The Project Management Body of Knowledge

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is an incredible collection of information and best practices on project management. It covers guidelines, concepts, and definitions of project management terms and concepts.

PMBOK splits a project into five separate process groups that represent the stages of a project:

  • Initiating Process Group is the part of a project where you develop your idea to the point it can be presented to stakeholders and team members and be easily understood.
  • Planning Process Group is when you do the detailed planning and analysis of the project. This is sadly the area of project management that is skipped over but time spent planning almost always turns into time saved during the actual project work.
  • Executing Process Group  is when the actual work of the project takes place. It is closely tied to the next group.
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group is the work that is done to ensure the project is on track and handle any necessary changes.
  • Closing Process Group is the end of the project. Next to planning, this is probably the most skimmed over part of projects. Time given to reflect on what went well or what perhaps didn’t can often make the next project run much smoother.

In addition to the process groups, PMBOK also identifies 10 knowledge areas:

  • Integration Management is the coordination of work across process groups.
  • Scope Management is ensuring all necessary work is done and unneeded work is avoided.
  • Time Management is making sure the project is completed on time.
  • Cost Management  is making sure the project is completed on budget.
  • Quality Management is ensuring the project meets the needs it was started for.
  • Human Resource Management is the management of team members and those doing to the work.
  • Communications Management is the distribution of information about the project to the proper people in the most efficient format.
  • Risk Management is identifying and controlling any risks to the project.
  • Procurement Management is the purchasing or acquiring of any necessary products for the project.
  • Stakeholders Management is the identifying and management of stakeholder relationships.

These knowledge areas each contain processes that fall into the five process groups to create a matrix where each of the 47 separate processes are tied to a knowledge area and group. If this sounds terribly complicated it’s because it is. When you couple this with my biggest complaint about PMBOK, the lack of examples, you get a book that is largely unreadable. Unfortunately to understand it, it has to be read. There are a large number of graphs and tables to help visualize the processes and the matrix but they are often so similar it can be challenging to refer back to one when needed.

If you are someone who occasionally manages projects but your job isn’t solely dedicated to project management, there are better options out there. While it’s dedicated to software development, Information Technology Project Management, mirrors PMBOK and ties all the processes to real world examples. However knowing PMBOK from cover to cover is a must if you really need to speak the lingo of project management or are considering a PMI certification.

There is also value in knowing just the process groups and knowledge areas. Think about the process groups as the five stages of your project and makes sure to take dedicated action in each. At it’s most simple I would: define, plan, work, correct, close. If you do those things you are on the right track. Including the knowledge areas as items to be considered can help you to think about what to do at each stage. While all ten aren’t always relevant to each stage or even every project, if you have looked over the list and considered each you will certainly end up with less problems in your project.


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