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The structured guide

The success of the PMP exam, which was formed around general project management knowledge, encouraged PMI to document and structure that knowledge. The result was A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or the PMBOK Guide for short. It became one of the main resources for the PMP exam, although not the only one.

Following on from a white paper in 1987, the first edition was published in 1996, and since then, there has been a new edition every four or five years:

  • 1996: PMBOK Guide
  • 2000: PMBOK Guide, 2000 edition
  • 2004: PMBOK Guide, 3rd edition
  • 2008: PMBOK Guide, 4th edition
  • 2013: PMBOK Guide, 5th edition
  • 2017: PMBOK Guide, 6th edition
  • 2021: PMBOK Guide, 7th edition

The first edition described project management with a set of 37 processes, each with various inputs, a few tools and techniques, and certain outputs, along with some extra information about the context within which projects are run. Those processes were categorized in two different ways:

  • Process Groups: These categorize the processes based on their role in the overall/typical project management life cycle.
    • Initiating
    • Planning
    • Executing
    • Controlling
    • Closing
  • Knowledge Areas: These categorize the processes based on their subject.
    • Integration
    • Scope
    • Time
    • Cost
    • Quality
    • Human resource
    • Communications
    • Risk
    • Procurement

The next five editions followed the same structure and refined the content. The number of processes grew from 37 to 49, which was mainly a result of breaking down the existing ones into more detailed processes. The communications management knowledge area was later divided into communications management and stakeholder management. Some of the elements were renamed to be clearer, more precise, more general, etc.; for example, human resource management became resource management. Finally, the whole guide grew from 176 pages in the first edition to 756 pages in the sixth edition.

The seventh edition, on the other hand, was written from scratch, and with a principle-based approach instead of the process-based one described above. It’s more inclusive of different projects and is only 274 pages long.

Throughout the book, you will learn more about the reasons for this fundamental change. However, this book is designed to explain what the 7th edition of the PMBOK Guide is and doesn’t aim to compare it with the previous editions.

The old processes of the PMBOK Guide don’t exist in the latest edition anymore. However, some people are very attached to them, and for this reason, they are now contained in a separate publication called Process Groups: A Practice Guide.

Next: The extension of the family