An Overview of the PMBOK® Guide

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Lead Author: Richard Turner, Contributing Author: Alice Squires

The Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is published and maintained by the Project Management Institute (PMI). It is acknowledged as the authoritative documentation of good practices in project management. It is also the basis for certification exams to qualify Project Management Professionals (PMPs). Many organizations require PMP certification as a basic qualification for the role of project manager.

The PMBOK 6th edition and prior editions were organized in a process focus. The PMBOK 7th edition is radically different from the 6th edition, shifting away from a process focus to a principles focus. The 7th edition emphasizes the mindsets, behaviors, and actions of the project manager. The 7th edition is also about a third the length of the 6th edition. This current SEBoK article references the 5th edition. An update is planned to reflect the 6th and 7th editions in a future release of the SEBoK.


According to Section 1.3 of the PMBOK® Guide, project management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of the 47 logically grouped project management processes, which are categorized into five Process Groups (PMI 2013). The five Process Groups are:

  1. Initiating Process Group
  2. Planning Process Group
  3. Executing Process Group
  4. Monitoring and Controlling Process Group
  5. Closing Process Group

Each of the 47 processes is specified by Inputs, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs. Data flow diagrams are used in the PMBOK to illustrate the relationships between each process and the other processes in which each process interacts. The processes are also grouped into ten Knowledge Areas. These Knowledge Areas are:

  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

The five process groups are discussed in more detail in the following section.

Initiating Process Group

Activities performed in the Initiating process group include: obtaining authorization to start a project; defining the high-level scope of the project; developing and obtaining approval for the project charter; performing key stakeholder analysis; and identifying and documenting high-level risks, assumptions, and constraints. The Initiating process group contains two processes: develop the project charter and identify stakeholders.

Planning Process Group

The Planning process group consists of 24 processes, including: assessing detailed project requirements, constraints, and assumptions with stakeholders; developing the project management plan; creating the work breakdown structure; developing a project schedule; determining a project budget; and planning for quality management, human resource management, communication management, change and risk management, procurement management, and stakeholder management. The integrated project management plan is presented to key stakeholders.

Executing Process Group

The Executing process group includes eight processes that involve performing the work necessary to achieve the stated objectives of the project. Activities include: obtaining and managing project resources; executing the tasks defined in the project plan; implementing approved changes according to the change management plan; performing quality assurance; acquiring, developing, and managing the project team; managing communications; conducting procurements; and managing stakeholder engagement.

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

The Monitoring and Controlling process group is comprised of 11 processes that include: validate and control scope; control schedule; control cost; control quality; control communications; control risks; control procurements; and control stakeholder engagement. Activities include: measuring project performance and using appropriate tools and techniques; managing changes to the project scope, schedule, and costs; ensuring that project deliverables conform to quality standards; updating the risk register and risk response plan; assessing corrective actions on the issues register; and communicating project status to stakeholders.

Closing Process Group

The Closing process group involves two processes: closing project or phase and closing procurements. Closing the project or phase involves finalizing all project activities, archiving documents, obtaining acceptance for deliverables, and communicating project closure. Other activities include: transferring ownership of deliverables; obtaining financial, legal, and administrative closure; distributing the final project report; collating lessons learned; archiving project documents and materials; and measuring customer satisfaction.

The scope of project management, as specified in the PMBOK Guide, encompasses the total set of management concerns that contribute to successful project outcomes.


Works Cited

PMI. 2013. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), 5th ed. Newtown Square, PA, USA: Project Management Institute (PMI).

Primary References

PMI. 2013. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), 5th ed. Newtown Square, PA, USA: Project Management Institute (PMI).

Additional References

Blanchard, B. 2008. System Engineering Management. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Fairley, R.E. 2009. Managing and Leading Software Projects. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Martin, J. 1997. Systems Engineering Guidebook: A Process for Developing Systems and Products. London, UK: Taylor and Francis Group CRC-Press, LLC.

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