What is PMBOK All About?

Do you know what PMBOK stands for?  Project Management Body of Knowledge—WOW, that much knowledge could send someone running for the door. However, the book that PMI sells is called “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fourth Edition”.  The operative word in the title is really the lead-in, “A Guide to …” that concept is what I think is important about the PMBoK. This book was not written on stone tablets nor is it a set of rigid rules that should be executed without deviation. It is a set of project management standards, suggestions and best practices based on the vast experience of many professionals in the field.

On and off over the next few months, I plan on walking through sections of the PMBOK on the blog and offering the advice and observations of some of my very knowledgeable colleagues on key subjects. The latest edition of the PMBOK is available from PMI for $65.95 and to PMI members and students for $49.50. (This link can change with new versions and is also available at Amazon.com) Published in 2013, the fifth edition is over 500 pages (yes it is a big knowledge area!) and covers all aspects of project management. A digital PDF and ebook is also available.

The first chapter of the PMBOK introduces the terms, definitions, and core responsibilities of a project manager.  Terms and vocabulary are an important part of the PMBOK (Not to mention Project Management) because it is how we communicate with language that describes meaningful concepts.  For example:

“A project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service, or result”


“Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and technique to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

Project managers are responsible for “initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, closing” a project. Whew! Take a deep breath; you already knew project management was a big job.

One example of a concept and definition that has now been documented in the PMBOK for some organizations is the Project Management Office (PMO). The PMO may have responsibility for acting as a surrogate for stakeholders and decision makers. It is expected to help in managing shared resources across projects, identifying, training, and coaching best practices, and monitoring compliance with standards. PMOs may also produce general project policies, procedures, and facilitate sharing knowledge across the organization.

I believe PMOs to be invaluable in large organizations with multiple projects and complex projects that last over several years. In the past, I wrote two blogs about my experience and recommendations on PMOs including Getting a PMO Right is Worth the Effort and Do you need a PMO?

An interesting take on PMOs was offered by Cornelius Fichtner on his PM Podcast , “7 Trends in PMO”,  summarized by Team Frame. He points out that today PMOs have different reporting structures based on the organization’s needs. For example:

  • Large companies tend to have a central entity
  • Medium-sized companies may also have a central PMO, but the PMs report to the line managers rather than the PMO
  • Small companies seem to focus more on Communities of Practice (you may check out “How to Grow Communities of Practice” if you want more information )

Future PMO trends according to Fichtner include companies requiring PMO experience and certification, hiring consultant PMO experts and services, and greater availability of project management tools and templates—many of which will be free or very low cost.

As with all predictions about the future, I guess we will see how many of these seven predictions come true for future PMOs. Next week, I hope to bring an interview with a senior strategist exploring his views on current PMO activities, challenges, and future trends.

So the first part of the PMBOK is targeted at concepts, language and understanding of the field.  If you are trying to understand a new area (accounting, law, sales, programming, etc) it is always important to first learn the terminology and understand the concepts of that area.

The PMBOK is not the only book that purports to document the body of knowledge called project management – but it is probably the most widely utilized.

I will be exploring other areas of the PMBOK in future posts – are there any areas that you would like to hear about?

2 Responses to “What is PMBOK All About?”

  1. Chris Says:

    I’ve got this book ‘..guide to PMBOK’ & it really is very good, clear, concise and well structured, an excellent aid for any professional project manager.

  2. Project Management PMBOK – Monitoring and Change Control « Fear No Project – A Project Management Blog Says:

    […] From time to time on this blog forum, I have talked about PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) as an industry standard on areas of PM responsibility and best practices. If you are a new PM, this book paints the entire project management field with a broad brush of process and organizational recommendations. (What is PMBOK) […]

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