMBOK. Benefits

  • PMBOK Guide is a framework and a de facto standard.
  • It is process-oriented.
  • It states the knowledge needed to manage the life cycle of any Project, Program and Portfolio through their processes.
  • It defines for each process the necessary input, tools, techniques and output (deliverables).
  • It defines a body of knowledge on which any industry can build it specific best practices for its application area.

Limitations of PMBOK. Disadvantages

  • Complex for small projects.
  • Has to be adapted to the application area industry, project size and scope, time and budget and quality constraints.

Assumptions of PMBOK. Conditions

  • Project management needs a standard that is applicable to any kind of project scope, industry and culture.

Book: PMI - PMBOK Guide (Fifth Edition 2013) -

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Compare with PMBOK: OPM3  |  MSP  |  PMMM  |  IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB)  |  Team Management Profile  |  Stages of Team Development  |  Belbin Team Roles

Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Program & Project Management

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Special Interest Group Leader
Jean-Michel de Jaeger, EMBA, PMP
Management Consultant

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