What is the latest version of PMBOK

IT strategy

The Project Management Institute (PMI) published the new versions of its standards for project, program and portfolio management in December 2008. The fourth version of "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge", also known as the "PMBOK Guide", is of the greatest importance. This internationally widespread reference work describes proven standards, methods and approaches for the management of projects. The German translation is expected to be published shortly. The certification test for "Project Management Professional" (PMP) based on the PMBOK Guide has been changed to the new edition of the standard since June 30th.

But it is not only the updating of the PMBOK Guide that is responsible for ensuring that the topic of project management (PM) standards is up to date for many companies. In June of this year, Prince2 2009, the new version of the PM standard from Great Britain, appeared after the German project management standards DIN 69900 and 69901 were reissued in January.

The benefits of PM standards

The benefits of PM standards are often discussed in connection with the complexity of implementation. Many companies are initially overwhelmed by the selection of a standard. They perceive standards as detailed references that are not directly applicable. Based on 22 case studies from large companies, Campana & Schott identified four key benefit arguments:

  1. Common understanding and uniform language in project management: PM standards specify a minimum of terms, processes and responsibilities for handling projects. Such an orientation framework for project management is particularly important for project work across departments, countries or even across companies. Accepted standards help to overcome differences in corporate and work culture as well as the degree of PM maturity.

  2. Increased efficiency: Without taking standards into account, projects are often managed solely on the basis of the project manager's individual experience and preferences. However, the use of different processes and methods as well as definitions of responsibilities stand in the way of efficient project management. An organization-wide PM methodology, on the other hand, ensures continuity in project management and has a measurable effect on time-to-market times, for example.

  3. Recognized PM career path: The introduction of PM standards enables companies to have their project managers qualified and certified. In addition to the classic opportunities for advancement within the line organization, this creates a separate PM career path.

  4. Convincing competitive advantages: Projects are increasingly taking place in a global and dynamic competitive environment, often also in company networks. The application of a PM standard and the resulting professionalisation of project management can have a positive effect on the company's external image.

What exactly is the PMBOK Guide?

Since it was first published in 1987, the PMBOK Guide has established itself as the world's leading guide for project managers. According to this reference work, projects are based on the controlled interaction of different project management processes. The guide contains descriptions of the inputs, outputs (result types) as well as suitable tools and methods for each process.

The structure of the presentation is enhanced by the division of the processes into five PM process groups (initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control as well as completion) and nine areas of knowledge. Process groups are not to be confused with project phases. For example, in a major project that consists of several phases, all phases usually go through the five process groups.

The goals of the revision

The current edition of the PMBOK Guide replaces the third edition from 2004. The revision had four goals:

  1. It should create consistency - both between the concepts and terms within the PMBOK Guide and between the PMBOK Guide and the PMI standards for program and portfolio management.

  2. Compared to the previous version, emphasis was placed on the use of a clear and uniform writing style.

  3. In addition, a need for change with regard to the number of PM processes and their classification into process groups and areas of knowledge was identified.

  4. Last but not least, current project life cycles and proven project management approaches from practice were used.

So the focus was less on revising the content itself. Rather, the PMBOK Guide should be formulated more clearly and consistently overall.

The new edition lives up to this claim. This is evidenced by a compilation and practice-oriented assessment of the most important changes in relation to the four revision goals.

Consistency of terms and concepts

In particular, the three introductory chapters of the PMBOK Guide have been significantly revised and almost completely rewritten. This led to a clear demarcation of the terms "project", "program" and "portfolio" as well as to an identification of the interfaces to the other PMI standards. In addition, there were new and concise process descriptions that are consistently used in the entire PMBOK Guide - from the introduction to the glossary. Data flow diagrams now serve to clarify the relationships between the processes and the respective inputs and outputs.

In addition, various terms for dealing with changes and bug fixes have been grouped under the term "Change Requests". There are now standardized process inputs and outputs. Among other things, the "factors of the corporate environment" and the "process capabilities of the organization" are generally described at the beginning, only to be substantiated with examples in the individual process descriptions.

In addition, PMBOK now clearly differentiates between "project management plan" and "project documents": While the project management plan describes how a project is to be managed, the project documents (templates, checklists, etc.) support the daily work of the project Managers.

Clear and consistent writing style

One of the most noticeable revisions to the PMBOK Guide is the standardization of process names in the active noun-verb format. The new nomenclature will also ensure better readability and clarity in the German version.

Identification of process changes

Adding, removing and merging has slightly reduced the total number of PM processes described in PMBOK.

The following processes have been added:

  • 5.1 Record requirements: This new process reflects the increased importance of requirements management in practice. All stakeholder requirements are recorded in three new project documents: the requirements documentation, the requirements management plan and the follow-up matrix.

