2 October, 2017

What is New in the PMBOK 6th Edition? The Changes

Last September, the PMI released the sixth edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge, the PMBOK®. So we’ll take a look at the major changes you’ll find in the PMBOK 6th Edition. FINAL UPDATES | MARCH 2018

If you’re not familiar with the PMI, or the PMBOK:

The PMI, or the Project Management Institute, is the largest membership body for Project Managers in the world. It is US-based, but operates everywhere, and it’s qualifications – principally PMP, or Project Management Professional – are recognized and valued worldwide.

The PMBOK 6th Edition is the PMI’s primary standard document. It is is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and must be updated every four to five years. This update is a significant one. PMI bases it’s PMP and CAPM exams on the content of PMBOK.

PMI Talent Triangle - Technical Project Management

Changes to the General Priniples and Approach

What is New in the PMBOK 6th Edition?
What is New in the PMBOK 6th Edition?

There is now more emphasis on strategic and business knowledge. This will include a discussion of project management business documents.

Indeed, the first three chapters have been completely overhauled. There is a far greater emphasis on the sponsoring organization and and a new chapter on the leadership role of the Project Manager. We also see information on the PMI’s Talent Triangle™ and what the PMI considers to be the essential PM skills for success in today’s market.

Significantly, PMI now gives guidance on tailoring the processes to help you prioritise how much focus you put on each one, depending on the nature of your project.

Agile is now a significant part of PMBOK. It features within each Knowledge Area, in an appendix on ‘Agile, Iterative, Adaptive, and Hybrid Project Areas’, and a free-standing but linked ‘Agile Practice Guide’.

The PMI has made a short video summarizing the major changes, which is well worth watching…

PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition | What’s New?

Specific Changes in the PMBOK 6th Edition

Knowledge Areas

There are no new Knowledge areas, but two have changed their names. So we have:

  1. Project Integration Management
    This sees the addition of the ‘Manage Project Knowledge’ Knowledge Area.
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. A renamed…
    Project Schedule Management
    Formerly Project Time Management.
    This is a very sensible change, that eliminates some confusion over meaning, and adopts a more precise term.
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. A renamed…
    Project Resource Management
    Formerly Project Human Resource Management.
    This is a long-overdue widening of scope to cover all resources.
    This sees the addition of the ‘Control Resources’ Knowledge Area.
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
    This sees the addition of the ‘Implement Risk Responses’ Knowledge Area.
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholders Management
    I do wish this had become Project Stakeholder Engagement. I fear PMI has put pattern over good sense, in retaining the ‘management’ label.

General Information about each Knowledge Area

Each Knowledge Area will have four new sections at the start:

  1. Key Concepts
    Very similar to the old introductory sections.
  2. Trends and Emerging Practices
    This looks at industry-specific practices and new ideas that are not yet considered best practice.
  3. Tailoring Considerations
    This is a great addition to help real world Project Managers to select process adapt their methodology to the needs of their project. It contains questions that will prompt and help you.
  4. Considerations for Agile/Adaptive Environments
    These long overdue sections describe how practitioners can integrate Agile or other iterative, adaptive approaches into a traditional project environment.
    See below for more…


There are three new processes, one old ons removed, one moved, and seven name changes. There’s a summary of the 49 project management processes below.

New Processes:

  1. Manage Project Knowledge
    In the Project Integration Management Knowledge Area of Executing Process Group.
    I like this very much.It recognizes the need to take data and convert it into knowledge and thence to wisdom.
  2. Implement Risk Responses
    In the Project Risk Management Knowledge Area of Executing Process Group.
    This is a welcome addition. There has too long been a gap between Planning Risk Responses, and Controlling Risks. We know there is no change without action. So, Implementing Risk Responses is a vital and overdue addition.
    There will also be a new risk response: ‘Escalate Responses’. I’m not sure I like this as a response, but it does recognize the reality that this is often a proper step when major risks arise. However, as a response, it is simply a delay to selecting a response or, as one colleague suggested, just kicking the can down the road, instead of picking it up and dealing with it.
  3. Control Resources
    In the Project Resource Management Knowledge Area of Monitoring & Controlling Process Group. This a part of the welcome expansion from ‘human resources’ to all resources in general. But not only that. It also recognizes that actual resource deployment and utilization differ from your plan. And they need to, if they are going to evolve as your project shifts. I see this the recognition that this is necessary as part of the shifting acceptance of greater project uncertainty that the inclusion of Agile signals.

