The APM Body of Knowledge (APMBoK) is the fundamental resource book for the UK’s Association for Project Management. Like its American cousin, the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (the PMBOK Guide), the APMBoK goes through periodic revisions. So, on 2 May 2019, the APM published the new 7th Edition.
In this article, I want to examine the kind of questions I expect you have:
I should make a couple of things clear. Firstly, I am not a member of the Association for Project Management (and neither am I a member of the Project Management Institute). Second, I do, however, write a short column for the APM’s quarterly journal, ‘Project‘. But APM does not pay me for this, although the editor does send me a copy. Finally, the APM’s PR team did send a complimentary paperback copy of the APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition for me to review. This was at my request, and they have sought no influence over this article, and neither have they seen it before publication.
Because APMBoK is published in the UK, by a UK-based
I seem to make a habit of skipping editions. I own the 4th and 6th editions of the PMBOK Guide, but not the fifth. And I am still working from the 2009 edition of Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 and the 2007 edition of Managing Successful Programmes. These have both been superseded. Likewise, I have skipped the 6th edition of the APMBoK. I have the fifth edition. So, the upshot is that I shall not be doing a comparison to show how this 7th edition has changed. Rather, I intend to review it as a standalone document.
So, we’re looking at the 7th edition of the Association for Project Management Body of Knowledge. In recent years, new editions appear on around a six-year
Publication dates for the seven editions of the APMBoK:
The authors are all eminent in the UK project management world. The writing team is credited as:
The two editors and the more public faces of the 67th Edition of the APMBoK are Dr Ruth Murray Webster and Professor Darren Dalcher.
By the way, a similar listing for the PMBOK Guide takes up 9 print pages. I think the APMBoK benefits from the clearer vision that a tight writing team has brought to it. They did, however, consult widely across the profession and with APM’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The SIGs provide a lot of the references that the APMBoK makes, to further
Members can apply for a 10% discount, but there is currently no mechanism to automate this on the website. What? Yes, I know. There is also no digital edition available from APM directly.
However, you can also buy from booksellers, and Amazon lists a Kindle edition. But, only the UK Amazon site currently lists a print edition, and that’s the paperback. I’ll update this if I spot changes.
This is not a mirror of the book. It’s a digital resource that is structured around four main sections:
The online guide is a fabulous free resource, that includes definitions of core terms and techniques. It was the work of over 1,000 practitioners and specialists and I think it will be a great help to anyone using project management in their work or studying the subject.
Before we look at the APM Body of Knowledge in detail, you may be wondering, who or what the Association for Project Management?
All of this is very well but exactly what is the APM Body of Knowledge? This is an important
APM and the book’s editors describe the APMBoK as the Association’s ‘Foundational Resource’. It sets out their view of the concepts, functions, and
To me, the APMBoK is a sourcebook. It is the skeleton of a body of knowledge that guides readers and practitioners to where they should look, to seek out the muscle, sinew, and organs of our discipline. But it does not provide all of that information: it does not contain the whole ‘body’ of knowledge. It merely delineates what that body contains.
As an example, page 32 (section 1.3.1) refers to a Responsibility Assignment Matrix as a way to clarify responsibilities and accountabilities within project governance. But in the glossary, a Responsibility Assignment Matrix is defined only as:
Responsibility Assignment MatrixAPM Body of Knowledge, 7th edition – Glossary
A diagram or a chart showing assigned responsibilities for elements of work. It is created by combining the work breakdown structure with the organisational breakdown structure.
I don’t demur from this definition, but it doesn’t show us how to create one, nor what it would look like. In the UK, the commonest form of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix is the Linear Responsibility Chart (LRC) – in the US, the RACI chart is more often used. Also in the US, the term RACI chart is increasingly used for what the British call an LRC. You can learn about each form of Responsibility Assignment Matrix by clicking the links in this paragraph. They will each take you to a short video.
APM chooses not to describe ‘how-to’ in terms of methods, toolsAPM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition – Introduction
andtechniques in the APMBoK,but rather uses it as a f oundational knowledge resource, and a pointer to other sources of information
The APM Body of Knowledge forms the basis of APM’s qualifications and accreditation. And it informs and structures its research projects and publications.
So, if you plan to study for one of the APM’s qualifications, you’ll need to understand the APMBoK’s content.
And, if you are looking to provide these qualifications internally – or as a training busi
A major strength of the APMBoK is its use of the term ‘project-based working’ to refer collectively to project,
I think this is a wise move, for many reasons. It:
I’ll start my answer to this question with what the editors say in their introduction:
The APMBoK is written for anyone interested in understanding more about achieving beneficial change through project-based working.APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition – Introduction
However, they go on to point out that they wrote each of the four chapters with a different primary audience in mind:
I don’t see this so clearly in the APMBoK. Firstly, there is plenty in each chapter that cuts across to other tiers. Not simply ‘for interest’ but as essential knowledge. And, second, this feels to me to be aimed strongly as new to intermediate level project practitioners (and programme and portfolio practitioners).
