The 7th Edition of the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge has been out for a year. And it was a big change. So we’ll answer your 20 most important questions about the new PMBOK Guide 7th Edition.
We’ve also created some detailed articles to give you a full analysis of much of the content. This article will give you an overview of the whole document, and links to those articles.
Hear Core Team member, Nader Rad, talk with me about PMBOK 7. He shares his interpretation of some of the big changes, and his favorite aspects of the new PMBOK Guide.
The headline is simple:
There is a lot to like in this new PMBOK Guide. I think the development team have done a great job.
They have started with pretty much a clean sheet of paper, and build a new, modern, PMBOK Guide from the ground up.
Everyone will find details to disagree with. I’ll bet even the core team members will have sections they would change if they could. This document has to be an article of compromise. But it comes across as a coherent and well-thought-out guide that does two things. It will:
I’ll say more below. But, if I had to find one concern it’s simple. It feels like the folk at PMI failed to read the heading of page 47. This articulates the 8th principle:
Build quality into processes and deliverablesOne of 12 Project Management Principles from The Standard for Project Management,
in the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition
Project Management Institute (PMI), 2021
It feels to me that the quality of the end deliverable has let down the hard work and high-quality thinking that went into its content. And don’t get me started on the price: at US$99, or GB£89.95, they should have done far better in production quality. And where’s a Hindi edition?
The seventh edition of the PMBOK Guide bears little relation to the sixth edition – nor to any of its predecessors. This is not an evolutionary change, and the core team has started from a clean sheet of paper.
In their place, come Principles, Performance Domains, and a set of Models, Methods, and Artifacts.
And these are not cosmetic changes. The new components are not simply renamed and re-jigged versions of the old. They are substantially different in concept and usage. We will look at them all below:
With regards to incorporating Agile into the PMBOK Guide fifth edition, the sixth edition felt rather like a ‘cut and shut’. This is a British slang term, that the Guardian newspaper describes clearly as:
A cut and shut is where the remains of two or more cars have been welded together to create a ‘new’ vehicle. The remains that are welded together are likely to be write-offs. For example, a vehicle with a front-end impact could see its rear being welded to a vehicle that has been rear-ended.
As you’d expect, this is both dangerous and, in the UK at least, illegal. But that’s what the sixth edition of the PMBOK Guide did with the predictive 5th Edition and the Agile Practice Guide that accompanied the 6th edition. It welded the two parts together.
PMBOK 7 starts in a very different place. The way I read it is that it says: ‘Project Management is Project Management. What methods and approaches you choose are up to you. It depends upon your situation. We won’t prescribe, nor weight out guidance towards one direction or another’.
PMBOK 7 is agnostic about the approach you take. And to help you, it provides an excellent section on ‘tailoring’. Where PMBOK 6 gave this concept lip service, we now have clear guidance about how to go about selecting the right approach for your project.
If this is true, what are the implications for PMI’s major exams, which rely on the PMBOK Guide as a primary reference?
The content and syllabus for all PMI examinations is in the relevant Examination Content Outline (ECO).
My guidance will be appropriate at the time I am writing it. But for current, up-to-date guidance, always download the latest ECO for your certification, directly from the PMI website. Navigate to the certification you want and the ECO download will be easy to find. And download the Handbook as well, while you are at it.
At the time of writing, those documents tell us that:
I expect that all the content from PMBOK 6 that will be relevant to the PMI’s examinations will be moved to PMI’s new platform, PMIstandards+. Then, when it is ready, PMI will adjust its handbooks and ECOs. They will reference subsets of content from the standards+ website.
How PMBOK 7 will feature in each examination syllabus is not yet completely clear. Things are in flux as I write this, so, as always: refer the the PMI website for up-to-date and reliable information.
PMIstandards+ is a standalone website, available to PMI members, at standardsplus.pmi.org. It offers access to the PMI standards, guides, how-to content, and its wider body of knowledge.
I think that this is where all the still-relevant content from PMBOK 6 will live, that hasn’t a home on PMBOK 7. Among other things, you should be able to find all the ITTOs and much of the Knowledge Area content in here. The open question is, ‘how easy will it be to find what you need?’
It is likely that PMI will increasingly use this as a primary reference-source for its certification exams – and also for gaining Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Professional Development Units (PDUs). These are necessary evidence of learning and development, which PMI requires to support your retention of its key certifications.
Do you need to buy and read PMBOK 7? No.
Would you be wise to buy and read PMBOK 7?