Moved Process

  1. Estimate Activity Resources
    This has been moved from the Time Management (now Schedule Management) Knowledge Area to Resource Management.

Deleted Process

  1. Close Procurements
    This will be grouped with Close Project or Phase, and is a sensible change.

There are now 49 process in the PMBOK 6th Edition. In my 1996 first edition, I count 37. Although the rise has has not been even (there was a big jump from my 4th edition’s 42 to the 5th edition’s 47), it has averaged at 2.4 new processes per edition.

The PMBOK 6th Ed Process Groups
The PMBOK 6th Ed Process Groups.

There is a full size version of this chart in our PMP Exam Prep Guide, an the Premium Edition includes a handy downloadable version.

Finally, on processes, there are some name changes:

  1. Perform Quality Assurance becomes
    Manage Quality
  2. Plan Human Resource Management becomes
    Plan Resource Management
  3. Acquire Project Team becomes
    Acquire Resources
  4. Control Communications becomes
    Monitor Communications
  5. Control Risks becomes
    Monitor Risks
  6. Plan Stakeholder Management becomes
    Plan Stakeholder Engagement
    I am not alone in banging the drum for this change for a long time. Hurrah! I formally made a final shift when I started working on my own book on Stakeholder Engagement, ‘The Influence Agenda’, four years ago. My cavil with this is that thePMI has not changed the name of the corresponding 10th Knowledge Area. I fear this is a misplaced desire for symmetry in the naming of the KAs!
  7. Control Stakeholder Engagement becomes
    Monitor Stakeholder Engagement

Three of these changes, 4, 5, an 7, change ‘control’ to ‘monitor’. This is a softening that some will welcome. ‘We don’t want to be control freaks’ they will say. However, plenty of processes do retain their ‘control’ terminology – and rightly so. Though this may be a trend that we’ll see played out in the 7th Edition.

The shift in emphasis seems to passive for my taste. This is especially so with risk management. I don’t want to just monitor my risks; I monitor them, so I can control them. Like the change in the risk process, I also prefer we take control of our communication process and stakeholder engagement process, rather than passively monitor them.

What do you think?


Inputs, Tools, Techniques and Outputs have not change significantly. There are lots of small changes, but in the PMP exam, I suspect they will continue to get less emphasis.

The Introduction of Agile and Related Approaches

Perhaps the most substantive change is the new emphasis on Agile and related approaches.

Each knowledge area now has a section entitled ‘Approaches for Agile, Iterative and Adaptive Environments’. It describes how these practices integrate in project settings.

In addition, the PMI has partnered with Agile Alliance® to create the new Agile Practice Guide*. There offers further detail on Agile and other adaptive and iterative approaches. Its writers intend it to sit alongside PMBOK 6th Edition, but as a guide in its own right. It comes packaged with PMBOK as part of the cost.

This marks a first step towards a reconciliation between to polar views of Project Management. I’ll steer clear of describing it as ‘integration’. How Successful it is will only emerge with time, but I don’t see this as anything more than a first step in PMI grappling with the issues that Agile throws up for the very definition of Project Mangement.

What is in the Agile Practice Guide?

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The Agile Practice Guide is an introductory text. It sets out the basics of Agile project management. Like PMBoK, it is tersely written. This makes it a dense read, but it does contain a lot of information. It also makes good use of diagrams and tables. This means it is a valuable reference work.

Especially valuable are the Annexes (3) and Appendices (also 3). Although why they chose two groups, rather than just 6 Annexes (or Appendices), I can’t figure. I particularly like:

  • Annex A3, which introduces you to 13 Agile methodologies and frameworks
  • The tables in Appendix X2 that will help with tailoring your approach
  • Appendix X3 – my favorite – which sets out a model for assessing the suitability of an Agile approach

What I don’t like is that, like PMBoK, PMI has chosen to publish this with a hard-to-read-on security background to every page. Aaarrghhh! It spoils a really good book.

