What is PMBOK® Guide current reality?

In this blog post we present a chapter from a 2-book series (e-books) that we are working on, PMBOK® Guide – Part 1 – Current Reality. This post focus on the historical perspective.

PMBOK® Guide - Part 1 - Current RealityIntroduction

The historical details are not core to the purpose of this e-book. However, it would be useful to touch on certain aspects and the nature of the changes to date. The topics that we address would be relevant to understanding the overall context and the need to improving the PMBOK® Guide.

History of the guide


The first official consolidated copy of the guide was published in 1996.

  • It was about 180 pages,
  • It had 37 processes, nine knowledge areas, and five process groups.

This first edition was not labeled as an ANSI standard.


Next, the 2000 Edition was published. With this edition,

  • The number of processes has changed to 39,
  • The number of pages increased to about 210,
  • The two additional processes were in the risk knowledge area, and
  • With this edition, there were some changes to the names of the processes.

This second edition was still not labeled as an ANSI standard.

Third edition

With the 2004 edition,

  • PMI started to number the editions and calling this version the Third Edition instead of the 2004 edition.
  • Chapter 3 was split from the first section of the book and listed on its own under the title ‘The Standard for Project Management of a Project’. This change was likely due to ANSI approval.
  • Although this edition was labeled as an ANSI standard, to our knowledge, only part of Chapter 3 was ‘the ANSI standard’ and not the whole chapter, nor the whole
  • Other changes in this edition were the increase in the number of processes from 39 to 44. Most of them were in the integration chapter with the addition of four processes.
  • Further, some processes moved from one knowledge area to
  • The number of pages reached 400 pages.

Fourth edition

With this edition,

  • There were no changes to the sections or knowledge areas,
  • The number of processes dropped to 42 by consolidating the six procurement processes into four,
  • There were other changes in the names of processes and movement from one knowledge area or process groups to another, and
  • Some processes were also dropped, and other added.

Fifth edition

The fifth edition is the current edition[1].

  • With this edition, the number of pages jumped to more than 600,
  • A new knowledge area was added, and
  • The number of processes increased from 42 to 47.

The above changes appears substantial but they were not significant. Our opinion is that most of the content of the additional processes were there before, incorporated into other processes. For example, the management plan processes for scope, time, and cost were part of the project management plan process in the integration chapter but with this edition they become independent processes, each in its respective knowledge area[3]. This change resulted in three of the five additional processes but it was mostly relocating the action from one place to another.Summary of PMBOK Historical Changes

This table summarizes the general changes. Once again, there were other changes, such as the one we discussed here and other changes within the chapter that we have not discussed.

Core and facilitating processes

The first two editions split the processes in three of the process groups (planning, executing, and controlling) into core processes and facilitating processes. Initiating and closing groups do not have more than two processes each, so a split was not logical.

The core processes were related to integration, scope, time, and cost and the facilitating processes the other knowledge areas. The split was interesting and related to the concepts of the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope.

Summary and closing remarks

Except the stakeholder chapter addition in the latest edition, there have been no major structural changes to the guide. Yes, the number of processes increased and decreased, other processes changed names or location and even added content here and there. Certain things were deemphasized in the third and fourth editions but reemphasized in the fifth, like project life cycle. Further, the introduction of new standard documents by PMI[4] have resulted in additional content, mostly in Chapter 2, but also some terminology changes in other sections.

A significant change to highlight here was the guide (or part of the guide) becoming an official ANSI standard with the third edition.


From numerous online discussions, some practitioners considers the PMBOK® Guide as the holy book, while others think it needs improvement for better understanding, and a few prefer to dismiss it. This e-book is our humble approach to offers suggestions for transforming the guide into an efficient resource for applying project management. Our attempt is to counter the common conventional view that it is NOT real life and it is not practical.

Whether PMI and PMBOK® Guide’s volunteers consider our work or not, is not our decision or within our circle of influence. What we control is sharing our thoughts and reviews with the professional community. Further, whether the information presented in these two e-books are incorporated into the PMBOK® Guide or not, we are using these concepts in our workshops, methodology, organizational project management systems, and is what we suggest to our clients.

[1] At the time of writing this book; September-October 2015.

[2] Knowledge Areas

[3] Refer to this blog article by the author on the changes from 4th to 5th editions http://blog.sukad.com/20130716/are-the-changes-from-pmbok-4-to-pmbok-5-significant/.

[4] Like program and portfolio management standards

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About Mounir Ajam

A Project Management thought leader, who believes that project management touches all people, in all aspects of life; personal and professional.Initiated and led the formation of SUKAD Corp to develop the Uruk PPM Platform.An advocate of real-world, practical and applied project management.Champion of adaptive project management, tailored methods, and organizational project management.Available anywhere in the world to advise executives and organizations on the strategic value of project management. Ready to help organizations build and sustain the Project Management Function and the capacity to lead projects successfully.