Introduction To Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK-5)

Project management body of knowledge - PMBOK

It is quite likely that you are already familiar with PMBOK®. But if you happen to be just looking out to find out about PMP®/CAPM® examination, or basics of project management, then this lesson might be of help. Even if you have gone through PMBOK® this lesson should act as a quick 2-minute refresher. So, I’d suggest you don’t skip this.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or in short ‘PMBOK’ is the project management standard for the PMP and CAPM exams, brought out by PMI, the Project Management Institute. PMBOK contains standard terminologies, practices and guidelines to manage a project, practically in any domain or industry. There may be other industry-specific project management practices prevalent in any industry and PMBOK prescribes common project management standards.

Click here to understand differences between PMBOK 4th and PMBOK 5th editions.


PMI was formed in 1969 in the USA. In 1983, PMI published a whitepaper with an aim to identify and collate generally accepted project management practices. This was then made as a standard. The first edition of standards was published in 1996 and the second edition in 2000.

PMI studied thousands of projects across various geographies to figure out what works and what does not, and put together these standards and practices.

3rd edition was released in 2004, with some major changes as compared to previous edition. 4th edition was released in 2008. The latest, 5th edition is released in 2013.

PMI®’s announcement regarding rollover dates is –

“A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Fourth Edition should be used as a study reference if taking the PMP® exam before 31 July 2013 and the CAPM® exam before 1 July 2013.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Fifth Edition should be used as a study reference if taking the PMP® exam after 31 July 2013 and the CAPM® exam after 1 July 2013.”

What does PMBOK® contain?

In a nutshell, PMBOK® describes the fundamentals of project management in terms of processes. Each project management activity is accomplished as a process. A process has some inputs. A set of tools and techniques are then applied on these inputs. As a result some outputs are produced. These outputs may further become inputs to some other processes.

Anatomy of a processFigure 1: Anatomy of a Process

These processes are 47 in total.

These are grouped into 5 Process Groups – they contain activities that appear to be happening on a chronological order. However, please bear in mind that depending on project dynamics any activity can occur at any point of time, in any sequence.

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring & Controlling
  • Closing

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Process groups

Initiating process group

Initiating processes are performed at the beginning of a project, or a new phase. For the very first time, a project manager is assigned to the project and is authorized to take decisions and manage the project.

A project requries a strong business case, one that clearly shows the need for the project. There should be a sponsor who evangelizes the project, supports it throughout its life cycle, helps with funding and resource needs and helps clear any blockers.

Who authorizes the project (or, who signs the project charter)?

Project Initiator or Sponsor. This person can be internal or external to the performing organization, but will be outside of the project team.

PMBOK assumes that business case for the project, project approval and funding are handled outside of project boundaries. This is because need of the project are felt at program, portfolio or organizational levels.

Primary outputs of initiating process group is creation and authorization of project charter, and identification of and data collection of project stakeholders.

Planning process group

This is where the path to project success is laid out. Planning process group contains processes to strategize management of project activities in each of the knowledge areas – scope, time, costs, quality, human resources, communication, risk, procurement, stakeholders. Planning documents from these areas are called as subsidiary plans and these are integrated into the project management plan along with baselines.

You consult stakeholders to understand their requirements in planning phase. You turn these requirements into project scope. From this scope, create work breakdown structure, identify activities, understand dependencies amongst them, and estimate resources and costs required for each activities. Use all this information to create project schedule.

Other important aspect of planning phase is coming up with project cost, and in turn the budget. You use activity level cost numbers from scheduling effort for this.

Apart from these, you document strategies for making sure that project deliverables are tested to satisfy requirements; put communication plans in place; document stakeholder management strategies. Identify and prioritize project risks, document their possible responses and assign appropriate people to manage those risks.

If a part of the project is to be outsourced to a seller, then work out its planning part here. This includes ways of soliciting proposals, criteria for selecting sellers, rewarding contract and maintaining the relation in order to get required quality output from the seller.

Primary outputs from planning process group are various subsidiary plans, project management plan, and baselines for cost, schedule and scope.

Executing process group

This is where all the action takes place and as a project manager you spend most of your time. You put together a good project team and train them on necessary skills after assessing skill gaps. Measure performance of people and given them timely and constructive feedback. Manage conflicts. Perform project work as per project plan.  Let quality assurance team verify quality practices followed in the project. Many a times, things do not go as per plan. When that happens raise change requests.

Communicate project information to the right stakeholders at the right time using the pre-defined communication methods/mechanism. If a seller is involved in the project, validate their output and make payments as per the plan.

