Project Management Plan per PMBOK 5

Are the changes from PMBOK® 4 to PMBOK® 5 significant?

Please see the bottom of this article for an update


The PMBOK current edition was published a few months ago and we had written a few articles in relation to the change. This month, the PMP exam will change from using the PMBOK 4 (4th edition) to PMBOK 5 (5th edition) as the basis for the exam. With every change (once in 4 years typically people may panic, get excited, become curious … or whatever else they feel about the change. Some make the change sounds so significant with the “addition of 5 processes” and “new knowledge area” but is the change significant?

In this article, we will try to deflate some of the blown up rhetoric and say the change is mostly cosmetic, although there are a few interesting changes, with the value of the change debatable.

This Article

As usual, we do not mind being controversial or contrarian to the conventional wisdom.

In this article we will focus on the hype about the major changes – the 5 new processes and 1 new knowledge areas. We have not done a word count but we are willing to step out and say – the vast majority of the “new” stuff (say more than two-thirds) were in the previous edition but just packaged differently. This is why we say the change is cosmetic – since the content was there but now maybe dressed up – and separated. It is like a Siamese twin successfully separated by surgery – both parts of the twins were there in an attached body but now each has it is own separate entity.

First “Major” Change (Additional Processes)

Project Management Plan per PMBOK 4

Figure 1: Project Management Plan per PMBOK 4

Let us take the first 3 out of 5 additional processes; namely, scope management plan, time management plan, and cost management plan. These were already in PMBOK 4 but were included in the Develop Project Management Plan process instead of being separated on their own, like we had with quality management plan, risk management plan, human resource management plan, etc. Refer to Figure 1.

In Figure 1, the scope, time, and cost management plans are colored red and they were covered under the PM Plan process in the integration management chapter. The other plans (subsidiary plans) are shown here for reference.

By the way, the project management plan is shown here to encompass all of the other plans from each of the knowledge areas, which is the case. The issue with PMBOK 4 – is it was inconsistent; out of 9 knowledge areas, each knowledge area had a dedicated process for X management plan, except time, cost, and scope.

Project Management Plan per PMBOK 5

Figure 2: Project Management Plan per PMBOK 5

Figure 2, show the same thing but for PMBOK 5. In PMBOK 5 the volunteer fixed the inconsistency from PMBOK 4 and now each knowledge area has it is own X management plan. In Figure 2 we are also adding the stakeholder management plan, which is part of the new knowledge area, which we will address below.

In regard to the two other processes, we say that most of their content was also in PMBOK 4, but let us address them below with the additional knowledge area.


Second “Major” Change (New Knowledge Area)

We will not debate here whether the new knowledge area is necessary or not – we will only focus on asking the question – is the content really new? In our professional opinion, it is not. Most of the “new content” was also in PMBOK 4 as we will show in Figure 3.

PMBOK 4 to 5: Communication Split into Communication and Stakeholder

Figure 3: PMBOK 4 to 5: Communication Split into Communication and Stakeholder

As one can see from the above figure, the communication management knowledge area is now split into two knowledge areas, communication management and stakeholder management. The red arrows above show PMBOK 5 processes that are carried from PMBOK 4 and keeping the same name. The other two process were also carried over but with change to the name to make the names consistent with the other knowledge areas. That leave us with two new processes Plan Stakeholder Engagement and Control Stakeholder Engagement. At best, these are the new processes but are they?

In the previous PMBOK, Identify Stakeholder process include the identification part and included developing the strategy to dealing with stakeholders. In other words, the Identify Stakeholder process before is now two processes.

That leaves us with Control Stakeholder Engagement – was not this part of project control and communication? Let us not debate and you form your own opinion on this one.

Other Changes

Are there other changes? Yes, there are and these deserve a separate topic.

  1. One of the changes is the addition of a definition for project success, which we wrote about.
  2. Another change is chapter 3, it used to include the standard of project management (ANSI Standard) now it is split out and put as an Annex.
  3. A couple of other processes changed names; added a bit more explanation on types of PMO and types of methodologies.

Closing Remarks

In our professional opinion (we have been involved with PMI and PMBOK since the first edition in 1996) most of the changes have never been substantial since the addition of the Integration Management Knowledge Area. Take for example scope management, it was there in past editions, removed and now back in. Procurement was shrunk from 6 to 4 processes back in 2004. Manage the team moved from Control to Execution … and similar other changes with processes moving from one process group to another or even one knowledge area to another.

In other words, there has not been a major change to the PMBOK – now was that is necessary or not is another topic and we leave it for your judgement and debate … what do you think?


One reader of this post sent sent me the following message. This message was written by someone who teaches the PMP and think of herself as an expert project manager. Name removed!

“Okay here is the fastest briefing of the changes between 4th and 5th edition of the PMBOK Guide:
1- instead of 42 processes we now have 47….
2- instead of 9 knowledge areas now we have 10….
3- instead of 507 pages we now have 617 pages….

Sooo now when do u prefer to take you PMP certification before of after the update ;)))
Good luck in all cases ;))))”

Here we like to say:

  • We hope that you have read the above blog and you be the judge
  • On the point of pages – I did not know project management is taught by the pages (especially if 20% of these pages are white space
  • This is another article on those who are “traders” and not “trainers”; similar to our friend here – who probably never managed a project in her life
  • On the point of taking the exam now – read more

We truly wish PMI step up and care about project management to stop – some of these traders and non-project managers who think of themselves as expert. An expert does not judge a book by its size but by its content. An expert does not lie to people and scare them to act now – for self-interest and quick revenue generation!


Clarification – for ease of reading we use PMBOK to refer to a guide to the project management body of knowledge® (PMBOK® Guide) with copyrights to the Project Management Institute (PMI).