6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Project Management Knowledge Areas

I am starting a project of going through the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide and blogging about its contents.    The 6th Edition was released on September 22nd by the Project Management Institute, and the first chapter is a general introduction to the framework in which project management exists, starting with section 1.2 Foundation Elements (section 1.1 describes the purpose of the Guide).

The section I am going over in this blog post is section 1.2.4 Components of the Guide, although it should be titled Components of a Project (in my humble opinion).    The reason is that the preceding section, 1.2.3 Relationship of Project, Program, Portfolio, and Operations Management shows the external relationship between a project and all of these other elements within an organization.   The current section 1.2.4 now shifts from an external view of a project to an internal one, and shows what its components are.  Here they are in decreasing order of magnitude:   project life cycle, project phase, process group/knowledge area, process.   In previous posts, I discussed the project life cycle and project phases.   In the last post, I discussed how the 49 processes of project management are divided into five process groups.    In this post, I will discuss how the 49 processes are also divided among ten knowledge areas.

The ten knowledge areas are:

  1. Integration–processes that combine, unify and coordinate the various project management activities within the five process groups.
  2. Scope–processes that ensure the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully
  3. Schedule–processes that manage the timely completion of the project
  4. Cost–processes that plan, estimate, fund, manage, and control costs so the project can be completed within the approved budget
  5. Quality–processes for incorporating the organization’s quality policy regarding planning, managing and controlling project and product quality requirements in order to meet stakeholders’ expectations.
  6. Resource–processes that identify, acquire, and manage the resources needed for the successfully completion of the project.
  7. Communications–processes required to ensure the planning, creation, distribution, control and monitoring of project informations
  8. Risk–processes for planning risk management, the identification, analysis, and monitoring of risks on a project, and the implementation of risk responses.
  9. Procurement–processes necessary to purchase or acquire products, services, or results needed from outside the project team.
  10. Stakeholder–processes required to identify stakeholders, to analyze their expectations and impact on the project, and to develop management strategies for effectively engaging stakeholders in decisions that affect the project.

Okay, those are the ten knowledge areas as defined in the PMBOK® Guide.   If I were ordering the knowledge areas, I would have put the tenth knowledge area, Project Stakeholder Management, right between Communications and Risk.   Why?   Let’s put the knowledge areas into groups

Group 1–Integration

The first knowledge area Integration ties together the processes from all the other nine knowledge areas.    It has some of the most important processes on a project, from its inception (4.1 Create Project Charter) to its conclusion (4.7 Close Project or Phase).

Group 2–Constraints

The main constraints you will be dealing with on a project are Scope, Schedule, Cost, and Quality, which represent knowledge areas #2 through #5.   Schedule and Cost are pretty self-explanatory, but what is the difference between Scope and Quality Management.  Scope management has as its goal the completeness of the work; Quality management has as its goal the correctness of the work.

Group 3–People

Knowledge areas #6 (Resources), #7 (Communications), and #10 (Stakeholders) deal with the people either on the project or related to the project.   Resources used to be called Human Resources in the previous edition of the Guide; Human Resources and material resources have been combined to create a knowledge area that covers them both.    But despite the trend of de-humanizing our vocabulary over the years from “staff” to “personnel” to “human resources” to “resources”, this knowledge area still deals in large part with people.   (This will be true even in the future when PMI starts referring to  “carbon-based production units”–in the end we’re still talking about people.)    #7 Communications deals with the communications of people within a project and the communications between people on the project and the group of people effected by the project, the stakeholders.  That is why #10 Stakeholders should be considered part of this group, because you are not just trying to communicate with stakeholders, you are trying to influence them to get them more positively engaged in the project.

Group 4–Resources

These are resources used on a project, so they can include #6 Resources and #9 Procurement, which obtains products, services or results from outside the organization.

NOTE:   #9 Procurement is the only knowledge area that is potentially optional on a project, in the sense that a project may be done solely based on the resources available within the organization itself, in which case procurement from outside the organization would not be needed.

Group 5–Risk

If I were ordering the knowledge areas, Stakeholder Management would be put in between #7 Communications and #8 Risk Management, rather than having it be stuck at the end as #10.   Why?

Stakeholder Management is related to Communications Management–in fact, it is an outgrowth of the latter knowledge area, because you have to communicate with stakeholders in order to influence them.

But it is also related in a less obvious way to Risk Management.   Why?

Risk are defined as events which can positively or negatively impact a project.   Stakeholders are people who are either impacted by a project, or who can positively or negatively impact a project.   You see the connection with risk?    In both cases, you are dealing with uncertainties that may impact your project.    They are different in that, with risks, since they are events, you can’t engage them or negotiate with them.   You can’t stick your head out the window and demand that it stop raining so you can make it to your car without getting wet.   However, you can mitigate the impact of that rain by the simple expedient of–taking an umbrella with to shield you from the rain.   That is an example of a risk response.

With people, there are ways of engaging them and hopefully being able to influence them in a way to make them more favorable to your project.

But those five groups are my take on how these ten knowledge areas are put together.
Here’s how they stack up in terms of the number of processes in each:

  1. Integration (7 processes)
  2. Scope (6 processes)
  3. Schedule (6 processes)
  4. Cost (4 processes)
  5. Quality (3 processes)
  6. Resource (6 processes)
  7. Communications (3 processes)
  8. Risk (7 processes)
  9. Procurement (3 processes)
  10. Stakeholder (4 processes)

For how each process fits in each category of process group and knowledge areas, check out the chart on page 25 of the Guide.

In the next post, I will discuss the processes themselves–their component parts (inputs, tools and techniques, outputs), and how they fit together on a project.


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