What is PMBOK in Project Management?

Project Management has always been practiced informally, but began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th century. PMI published a manual entitled "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)" to identify the recurring elements for project management process. The complete Project Management Body of Knowledge includes proven traditional practices that are widely applied, as well as innovative emerging practices for the profession with widespread consensus as to their value and usefulness.

History of PMBOK

  • The first credential for PMI was the Project Management Professional (PMP), and the first certifications were awarded in 1984.
  • 1969 - Birth of PMI - First Meeting is held in Atlanta, GA.
  • 1984 - First PMP Exams are administered
  • 1987 - March - "Project Management Body of Knowledge" is released - not hardcopy - sections A through H, 5-6 pages in each section.
  • 1994 - August - New exposure draft of the "PMBOK Guide" is released - 64 pages. There are eight Knowledge Areas. (Integration Management is not included until the 1996 First edition.) Test is a six hour exam of 320 questions! (There are 40 questions for each of the eight Knowledge Areas. Each question has five multiple-choice answers.)
  • 1996 - PMBOK Guide, First Edition is released - 176 Pages. Nine Knowledge Areas and 37 processes.
  • 2000 -PMBOK Guide, 2000 Edition is released. (Second Edition) - 211 Pages, Nine Knowledge Areas and 39 processes.
  • December 2004, - PMBOK Guide, Third Edition is released. 390 pages; 44 Processes; 592 ITTO. August 2005 - Test changes to be based on Third Edition, and test becomes much more difficult! (PMI lowers the passing score to 61% to accommodate the increased difficulty of the exam.)
  • 2007 - PMBOK Guide earns the ANSI/ISO/IEC
  • December 2008, - PMBOK Guide, Fourth Edition is released. 467 pages; 42 Processes; 517 ITTO. August 2009 - Test changes to be based on Fourth Edition.
  • August 31, 2011 - 30% of the questions are changed to conform to the latest 2011 RDS (Role Delineation Study)
  • December 2012, - PMBOK Guide, Fifth Edition is released. 589 pages; 47 Processes; 619 ITTO! August 2013 - Test changes to be based on Fifth Edition.
  • January 11, 2016 - Test changes to conform to the latest 2015 RDS (Role Delineation Study)

What is a Project?

In project management, a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. So a project team often includes people who don't usually work together - sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.

The development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building or bridge, the relief effort after a natural disaster, the expansion of sales into a new geographic market - all are projects. And all must be expertly managed to deliver the on-time, on-budget results, learning and integration that organizations need.

What is Project Management?

Project management is the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. It is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

A project is a unique and transient endeavor undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. A project is usually deemed to be a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.

Management vs Project Management

A key factor that distinguishes project management from just 'management' is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Because of this a project professional needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, and certainly people management skills and good business awareness.


PMBOK has been used as the standard by which PMP Certification is obtained. PMP Certification is based upon a survey of many companies' best practices. The advantages of using PMP Certified Project Managers and Team members is that resources have already been trained. PMBOK is valuable for both companies and employees. PMBOK is valuable for many reasons. Here are three:

  • The first reason PMBOK is valuable is that it allows companies to standardize practices across departments. This means that the people in development manage projects in the same manner as those in distribution.
  • Second, PMBOK can help project managers to work with a standardized system across companies. Someone working for company x who then moves onto company y can use the same practices.
  • Third, PMBOK discusses what works. The methods documented within the project management community can assist those who are uncertain of how to undertake risk management. PMBOK also discusses what doesn't work. This prevents failure of projects.

Finally, project managers who are familiar with PMBOK standards can custom tailor their project management process to best fit their company's needs. There's an old saying, "To break the rules, first you have to know the rules." When project managers invest time into learning the rules, they also are investing time in learning how and where rules can be broken.

PMBOK Structure

Project management as a practice is rapidly growing and spreading worldwide, and is now seen globally as a recognized and strategic competency, a career path and a subject for training and education. The PMBOK framework consists of five process groups, ten knowledge areas and 47 project management (PM) processes. The knowledge areas group the PM processes by project management content.

The 5 PMBOK Process Groups


The initiating process group involves the processes, activities, and skills needed to effectively define the beginning of a project. Setting all permits, authorizations, and initial work orders in place to secure an effective and logical progression of initial project activities sets the stage for subsequent success throughout all project phases. Setting clear phases for work to be completed, initializing teams, and having the budget in place before work begins are vital for a strong start to any project across industry.

Typically activities to be performed in the initiating group:

  • According to PMI, the process of Initiating helps to set the vision of what is to be accomplished.
  • This is where the project is formally authorized by the sponsor, initial scope defined, and stakeholders identified.
  • Stakeholder identification is crucial here because correct identification (and subsequent management and control) of stakeholders can literally make or break the project.

We also need to mindful of the following points:

  • This process group is performed so that projects and programs are not only sanctioned by a sponsoring entity, but also so that projects are aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization.
  • Where this is not performed, projects may be started and carried out haphazardly, with no real stated goal or objective.
  • It should also be noted that management chooses and authorizes the project manager in early this phase.
  • It's crucial to authorize and establish the PM early as project managers often have accountability but little authority.


The Planning Process Group sets forth the processes needed to define the scope of the project, set strategic plans in place to maximize workflow, and begin to assemble priority lists and plan team needs. This process group also addresses a more narrow clarification of all project goals and expectations and puts in place the project infrastructure necessary to achieve those goals according to the timeline and budgetary constraints.