  • 10.1 Identify stakeholders: When it comes to stakeholder management, the PMBOK Guide also takes up practice-relevant topics. It takes into account the creation of a stakeholder register and the planning of the management of stakeholder expectations.

Other processes have been removed. These are the following:

  • Developing the preliminary description of the project content and scope: preliminary project goals are now typically described in the project order (4.1) and detailed in the project scope statement (5.2).

  • The activities from 5.1: planning the content and scope are now carried out in the context of process 4.2: drawing up a project management plan.

Last, but not least, there are changes that don't fit into either of the two categories:

  • The areas "Purchases" and "Contracts" in the knowledge area "Procurement Management" have been combined.

  • Two processes have been moved from the "Monitoring and Control" process group to the "Execution" group. These are 9.4: Manage the project team and 10.4: Manage stakeholder expectations.

Consideration of current PM approaches

A PM standard is only state-of-the-art if it is continuously updated and includes proven approaches from practice. This is what happened in the fourth edition of the PMBOK Guide:

  • The "magic triangle" (content / scope, costs and deadlines) was expanded to include the competing project restrictions of quality, resources and risks. In terms of practice, this is appropriate; after all, project managers strive every day to balance these six dimensions in the best possible way with regard to stakeholder expectations.

  • Iterative approaches were also used in projects. In doing so, the authors take into account the growing spread of agile methods, for example the software development model SCRUM.

  • The management style and social skills of the project manager were also taken into account in the processes of the personnel management knowledge area. This is the first time that the collection of methods is devoted to the soft skills required to manage and promote project teams. In view of the high practical relevance, the overview of important social skills in the appendix of the PMBOK Guide is underrepresented.

Overall, the revision of the PMBOK Guide has been successful. The standard work now appears much clearer. Current trends are taken into account, even if not always in the necessary breadth and depth. For example, the collection of methods has been updated with regard to the content of earned value management, while the no longer commonly used technique of process arrow network plans has been omitted.

How does PMBOK fit in with Prince2?

Other PM standards, such as Prince2 ("Projects in Controlled Environments"), also claim to be universally applicable. This collection of best practices published by the British Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is increasingly establishing itself as the second major PM standard alongside the PMBOK Guide.

Prince 2 is also process-oriented; the method consists of seven core processes and 40 activities (compared to five process groups and 42 processes in the PMBOK Guide). But there are some differences between the two standards.

Prince2 does not see itself as a broad collection of best practices from which the processes relevant to the respective project can be selected. Rather, it is a method that stringently specifies content and activities for managing and directing a project. The project managers are given specific instructions, checklists and templates. Central topics such as "business case", "quality" or "changes" as well as principles such as "controlling through phases" or "managing according to the exceptional principle" determine the framework of Prince2. The product-based planning as a central method underlines the stronger product focus.

In summary, Prince2 provides a variety of concrete assistance and suggests fixed responsibilities and competencies for the project roles. These suggestions will enable this standard to be introduced and applied quickly.

What PMBOK can and cannot do

The PMBOK Guide, on the other hand, scores with an extensive collection of proven best practices. They form the basis for a PM methodology that is adapted to the specifics of the organization.

However, the PMBOK Guide should not be understood as a ready-made "one-size-fits-all solution" that can be used directly. You have to adapt it individually so that an organization's own PM methodology with suitable methods, tools and rules of the game is created.

The PMBOK Guide is less suitable as an introductory reading or textbook to answer the question "How do I manage projects?" It is structured according to nine areas of knowledge. Each chapter (with the exception of the introductory chapter) describes the PM processes of a knowledge area with regard to inputs, outputs as well as tools and methods. This structure differs from the actual processing sequence (from initiation to completion). This makes it difficult for beginners to understand the standard.

The PMBOK Guide is therefore a reference work for project management, comparable to a textbook that the doctor takes to hand from time to time, for example to check how certain bones are connected or which special cases are known for a certain ailment. A medical professional who needs step-by-step guidance for an upcoming operation is hopefully a rarity.

Reading and understanding the PMBOK Guide can complement, but not replace, the practical experience of a project manager. In many projects, specific challenges arise that are not covered by a general PM standard in the necessary depth of detail. For example, the correct form of interpersonal dealings with project stakeholders cannot be fully described in a standard text.

Organizational change as a prerequisite

The aim of introducing a PM standard is to derive a personalized PM methodology for your own organization from the anonymous regulations of international professional associations. The resulting processes and procedures should then be institutionalized step by step in the project work.

That doesn't work overnight. The widespread introduction of PM standards also requires organizational change. He wants to be accompanied and controlled - both at the decision-making level and at the execution level. The management has the task of making the necessity and benefits of the change transparent.