If you are not familiar with Agile, this video may help you…

Contents Listing of the Agile Practice Guide

  1. Introduction
  2. An Introduction to Agile
    A short, sharp, effective introduction
  3. Life Cycle Selection
    This looks at four project life cycle models
  4. Implementing Agile: Creating an Agile Environment
  5. Implementing Agile: Delivering in an Agile Environment
  6. Organizational Considerations for Project Agility
  7. Call to Action


  1. PMBOK Guide Mapping
  2. Agile Manifesto Mapping
  3. Overview of Agile and Lean frameworks


  1. Contributors and Reviewers
  2. Attributes that Influence Tailoring
  3. Agile Suitability Filter Tools

As you’d expect, it also has:

  • References
  • Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Index


For a More Detailed Analysis…

We have a full-length article: The PMI’s Agile Practice Guide: What You Need to Know, which goes into this in more detail.

For further analysis of the 6th Edition and the Agile Practice Guide, we recommend Chuck Cobb’s blog, ManagedAgile.com. Chuck has developed a phenomenal suite of Agile Project Management training, which we recommend. His first analysis of the PMBOK 6th Edition integration of Agile and his article on the Agile Practice Guide are well worth reading.

A new Emphasis on Leading Projects

PMI has added a new chapter on the role of the project manager, to focus on leading projects effectively. This covers the competencies, experience, and skills that PMI believes are necessary.

What Does this Mean for the PMP and CAPM Exams?

As a result of the changes to the PMBOK, the PMP exam will change from 26 March 2018. If you schedule your exam on 26 March or later, you will receive an updated version of the exam that references the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition. So, anyone taking the exam before 26 March 2018 will get the current version of the exam that references the PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition.

PMI has not yet made an announcement about the CAPM exam and currently the links on the CAPM exam pages of its site still reference the 5th Edition.

Wondering whether CAPM or PMP is right for you?

Check out our feature article PMP versus CAPM: All you Need to Know

The big difference between these two qualifications as far as PMBOK 6th Edition is concerned is this:


PMP is not intended as a test of PMBOK. It is one of the principal reference sources – maybe the principal source. But the syllabus is driven out of the PMP Examination Content Outline (ECO). Some of the updates you can expect to see respond to changes in terminology. As you’d expect, PMI will also harmonize the process groups, tools, and techniques. So, we’ll be updating our own PMP Exam Prep Guide accordingly.

PMI has announced no changes currently in progress for the ECO; the last set of changes were incorporated into the PMP exam in January 2017. But that is not to say it won’t change.


CAPM, on the other hand, is very much a test of PMBOK. So although we don’t have a date yet, we can expect the exam to be brought into line with the PMBOK 6th edition in the same sort of timeframe.

And, of course, PMI constantly refreshes the questions in its exams; both PMP and CAPM. So this is not a very big deal. In short, study the materials you have, and don’t worry.


I bought the first edition of the PMBOK in 1996. And I still have it on my shelf. It has just:

  • 176 pages (now it’s 756),
  • 9 Knowledge Areas (now it’s 10), and
  • 37 Processes (now it’s 49) in the familiar 5 Process Groups.

As Project Managers get better at managing projects, we learn more, develop new ways of doing things, and codify them more clearly. Each new edition of the PMBOK has got better.

The new PMBOK 6th Edition, coming nearly five years after the last, is, to me, very welcome.

Where you can Get Your Copy of PMBOK 6th Edition

Of course, you can get your copy of PMBOK 6th Edition and the Agile Practice Guide directly from the PMI. Indeed, if you are a member, you can download PDF versions at no cost. Alternatively, you can order them from your preferred online book seller. I use Amazon (US|UK).

What do You Think of the Changes?

We’d love to read your opinions and comments. We’ll respond to anything you contribute to the comments section below.

What Reactions have we already heard?

We first published our analysis of the likely changes to the PMBOK 6th Edition in our PMP Exam Prep Guide. Since then, our students have been adding their comments. Here are some of the things they have said:

‘I liked introducing Agile concepts. Also, less emphasis on ITTO’s is a great change indeed!!’
– Pavan Nallamalli

‘I too feel these are relevant and needed updates. Focus is shifted from tools and processes to more on the individual development itself. Enhancement of EQ of the Project Manager is what the new Ed. aims at.’
– Anvil DSouza

‘Welcome changes to the 5th Edition IMO. I like PMI’s use of Talent Triangle, clubbing processes (eg: Close Procurement and Close Projects), emphasizing on PM skills of success and giving importance to Agile PM practices.’
– Abhilash Nair

So please tell us your thoughts, below…

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 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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