Therefore, I see primary audiences:
A third audience is ‘people like me’. That
We can’t get away from the fact that, with similar names, people will want to compare the APMBoK with the PMI’s PMBOK Guide. I am a little reticent to do
The APMBoK reflects the common UK practice of referring to the Time-Cost-Quality Triangle. The PMBOK Guide reflects the US practice of referring to the Iron Triangle of Time, Cost, and Scope.
The APMBoK reflects the common UK practice of using a WBS to break down the work, or activities (and therefore to document the breakdown of products with a PBS – a Product Breakdown Structure). The PMBOK Guide reflects the US practice of referring to the WBS as a decomposition of the products into their component parts (and then using those to identify the tasks).
I have said it before and I say it again. The production quality of the PMI’s PMBOK Guide is a disgrace. Printed with a grey overlay of
The APM has produced a high-quality paperback with bright white paper and clear type (in a pleasing font, by the way). It’s nicely laid out and a pleasure to read. The diagrams are not as uniform in style as the PMBOK Guides, but they are all clear and easy to read.
I’m sure the hardback is lovely, and if APM sends me a copy, I’d be delighted to check and report back to you!
There are so many topic sections in the new APMBoK that I love, that I really wish I had
But I will confine myself to sharing three things:
The APM Body of Knowledge is structured into 4 chapters, each of which has three main sections. Each section has between 5 and 10 Topics – there are 80 in total.
Each topic has an engaging two page spread with:
Each chapter has an introduction, as does each section. And each section also has a summary of the references to the recommended reading under each of the topics in the section. Many of the recommendations are to APM publications – but that’s not surprising, as APM has an extensive
Most of the sections are highly coherent. But some are collections of a variety of topics that broadly fit the heading. But, these topics are often the best and most thought-provoking, like many in section 1.3, ‘Establishing Governance and Oversight’.
Here’s a topic that both the APMBoK and the PMBOK Guide cover in a similar way. Both have a number of references to conflict in the index and also one main reference. In the APMBoK, it’s section 3.1.5 (and in the PMBOK Guide, 188.8.131.52, bullet 1).
And both guides use a familiar (to me) model: the Thomas-Kilmann model. There are differences:
I suspect that, if you’ve read this far, you’ll be pretty clear what i like about the APM Body of Knowledge. To summarise my favourite points, I like:
And I’ll add one other hobby horse. I’ve started to see a lot of PM writers refer to the triple constraint (Time-Cost-Quality or Scope, if you must) as out-dated. I am very pleased to see that my own perspective that it is not has been endorsed by the eminent team that wrote the APMBoK. While they, of course, acknowledge the many developments our discipline has enjoyed, I read the following two sentences with glee.
A central tenet of project-based work is the need to balance multiple competing objectives and challenges
withia defined set of time, cost and quality constraints in order to achieve beneficial change.
This makes the concept of the tripleAPM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition – Introduction (I have introduced the paragraph break)
constraint,or ‘iron triangle’ as relevant today as when it was first introduced.
Of what there is, there is nothing I don’t like.
This is a sourcebook for me, and a good one. A thin soup rather than a heavy stew.
But, sometimes, I think the gruel is a bit too thin. For example, on page 32 (1.3.1 Governance Principles), there is a lot about what governance is and why it is important. But there are no principles, even, for what you need to do. I’m not expecting a ‘how-to’ guide from the APM, nor any Tools and Techniques in PMI ITTO style. But some principles to follow would be very helpful.
Partly, this is about clearer cross-linking within the document. Section 1.3.10, Governance Boards, goes some way to meeting that need. But there’s more to governance than these.
Yes, APM, it’s the price. The hardback price is horrendous, but even the paperback, at £50 / $38 is a lot of money. Take off the members’ discount of 10% and I still see a big number.
I am used to the idea that technical publications are expensive. And I know this is cheaper than either the PMBOK Guide or Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. But this does not feel worth the money. It’s a lot for an early career PM, who does not have company expenses to buy it. And, as with the other two publications, it feels as though the link to professional qualification exams means APM has decided to set a high price, knowing people will have to buy it.
The editors and contributors should be proud of what they have created. But I do think they have failed to make the APM Body of Knowledge
The PMBOK Guide, for all its faults, appeals outside of the PMI community. I feel this APMBoK should likewise have appeal outside the APM community. But I doubt it will.
Despite the price, my recommendation is that you should buy this book.
If you are serious about project management, even if you aren’t UK-based nor following an APM syllabus, there is a lot here for you. Only the most seasoned Project Managers will find little here to inform them. The rest of us can learn a lot by reflecting on the ideas and picking up some of the recommended reading.
I rate this 4.5 stars out of 5.
Have you had a chance to read (or skim over) the 7th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge? If you have, what did you think?
And, if you haven’t, is on your list of books to buy? Why or why not?
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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