What are the changes in PMBOK Guide, Standard Part? PGR4

Since this is the fourth post with the letter PGR in the title, what does PGR stands for?

PGR = PMBOK Guide Review and I will be publishing many posts on this. Some of these posts could be general, like the one on PMBOK Guide Size or the general changes to the guide. Others will be specific to a topic, such as the one on Agile in PMBOK Guide.

This post will cover another category, which is specific reviews of sections of the new book, and could be in Part 1 (the guide part), or Part 2 (the ANSI approved standard part).

Today’s article is about Part 2 (Standard Part), Section 1.My posts are about publishing my comments, as I review. I am not writing about differences between past editions and current editions, although we will touch on this point.

Here we go!

PMBOK Guide, Part 2, Section 1


Nothing new.

The introductory paragraph is mostly about consensus development, good practice, on most projects most of the time, and that the standard is the foundation for the guide.

Section 1.1

This section defines the terms projects and project management. Nothing new except the point on project constraints are now more than the three traditional one and include quality, resources, risk, etc. So project constraints are not limited to cost, time, and scope anymore. This point has been made in the past.

Section 1.2

This section is about the relations among the three Ps and defines these terms.

Nothing new to what we already know. However, figure 1-1 is new and is better than what we have seen before to show the hierarchy of the 3 Ps.

Section 1.3

Is about governance. Nothing new

Section 1.4

This section is on project success and benefits management. This section introduces the concept of a benefits management plan (BMP).

It was interesting to see that many items in the BMP are similar to CAMMP™. Such as:

  • Target benefits, which CAMMP labels as the expected benefits that have to be defined when the team set the success criteria
  • Strategic alignment, this is the main factor at the CAMMP Stage Gate 1
  • Metrics; these are what CAMMP calls success criteria
  • The BMP also includes mention of a timeframe for realizing the benefits, also discussed in CAMMP.
  • Benefits owner and risks are now also mentioned in the standard.

Further, the business case and BMP are mentioned in Part 2 but it is stated that both are pre-project initiation and they are “business documents” since they relate to the business rather than the project (per the PMBOK Guide Definition).

Basically, now the guide uses the term business documents and project documents[1].

Section 1.5

is about the project life cycle. The following are points worth mentioning:

  • It states that the phases can be sequential, iterative, or overlapping,
  • It adds the need for ‘control points’, basically gates,
  • At these control points the project charter and business documents are reexamined
  • The project life cycle structure may be defined via four conceptual[2] phases[3].

The interesting point to highlight is that the concept of gates is addressed in the PMBOK Guide explicitly now; not implied as the last few editions. In our view this has been a weakness in past editions since the stage-gate process is crtical for managing projects and we could not understan why the PMBOK Guide does not address it.

Section 1.6

This section is specific to project stakeholders and there is nothing new here.

Section 1.7

Is on the role of the project manager; also there is a chapter in the guide on this topic.

This is a good section to add but unless the guide (Part 1) covers the following, I see this as incomplete work.

  • Where is the discussion on PMT?
  • Is the guide still putting so much focus on the role of the project manager?

Further, the definition of the project manager skills includes this statement “In addition to any specific technical skills”. We think these types of statements would lead to confusion in the market. Interestingly enough, there is an ongoing discussion on ProjectManagement.Com that is related to this topic.

Another point of concern: “The project manager is successful when the project objectives have been achieved” this is a risky and confusing statement. It is giving too much power to the PM, more than typically the case.

Section 1.8

It is on knowledge areas.

Nothing new beside what we already know about the change from time to schedule management and HR to resource management.

However, in the cost management part, it stated that part of the cost management includes processes to manage “… financing, funding, …”. Is this the case? Is this new? I need to check the guide because financing and funding were not something we have seen in the past as part of the guide, but I could be wrong.

Section 1.9

This section is on the process groups.

The funny part is that a group now could mean one process; the closing process group. The guide eliminated one of the two processes in the closing process group, so now this group is limited to one process, which is not logical. Technically, this change (deleting the close procurement process) killed the concept of process groups. I think it was hard for the volunteers or PMI to accept changing or moving away from the term process groups so they preferred to change the English language. In our opinion, what they should have done is change the term to to process categories. Alternatively, if they do not want to lose the “process groups” then add another closing process.

On another point, the standard is now introducing three types of processes. This categorization could be helpful, but it is too soon to judge; did not read enough yet.

However, the first category is confusing. “Processes used once or at predefined points in the project”, well, which is it? If there are processes used once and others at predefined points, why not splitting them and have four instead of three categories? More on this later (future).

Acquiring resources is an example of the second category, “processes that are performed periodically as needed.” Makes sense.

Processes that are performed continuously throughout the project is the third category and control processes would be a good fit here. Also, makes sense.

The standard repeats what we know that the process groups are not project phases.

The guide continues to use “Close Project or Phase”, which is the only process with the words “project or phase” in it, whereas many other processes use “project” only in the name. This is misleading.

Section 1.10

Is for EEF and OPA and they refer to them as influences. I can understand EEF being influences but OPA should be more powerful than influence – it should be a mandate[4]. Maybe more on this in another post.

Section 1.11

This is a new section and focus on tailoring, finally. It is great that the guide emphasizes the need for tailoring. It is about time.

However, we think it could have been better and something is still missing. More on this in the next post.

Table 1-2 helps differentiate between the content of the PMP and Project Documents. Actually, now, the PMP in PMBOK® Guide is quite similar to the PMP in CAMMP™. The project documents in the guide are part of what CAMMP™ define as the PDP.

Hope my comments help


[1] I can see future exam questions asking if a document is a business document or a project document

[2] Conceptual means – the structure is a general concept (suggestion, approach, guide) and not defined or set as a standard

[3] In the past, we have had debates on this point where some things that, based on this section, that there are four phases per project and they happen to be initiating, planning, executing, closing. Although the names used in the standard are not the same as process groups, they are similar, hence the confusion.

[4] Maybe I need a blog post on this but should be careful because the word influence might be ok – so the focus on perception

[5] Another blog post