Typically activities to be performed in the planning group:

  • A crucial element of planning is establishing the total scope of the project. While it may appear as though that was accomplished in initiating group, scope (along with risks, milestones, summary and budget) was defined there at a high level.
  • In planning group, an iterative and more detailed planning process, called progressive elaboration, project documents are developed at a much more detailed level.
  • In the PMBOK Guide, PMI defines twenty-four discrete processes that are involved in planning.


The executing process group involves managing teams effectively while orchestrating timeline expectations and reaching benchmark goals. Project managers utilizing this set of skills will demonstrate a high degree of organization and communication skills while addressing team concerns or other complex situations associated with getting the work done on time and within budget.

Here is the typically activities to be performed in this group:

  • Project manager need to acquire and manage the development team and also cultivate it by performing team-building exercises.
  • Project Management is not only managing communications but also managing the stakeholder engagement, ensuring project and product quality
  • If procurement is involved - supporting the effort to contract with a vendor.

Note that:

In the Executing phase, most of the budget will be spent and the deliverables of the project will be produced. And it is likely here where we will begin to see stakeholder change requests. While the project team can implement approved changes, only the change control board can approve or reject these changes.

Monitoring and Controlling

Processing change orders, addressing on-going budget considerations, and mitigating unforeseen circumstances that may affect a team's ability to meet initial project expectations are all part of the core skills and competencies involved in the Monitoring Process Group. Seasoned managers keep the momentum moving forward and guard the project against stalling by actively monitoring progress and using foresight and quick response to address project challenges. While the other process groups occur sequentially, Monitoring and Controlling hover over the whole project and so, happen throughout the project and are not linear. What does it encompass? According to PMBOK GUIDE, these are "processes required to track, review and regulate the progress and performance of the project.

Typically activities to be performed in the monitoring and controlling group:

  • Identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required
  • Initiate the corresponding changes (The truth is, you can't assume you'll always stay on plan. In fact, it's likely as not that you won't).
  • In this group, you often need to get back on track, where you compare plan to actual, measure variance and take corrective action.


The biggest challenge of this process group is to bring the project to a successful close which means completing it on time and within the budget allotted. The bottom line is that while these process groups are not necessarily easy to implement, not doing so means the team may never realize the full benefits of their highly strategic projects.

Typically activities to be performed in the monitoring and closing group:

  • Not only do you formally close the project but you also get sign-off and acceptance from the customer.
  • The project manager should formally close the project by archiving records, holding a lessons learned session, making final payments, closing contracts and celebrating and releasing the team.
  • Lessons learned along with other historical information should be centrally archived to be used as input to future projects to prevent reinventing the wheel.

The 10 Knowledge Areas of Project Management

Integration - This is covered first in the PMBOK Guide, but it's about bringing together everything you know so that you are managing your project holistically and not in individual process chunks.

Scope - It is the way to define what your project will deliver. Scope management is all about making sure that everyone is clear about what the project is for and what it includes. It covers collecting requirements and preparing the work breakdown structure.

Time - It relates to how you manage the time people are spending on their project tasks, and how long the project takes overall. This knowledge area helps you understand the activities in the project, the sequence of those activities, and how long they are going to take.

Cost - It is all about handling the project's finances. The big activity in this knowledge area is preparing your budget which includes working out how much each task is going to cost and then determining your project's overall budget forecast.

Quality - This area is where you'll learn about and set up the quality control and quality management activities on your project so that you can be confident the result will meet your customers' expectations.

Procurement - It supports all your procurement and supplier work from planning what you need to buy, to going through the tendering and purchasing process to managing the work of the supplier and closing the contract when the project is finished.

Human resources - First, you have to understand what resources you need to be able to complete your project, then you put your team together. After that, it's all about managing the people on the team including giving them extra skills to do their jobs, if they need it

Communications - Given that a project manager's job is often said to be about 80% communication, in there, the PM writes communications plan for the project and monitor all the incoming and outgoing communications.

Risk management - It involves identifying risks and understanding how to assess risks on your project, that includes how you perform quantitative and qualitative risk assessments. Risk management isn't a one-off activity, it covers controlling your project risks going forward through the project life cycle.

Stakeholder management - It is one of the most important group which takes you through the journey of identifying stakeholders, understanding their role and needs in the project and ensuring that you can deliver those. I think we'll see this area develop further in the next edition of the standard.

If you can grasp all these knowledge areas, you'll have everything you need to know as a project manager covered!

The 47 PMBOK Processes

Standardization of processes remains at the heart of all effective business models and plans. In project management, the PMBOK provides a way or transforming isolated processes into a complete, standardized, and collaborative effort. 47 process are classified under 5 different process groups, that associated with the corresponding knowledge areas in the following table:

Initiation Planning Execution Monitoring and Controlling Closing
Project Charter Project Management Plan Cost Management Plan Project Status Report Change Request Lessons Learned
Stakeholder Register Requirements Management Plan Activity Cost Estimate Deliverables Status Change Log
Scope Management Plan Cost Baseline Change Request Earned Value Status Report
Requirements Documentation Project Funding Requirements Project Team Directory
Requirements Traceability Matrix Quality Management Plan Team Performance Assessment
Project Scope Statement Process Quality Checklists Enterprise Environment Factors
Scope Baseline Product Quality Checklists Procurement Agreement
Schedule Management Plan Quality Metrics Issue Log
Activity Attributes Process Management Plan
Activity List Human Resource Management Plan
Milestone List Communications Management Plan
Project Schedule Network Risk Management Plan
Activity Resource Requirements Risk Register
Resource Breakdown Resource Change Request
Activity Duration Estimates Make-or-Buy Decisions
Project Calendar Procurement Management Plan
Project Schedule Procurement Statement of Work
Schedule Baseline Stakeholder Management Plan

Turn every software project into a successful one.

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