Primary outputs from this process group are the project deliverables, performance assessments, change requests and updates to project management plan.

Monitoring & Controlling process group

This is an oversight area where you monitor project work, verify against baselines and project management plan and put controlling measures when things go wrong. Raise change requests because of necessary corrective or preventive actions. Take them through change control process and upon approval implement them, if necessary update baselines.

Monitoring project work helps identify areas of concern that can be immediately addressed.

In this process group you prepare schedule forecasts; manage change requests and update project management plan, get completed project deliverables validated and accepted by customer.

Closing process group

This is where a project, phase or procurement contracts with seller are formally closed. You perform all necessary activities for administrative and procedural closure. Take a formal acceptance of completed deliverables are from customer. Update the lessons learned in organizational process assets knowledge base. Conduct formal assessment of performance of project team members.

Even if a project is terminated prematurely these processes are to be executed.

Knowledge areas

Further, the same 47 processes are grouped in another fashion – based on the knowledge it takes to execute them. This grouping is called Knowledge Areas. There are 10 of them.

  1.   Project Integration Management
  2.   Project Scope Management
  3.   Project Time Management
  4.   Project Cost Management
  5.   Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resources Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholder Management (introduced in PMBOK 5th edition)

Mind map below shows a brief introduction to each of these knowledge areas –
Click on the image to open in a new window.

10 PMBOK knowledge areasFigure 2: Understanding 10 Knowledge Areas

Here is another mind map that helps you understand the processes as part of Knowledge Areas. Am sure you can’t read it, so click on the image to open the mind map in a new window.

Fundamentals of project management
Figure 3: PMBOK® processes grouped as per Knowledge Areas and Process Groups

Relax. Do not try to remember these yet. Just go over this figure every now and then to get a hang of process names and associated knowledge areas. These processes are logically sequenced and grouped.

Difference between “Work Performance” terms

In PMBOK 4th edition the terms work performance information and work performance measurements were a bit misleading to understand in the context that they are used. PMBOK 5th edition has done a beautiful change to these and elaborated them very clearly.

PMBOK 5th edition talks about three “work performance” terms as below –

Work Performance Data

This is simply the raw data, such as start date of an activity, number of defects found in a feature, number of change requests per release.

Work Performance Information

The data collected above needs to be analyzed and integrated across knowledge areas within a context in order to derive value out of it. Implementation status of change requests – not just the number of change requests, which is a raw data – is an example. Average budget spent per control account is another example.

Work Performance Reports

The analyzed work performance information is represented in a report format, pictorially or textually, physically or electronically is a Work Performance Report. Status reports, proposals and design documents are some of the examples.

Basically, PMP® certification is a foundation for every professional who manages projects, or is involved in the project management team, and PMBOK® helps one in getting this strong foundation.

I have been also using Agile software development methodology for several years. I was thinking that PMP® might not be necessary for me. However, one swipe through PMBOK® convinced me that this knowledge is complementary to any of the project development methodologies one might be using. The methodologies, principles and standards you would study for PMP® is the overall picture one needs to have in order to manage any type of project.

It is not an exaggeration to say that these principles are applicable to even our personal lives. If you are doing interiors of your new house or planning for a distant vacation – this knowledge helps a ton.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Nemo April 23, 2013, 7:25 pm

    Amazing! you have put really great resources here. Thanks a lot for the information.

    • Shiv May 12, 2013, 12:12 pm

      Thanks Nemo! Glad to know that you are finding the content useful.

  • Mohan January 24, 2014, 8:07 am

    Thanks a lot, for sharing the PMP related Topics in a detailed way. The explanation which you have provided to calculate Critical Path and the remaining Topics which you have provided in this website, are really good. This is the best Website to learn PMP/CAPM.

    • Shivshanker Shenoy January 24, 2014, 4:27 pm

      Thanks Mohan! Do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or need any help with PMP preparation. Good luck!

  • Sandy April 22, 2014, 5:01 pm

    Hey Shiv,

    Great way of compiling and sharing the info. Which tool did you use to create those mind maps?

    • Shivshanker Shenoy April 24, 2014, 10:22 am

      Thanks Sandeep, I use XMind for creating Mindmaps. It’s a free tool but very useful one.

  • Basti November 20, 2016, 10:15 am

    A wonderful and precise contribution of knowledge! Well explained.
    Thanks Shiv!

    • Shiv Shenoy November 20, 2016, 9:10 pm

      You’re most welcome, Basti!

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