Absolutely you would. For these reasons:
They’re gone. (Almost)
The project management processes of previous editions of the PMBOK Guide all presuppose a Predictive approach to Project Management. Or, at least, a hybrid approach, within a predictive framework.
PMBOK 7 makes no such presupposition. The process groups are merely one model we can draw upon. Therefore, they appear on pages 170-1 in a few paragraphs, in the section on models.
Processes are not deprecated. They are simply identified as a useful model to draw upon when you need it.
The System for Value delivery is part of the ANSI Standard for Project Management. And it’s also my favorite part of this version of the PMBOK Guide.
PMI defines it as:
A collection of strategic business activities aimed at building, sustaining, and/or advancing an organization.The Standard for Project Management, within the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition
Project Management Institute (PMI), 2021
Put more simply, it’s what you do to create value. And the information flow that PMBOK 7 describes and the guidance it gives break new ground for the PMBOK.
Firstly, I am delighted that value has made it into the Project Management Body of Knowledge. But they have done better. They put it into the standard. This means that, any organization that wants to work to the ANSI standard, must prioritize value delivery.
In essence, it links (through a series of feedback loops):
I cannot say how welcome this is to me… Even though it does mean that I need to update my Benefits Management course now the new PMBOK 7 is published!
For my detailed training in this area, please do take a look at our Benefits Management course.
Huzzah! At long last, the PMBOK Guide is starting to treat governance seriously. I have spotted it in three places:
However, this is only a small start. I would like to see considerably more depth.
Principles are statements of:
Whilst they will mostly be subjective matters of judgment, useful principles will be those that gain wide – near-universal – acceptance among a relevant community of practitioners.
PMI has adopted, as its guiding definition of a principle:
A statement that captures and summarizes a generally accepted objective for the practice of the disciplines and functions of portfolio, program, and project management.Mike Frenette, PMI Standards Member Advisory Group
from an article: ‘Baking Principles‘ at ProjectManagement.com
Retrieved 16 December, 2019
For more detailed analysis, take a look at our article, Your Top 5 Questions Answered about Project Management Principles.
Another big change we see in PMBOK 7 is the abandonment of the 10 Knowledge Areas that have been the basis for the PMI’s body of knowledge from the outset. Although, it was only at the fifth edition that PMI split Communications Management to create the tenth KA: Stakeholder Management.
Now we will see 8 Performance Domains:
Project Performance Domains take up around a third of the Body of Knowledge. PMI defines them as:
A project performance domain is a group of related activities that are critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes. Project performance domains are interactive, interrelated, and interdependent areas of focus that work in unison to achieve desired project outcomes.Introductory paragraph to Chapter 2 of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
From the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition, Project Management Institute (PMI), 2021
I think of Performance Domains as the broad areas we focus on. They must, necessarily, overlap. This is because projects are complex and we need to integrate their parts. But each represents a substantial element of our work that we will focus on. So, they cross over a number of Knowledge Areas.
But, in the end, it’s just another way of reducing the complexity of a real into discrete chunks. Now, instead of 10 + 5 chunks, we will have 8. To some extent, they must always be arbitrary.
I particularly like the layout of the chapter on Project Performance Domains. The definition boxes at the start of each section are helpful – and similar to those in the Principles chapter. But we also have relevant definitions and orange call-out boxes with helpful insights. This section is a great learning resource.
Inevitably, Project Managers familiar with earlier editions will want to know where the ideas from each knowledge area have gone.
This is maybe missing the point of the Performance Domains. However, let’s take an example.
Among the 12 Principles and 8 Performance Domains, there appears to be no mention of cost, or budget.
Can this be because the core team forgot about them? Or maybe they don’t think cost is important in modern projects?
Nonsense. I cannot believe this is true. It only takes a cursory glance at the text in PMBOK 7 under:
Between these three, the authors establish all the priority for project cost management.
Then, under methods, we see such things as:
And, under artifacts, we have:
Maybe you would have cut up the performance domains in another way. But don’t for one moment think this has not been carefully thought through. And, done so by serious people with a lot of experience and knowledge.
Cynthia Dionisio, Co-leader PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Development Team, published a short article, setting out her answer to the question, ‘What are Performance Domains, and Why Should I Care?’
I cover the Project Performance Domains in more depth, firstly, in the article, Project Performance Domains: Do You Know What they Are and Why they Matter?
…and, secondly, in a series of articles that look at each domain in detail:
The short answer is ‘very well’.
This is the most unexpectedly delightful section of PMBOK 7 for me. PMBOK 6 only gave this the most cursory of coverage. But, here, we find some very helpful guidance.
