Project Integration Management: Your Guide to the PM Glue

Project Integration Management - Your Guide to the PM Glue

Project Integration Management is the glue that holds all of the parts of your project together. It’s a discipline that is common to all project management methodologies.

However, the term, ‘Project Integration Management’ comes directly from one source. It is one of the 10 Knowledge Areas (or KAs) in the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge; it’s PMBOK Guide.

But even if the Project Management Institute (PMI) is not your chosen professional body, the concept of project integration – and the ideas within it – will be core to your day-to-day project management practice. Indeed, I had been doing project integration well-before I’d heard the term.

More than that, PMI’s concept of what Project Integration Management is, and the processes it involves, has grown over the years. In my first edition PMBOK Guide, I see just three processes. Now, my PMBOK Guide 6th edition has seven. The latest process arrived with the 6th edition, in September 2017.

Project Integration Management - Your Guide to the PM Glue

What We’ll Cover in this Guide to Project Integration Management

This guide will not replace studying the PMBOK Guide, if you need to learn about Project Integration Management for a PMI exam. But it will set you up to understand what some people see as a rather abstract Knowledge Area. It will introduce you to the key ideas and guide you through studying the processes.

If You are Following a PMI Study Syllabus

For candidates for the PMI’s PMP and CAPM qualifications, a good understanding of Project Integration Management is vital to your exam success.

If You are Learning an Alternative Project Management Methodology

But it’s more than that. Project Integration is key to any project management methodology – even if it is not given a label and described apart from its components. So, this guide will introduce all project managers to what it is and why it is important.

Our Agenda…

The sections we will look at are:

TL;DR

But, before we go any further, if you want a short summary, please do take a look at this short video…

What is Project Integration Management?

Project Integration is the glue that holds all of the parts of a project together. So, it is the set of processes that make all of your project processes work together.

All things are connected in nature. So, too, in project management. So gathering them together into a coherent structure is the role of project integration. As a result, it is intimately connected with your project lifecycle, and how you choose to structure your project.

The PMI’s Formal Definition of Project Integration Management

In the Project Management Institute‘s Project Management Body of Knowledge, Project Integration Management is the first of 10 Knowledge Areas that PMI expects project managers to fully understand.

The PMBOK Guide offers us this definition:

Project Integration Management includes the processes and activities to identify, define, combine, unify, and coordinate the various processes and project management activities within the Project Management Process Groups.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition, PMI 2017

A Better PMI Definition?

I have to say that I think this is overly verbose. Personally, I far prefer the definition PMI used, back in the first edition. It is better for getting a clear handle on what the PMI means by the erm. And I am not sure that all the extra words in the 6th edition definition really add anything of value.

Project Integration Management includes the processes required to ensure that the various elements of the project are properly coordinated.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 1st Edition, PMI 1996

Take your pick!

The APM’s Definition of Inegration

The Association for Project Management does not speak explicitly about Project Integration in the current (7th) edition of its APM Body of Knowledge (AMPBoK). However, in my old 5th Edition (I don’t own the 6th Edition), the glossary describes ‘integration‘ in generic, common-sense terms:

Integration: The process of bringing people, activities and other things together to perform effectively.

APM Body of Knowledge, 5th Edition, APM 2006

What the 7th edition does cover is the need for ‘Integrated Planning’. That is, that you need to coordinate all elements of your project plan into one integrated plan. This does closely mirror PMI’s use of the term ‘Integrated Project Management Plan.’ APM defines integrated planning as:

Integrated Planning: The application of management processes that bring together the planning of benefits, success criteria, scope, quality, time, resources, cost, risk, communications etc to create the project management plan.

APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition, APM 2019

By the by…
Note that the APM leads here with Benefits Management. PMI’s PMBOK Guide does not mention benefits in its chapter on Project Integration. I hope that will change in the 7th Edition.

The IAPM Project Map

The International Association for Project Managers adopts only the loosest of frameworks for its members. And it has no formal Project Integration approach. However, on page 9 of its PM Guide 2.0, it summarizes the project process in a simple diagram that, to me, represents a view of what project integration really is.

The IAPM Project Map illustrates the essence of Project Integration
The IAPM Project Map illustrates the essence of Project Integration

How do Different Methods and Organizations use the Idea?

