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Perusing the New PMI Global Standards

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has recently updated its global standard, The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. In this article, project management expert Joseph Phillips takes you on a quick tour of the new (and almost exciting) release from PMI.
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I like toast. It’s crunchy. Just smear some butter and raspberry jam on it and it’s the perfect start to my day. It’s also really easy to make while the coffee’s brewing. As much as I like toast, however, I’ve not read the toaster manual. I’m sure it’s a thriller: Insert bread substance into slot A, depress lever, wait…

Instead of reading my toaster manual, I’ve spent the last couple of months reading a similarly stimulating literature: Project Management Institute’s new global standard on project management. I know—I live an exciting life. Between toast and project management, it’s a non-stop party at my house. Let me save you some pain and share the guts of what the oracles at PMI have for in store for you.

In case you have a life, the global standard I’m talking about is The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. You can just call this book the PMBOK (as in “PIM-BACH”). The PMBOK is the Project Management Institute’s most infamous book. It’s an expos[ca]e on all the possible project management processes that are part of the generally accepted practices of today’s project manager. This book is the foundation for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. As luck would have it, or not, the current PMP examination will be superseded by a new exam in July based on the fourth edition of PMBOK.

This new PMBOK (or PMBOK v4) is much easier to read than its predecessors, has more graphics to show the flow of project management processes, and includes more requirements-gathering activities than previous versions. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks—it just doesn’t suck as bad as past versions or the Book of the Dead. The process mappings throughout the book are fun if you like those pictures that you stare at for a long, long time and then a dinosaur image suddenly comes into focus.

All About PMBOK

PMBOK does, however, do something that deserves much praise: It standardizes project management. It defines the terms, processes, and general approach for a typical project. PMBOK details 42 project management processes across 9 knowledge areas. It defines all the needed information in order to complete a project process, how the project process should operate, and what you should get when the process is completed. Here’s a quick breakdown of the book.

Chapter 1: Introducing Project Management

This chapter defines how a project, a project manager, and PMBOK all work together in an organization—or, how they should work together. A project is a temporary undertaking to create a product, service, or condition that would not be created through normal operations within the organization.

Chapter 2: Project Lifecycle and the Organization

The project lifecycle is the unique life of each project and how most projects move through phases to reach its end result. Organizations basically work on projects by functions, by shared resources, or by powerful project teams for the duration of a project.

Chapter 3: Project Management Processes

Processes are chunked into groups called, um, process groups. You’ve probably seen them as initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and everyone’s favorite, closing. These five process groups comprise the project management lifecycle. Just to be clear, the project lifecycle is unique to each individual project in the world. The project management lifecycle is universal—yes, even to projects that don’t happen in this world.

Chapter 4: Project Integration Management

Project integration management is a special project management knowledge area that acts like a nanny for all the other knowledge areas: It makes them all play together. Project integration management coordinates the interactions of all the gears of a project.

Chapter 5: Project Scope Management

The project scope is based on the product scope which is based on the requirements of the project stakeholders. The project scope defines what the project will and won’t create for the people writing the checks. This chapter is also about protecting the project scope from change, requirements gathering, and verifying the project deliverables.

Chapter 6: Project Time Management

There’s only so much time to complete the project, and this chapter proves it. As a project manager, you’ll have to identify the project activities, put them in the order they should happen, calculate what resources you’ll need and for how long, and create a schedule for all the fun. You’ll also need to protect the project schedule from change.

Chapter 7: Project Cost Management

If you work for one of those funny companies that have budgets for things like projects, you’ll be interested in this chapter. Project managers have to estimate costs, create a realistic budget for the project, and control project costs. You’ll also become good friends with earned value management to show how your project is performing.

Chapter 8: Project Quality Management

Quality is such an esoteric topic, and this chapter in PMBOK proves it. As a project manager, you have three quality processes you’ll need to manage:

  • Plan for quality in your project
  • Adhere to your company’s quality assurance policy
  • Ensure quality control

You might also create a process improvement plan to show how your project keeps getting better and better—or at least tries to.

Chapter 9: Project Human Resource Management

Projects are completed by people, and it’s up to the project manager to manage them (both people and projects). Actually, the rules of the organization, which PMBOK calls the “Enterprise Environmental Factors,” will determine how much the project manager gets to manage the project team.

Chapter 10: Project Communications Management

Project managers are talkers, but this knowledge area is about more than chatter. It’s about planning what needs to be communicated, to whom it needs to be communicated, and distributing the project information. You’ll also find information about managing stakeholder expectations and reporting on project performance.

Chapter 11: Project Risk Management

There are positive and negative risks, and it’s up to the project manager to manage them both. This chapter discusses the risk planning, identification, analysis, and risk responses. Project managers also have to monitor and control risks within the project. Sorry—no blackjack in this chapter.

Chapter 12: Project Procurement Management

When you consider that most organizations manage procurement separate from the project manager, this chapter is kinda goofy. However, it delves into procurement planning, the buyer-seller relationship, and contract administration.

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