Tailoring is the deliberate adaptation of your whole Project Management approach to the situation. At last, PMI will give us some clear guidance – that was missing from PMBOK 6.
In choosing an approach, Project Managers must be mindful of the:
PMI already offers a very helpful extract, in the form of a simple explanatory diagram, which I recommend you download.
Gone (or at least, relegated to PMIstandards+) are the stupidly prescriptive ITTOs that PMI (correctly) said ‘you don’t need to learn’ but most people thought they ought to.
In their place are the far more useful lists of common models, methods, and artifacts available to project practitioners.
PMBOK 7 gives a brief description of each model, method, or artifact. And it maps them onto the project performance domains where the authors suggest they may be most useful.
The examples are mine.
This is something of an expansion of the ITTOs of earlier PMBOK Guides. But it will take the idea far further, contextualizing them to:
What I would like is a clearer statement that these models, methods, and artifacts are just a set of examples that the authors have used and value. It seems to me that they can easily come across as ‘the right ones’ to use.
As a result, this is a very welcome upgrade. ITTOs, will remain available through the PMIstandards+ website. And the section on Models also includes the Process Groups from former PMBOK Guides.
I cover the Models, Methods, and Artifacts in more depth, in the article, Models, Methods, & Artifacts: PMBOK’s Awesome Tools to Get it Done
PMBOK 7 has some interesting Appendices. And the first of them is titled ‘Sponsor’. Without a doubt, this is an important topic. But placing it in an appendix seems to say either:
First, have a section on Governance. And second, now you have a place for the sponsor role. But, in fact, the biggest weakness of the whole appendix (which is fine as it is) is that it does not mention the word ‘Governance’ at all. Here’s something for the PMBOK 8 authors to get to grips with!
The second interesting appendix is titled ‘PMO’. Like the Sponsor appendix, this is a vast simplification of a big (far bigger) and complex topic. But I will give credit here for the focus (around a quarter of the four page section) on the role of the PMO in Benefits Realization.
The final interesting appendix is titled ‘Product’. And it seems that one or more of the core team felt comfortable here – it’s a longer appendix than Sponsor or PMO.
It’s also an area where I have less experience. So., I shall just note that I found it interesting, but I am unable to assess it with any rigor.
PMI gives a long list of people they intend the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition to be for (on page 5 of the Standard). And that list is rightly long. There is real value in here for anyone who wants to make projects, programs, portfolios, PMOs, or any related professional role an important part of your career.
And, like the APM’s APM Body of knowledge, 7th Edition, this has a value way beyond ‘just’ being an exam preparation reference. Yet I fear this is how people largely saw editions 1 to 6 of the PMBOK Guide.
Instead, this is a valuable reference work that we can dip into and learn from. I’d argue that this is of less value to people at the start of their careers than for people with some real-world experience. It contains some rather sophisticated thinking.
As a result, I am going to say that PMBOK 7 is very useful to Project Managers. It will give you:
The format of the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition reverses the order from the 6th edition.
What I really don’t like is that at the start of the Guide to the PM Body of Knowledge, the page numbering starts again. What! More than previous editions, this feels like two documents in one cover. [‘Cut-and-shut’?]
The pages are laid out clearly, with a big, easy-to-read, sans serif font. It does look a little ‘self-published’ to me.
But I value the use of color in the tables – even if I feel that all of the graphics could have benefitted from color. At the moment, it’s just what I guess the authors consider the core graphics.
PMI has abandoned the execrable use of copy-resistant printing, which rendered the pages of PMBOK 6 gray. This rendered them hard to read. There was poor contrast. Now the pages are nice and white – and good white, with clear, sharp black ink and good (PMI brand) colors for the graphics.
The paper is thin, like PMBOK 6. I’ve not used a micrometer to get an exact comparison. And the cover is flimsy.
The result is a document that is nice to look at but nasty to hold. It feels more like a disposable catalog than a $99 book.
Yes, US$99. That’s a lot to pay for a 274-page trade paperback with cheap paper and thin card stock.
Okay, I know:
In the end, there are only a few questions that really matter.
I don’t expect knowledge to be free. But I do expect the largest professional body for Project Management in the world to take a little less of a commercial view. I’d like a little more enlightened altruism.
Tell me what you think, in the comments below.
What other questions do you have? Ask them in the comments below, and I will try to answer you.
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.
Models, Methods, & Artifacts: PMBOK’s Awesome Tools to Get it Done
PMBOK 7: 7th Edition of the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – with Nader Rad
Project Performance Domains: Do You Know What they Are and Why they Matter?
Project Work Domain: The Processes to Enable Effective Project Management
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