Although only the Project Management Institute formally adopts the idea of Project Integration Management, we can find it clearly embedded in the structure of PRINCE2. I’d also suggest that it is there, subtly, in the 7th Edition of the APM’s Body of Knowledge.

So, we’ll start by setting out the scope of project integration knowledge within these three approaches. And then I’ll tie it all together with a simple summary table.

Project Management Institute Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)

In the PMBOK Guide, Project Integration Management is the only knowledge area that works across all the other knowledge areas. It is also the only KA that has processes in all five of the Project Management Process Groups.

Indeed, for me (and, as we’ll see, for PRINCE2), it’s the process groups that pretty well define project integration.

The Processes in PMBOK are:

  1. Develop Project Charter
    Formal authorization for the project.
  2. Develop Project Management Plan
    Define, prepare, and coordinate plan components into an integrated project management plan.
  3. Direct and Manage Project Work
    Leading and performing the work of creating the project deliverables/products.
  4. Manage Project Knowledge
    Using and creating the knowledge you’ll need, and contributing to organizational learning.
  5. Monitor and Control Project Work
    Tracking, reviewing and reporting on project progress.
  6. Perform Integrated Change Control
    Reviewing and acting on project change requests.
  7. Close Project or Phase
    Shutting down a project – or a phase of your project – in an orderly manner.

Axelos PRINCE2

In PRINCE2, the 7 Process are really all about Project Integration.

If you are not familiar with it, we have a full article about PRINCE2, and I have added a short summary video at the end of this section for a quick intro. We also have a detailed guide: ‘I want to Study for PRINCE2‘.

Here’s a summary of them:

  1. Starting Up a Project (SU) 
    Establishing the project team and crafting a project brief.
  2. Directing a Project (DP) 
    Oversight of the project by the Project Executive and Project Board.
  3. Initiating a Project (IP) 
    Refining the business case and creating a Project Initiation Document (PID).
  4. Controlling a Stage (CS) 
    Management of work pages.
  5. Managing Product Delivery (MP) 
    Delivery of work packages and acceptance of the deliverables/products.
  6. Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) 
    Managing the transition from one stage to the next – including the Gateway process.
  7. Closing a Project (CP) 
    Formal closedown and evaluation of the project, and benefits review.

Association for Project Management Body of Knowledge (APMBoK)

The current (7th) edition of the APMBoK focuses on integrated planning in referring to project integration; but does not otherwise mention it. However, we could consider that Chapter 4 (of 4) is really about this, in the same way that PRINCE2’s seven processes are.

It has three sections:

  1. Defining Outputs
  2. Integrated Planning
  3. Controlling Deployment

It is a curious thing to me that the APMBoK does not discuss project closure, beyond two mentions:

  1. A passing reference in a discussion of project lifecycles (p.18)
  2. A definition of the term in the glossary (p.210)

A Comparison of Project Integration in the Three Approaches

This chart reflects my interpretation of how the processes in the three methodologies above broadly overlap. The matching is not precise, but gives a good flavor of how the three approaches really adopt a similar approach to project integration.

Comparison of Project Integration Processes in Different PM Methodologies

The Role of Project Integration with Project Management

Before we look at the various processes within Project Integration Management, it’s worth reflecting on what role it plays in our Project Management as a whole.

Aside from the obvious alignment of every aspect of the project, some of the key roles of Project Integration are:

  • Selecting the best project approach to use
    This is where you’ll think about the balance of traditional predictive methods with adaptive agile methods, and where on the spectrum from one to the other you will need, if you select to use a hybrid approach.
  • Understanding the impacts of constraints and external dependencies.
  • Hand-offs from one part of the project to another.
    This is where you will also think of stage gates and other approaches to ensuring good governance.
  • Resources and allocation
    Ensuring that you properly balance the allocation of resourcespeople and otherwise – across aspects of your project.
  • Controlling requests for change
    We’ll look at that in more detail, below.

In the PMBOK Guide, this is very much where governance lives. As I have often remarked, the 6th edition is worryingly scant on guidance about project governance. I would recommend seerious PM practitioners spend time learning PRINCE2, even if you do not intend to seek certification.

