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The PMBOK Guide—the Standard

Perhaps the most effective way to define the PMBOK Guide is to start with what it is not. It is not a project improvement methodology. It is not a step by step how-to guide. This isn’t a criticism; the PMBOK Guide itself makes this perfectly clear, “...this standard is a guide rather than a specific methodology.” The Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) is very clear regarding its purpose: “The PMBOK Guide identifies that subset of the project management body of knowledge that is generally recognized as good practice.” It further states, “The PMBOK Guide also provides and promotes a common vocabulary within the project management profession for using and applying project management concepts.”

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 The PMBOK is not a methodology or practice to be implemented.

Meme generated using chucklebot.com http://www.chucklebot.com/meme-generator/one-does-not-simply

You don’t implement the PMBOK in your project management efforts as illustrated in the above meme. There is wide consensus on this among experienced and trained project management professionals. Rather, you choose, develop, and utilize a custom methodology based on the generally accepted good practices which “apply to most projects most of the time.”

Currently in its Fifth Edition (2013), the PMBOK Guide First Edition was published in 1996. The first edition was preceded by a white paper in 1987 in an attempt to document generally accepted practices and bring some standardization and common understanding to the art, science, or discipline of project management. I was a junior project manager for the U.S. Air Force and can still recall the need for said standardization.

The original white paper was a welcome development and generated considerable buzz within the project management community. Though I no longer have it, I received (and put to immediate use) a copy soon after its release. I wish I could locate my original copy; it was worn and tattered and filled with notes by the time I lost it.

The PMBOK Guide is a process-based document. It describes work being accomplished via 47 processes that are organized into five process groups and 10 Knowledge Areas. The PMBOK Guide considers these processes, groups, and knowledge areas suitable for nearly all projects.

The PMBOK Guide’s 5 Project Management Process Groups

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

The PMBOK Guide’s 10 Knowledge Areas

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Time Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Human Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

The PMBOK Guide’s 47 Project Management Processes (in Process Group then Knowledge Area Order)

  • Develop Project Charter
  • Identify Stakeholders
  • Develop Project Management Plan
  • Plan Scope Management
  • Collect Requirements
  • Define Scope
  • Create WBS
  • Plan Schedule Management
  • Define Activities
  • Sequence Activities
  • Estimate Activity Resources
  • Estimate Activity Durations
  • Develop Schedule
  • Plan Cost Management
  • Estimate Costs
  • Determine Budget
  • Plan Quality Management
  • Plan Human Resource Management
  • Plan Communications Management
  • Plan Risk Management
  • Identify Risks
  • Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis
  • Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis
  • Plan Risk Responses
  • Plan Procurement Management
  • Plan Stakeholder Management
  • Direct and Manage Project Work
  • Perform Quality Assurance
  • Acquire Project Team
  • Develop Project Team
  • Manage Project Team
  • Manage Communications
  • Conduct Procurements
  • Manage Stakeholder Engagement
  • Monitor and Control Project Work
  • Perform Integrated Change Control
  • Validate Scope
  • Control Scope
  • Control Schedule
  • Control Costs
  • Control Quality
  • Control Communications
  • Control Risks
  • Control Procurements
  • Control Stakeholder Engagement
  • Close Project or Phase
  • Close Procurements

Also common among projects is the PMBOK Guide’s organization and presentation of the various components: inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. Inputs are items required by a process before it can proceed and can include documents, plans, designs, estimates, reports, outputs from other processes, approved change requests, and so on. Tools and techniques are how the processes are accomplished (that is, how the inputs are turned into outputs) and can include expert judgment, facilitation techniques, meetings, project management information systems, analytical techniques, change control tools, benchmarking, and group decision-making techniques. Outputs are the results of applying the tools and techniques to the inputs and can include project charters; project management plans; work performance data; project document updates; the final product, service, or result; accepted deliverables; and so on.

The PMBOK Guide provides a globally recognized standard and guide for project management professionals. That standard, in its current form, represents the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of project managers from around the globe. It has evolved over the years and describes the profession’s best practices, established norms, and generally accepted processes. It is a valuable resource and reference and is located in Annex A1 (page 417) of the Fifth Edition PMBOK Guide. Every project is unique, however, and the PMBOK Guide itself describes the standard as “...good practice on most projects most of the time.”

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