Four Levels of Project Integration

As an aside, Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy has an interesting perspective that is worth reflecting on. In his article, ‘Project Integration Management Beyond PMBOK Guide Processes‘, he describes four levels of Project Integration.

I will summarize them for you, but I really do recommend you read his article. It is short and his own descriptions of the levels will only take you around one and a half minutes to read.

Level 0: Objective Level
Everything you do needs to relate to your project’s goal and objectives.

Level 1: Process and Tools Level
You need to create a single integrated framework to connect everything you do.

Level 2: Stakeholder Level
Bringing together the way you lead and manage people.

Level 3: Environment Level
Your project needs to integrate with the wider enterprise.

A Look at the Processes within Project Integration

Develop Project Charter

The project charter is what kicks off your whole project. So it is where you start to pull everything together into a cohesive structure. The PBOK Guides figure 4.3 shows a connection from this process to 14 others. That, to me, shows how key it is to project integration.

Develop Project Management Plan

This is one of the three original processes in the first edition of the PMBOK Guide (then called Project Plan Development). It is also where APM places its emphasis on integration, with its description of integrated planning.

Both Bodies of Knowledge are strong on this. And I would note that there is a very useful list of components of a project plan and the project documents you might need, on page 89 of the PMBOK Guide 6th Edition.

Direct and Manage Project Work

This too is one of the three original processes in the first edition of the PMBOK Guide (then called Project Plan Execution). This is the process that accounts for the day-to-day management of project delivery:

  • tasks and activities
  • leading project team members
  • stakeholders
  • deliverables and quality
  • risks
  • costs and schedule
  • resource allocation

Manage Project Knowledge

The newest addition to the Project Integration Management Knowledge Area, this process was introduced with the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide.

Knowledge management is a whole skillset in its own right. But, as project managers, we need to understand and eploy the basics, to ensure that our

  • teams have the knowledge resources they need
  • organizations get the benefit of what we learn during our projects

I think the authors of this section (4.4) of the 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide have done a good job in identifying the basics of the discipline.

Monitor and Control Project Work

The monitor and control cycle is the beating heart of your project during the delivery stage. It brings together every aspect of the project for you to understand and analyse what is going on. And therefore, allows you to make decisions that fall within your competence and authority, and seek guidance and decisions where matters fall outside your range.

Perform Integrated Change Control

This is the last of the three original processes in the first edition of the PMBOK Guide (then called Overall Change Control). We have a detailed article on change control, if this is a topic you know too little about: OnlinePMCourses Guide to Project Change Control

Close Project or Phase

Like the current APMBoK, the first edition of the PMBOK Guide made no mention of closure as a part of project integration. But, the fact is, a Project Manager will always have a responsibility to close out a project. This is regardless of why it needs to come to an end: completion, premature termination, or temporary moth-balling.

Project Integration and Agile Project Management

Because Project Integration Management sits within the PMBOK Guide (and incidentally, are not mentioned in the PMI’s Agile Practice Guide), it is easy to think this is a topic only for traditional, planned, predictive project management.

No, that’s not true.

Whatever approach you take to managing your project, you need to ensure every element ties together in a coherent and logical way. All that changes in adaptive environments is the way you will need to integrate everything, and therefore the detailed nature of the processes you will adopt.

That said, i do expect a significant overhaul of this Knowledge Area in the forthcoming 7th edition of the PMBOK Guide. We know it will integrate predictive and adaptive PM more closely, so I suspect we will see a more adaptable set of Project Integration processes that can adapt readily to all manner of hybrid project environments from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Summary

So, Project Integration is where you need to bring together all your Project Management knowledge and experience and integrate it. But, once you have this knowledge, then understanding the principles of Project Integration should be no challenge. The hard part is to properly bring together all the moving parts of a complex project.

To do this, it’s worth mentioning the roles of project management software, that can facilitate integration of:

  • project plans
  • monitoring and visual status reporting
  • knowledge management and document management
  • projects with one another across an enterprise

This is not the article to look at the kind of tools available. But what I would say is that good integration should be one of your priorities in any software selection exercise.

What is Your Experience of Project Integration Management?

I’d love to hear from you your questions, ideas, and experiences about Project Integration. Put your comments below, and I’ll be sure to respond to you.

About the Author Mike Clayton

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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