Project Management Body Of Knowledge


In this article, we will be discussing PMBoK of the Project Management Institute (PMI, USA) and APM (Association of Project Managers) (UK). In addition, we will also look at PRINCE2, that is more of a software product for project management, but flexible enough to fit in between, a body of knowledge and a full scale SW product. While both APM and Prince2 have their origin in UK, PMBoK is from PMI of USA. APM represents the BoK from France, Germany, UK, and Switzerland. PMBoK and APM are body of knowledge while PRINC2 is a PM software product and hence branded as prescriptive (defined for the user with limited flexibility within the overall framework), while the BoK is just a body of knowledge, that need to be put to use by defining the operational elements.

Benefits of project management

Structured approaches as in PMBOK and products such as Prince2, enable capture all elements of the project upfront; educate project team on the various elements and their relationships /dependencies, to create a workable and accountable team environment. Projects as different from non project (operational) environments are extremely time, resource, dependencies and outcome sensitive, and are not eternal. To implement a project, a team is assembled to execute the project as different from an operational phase where employees work on a consistent / homogeneous environment for long time, and there is a natural learning process of the job and cross dependencies. Projects cannot afford the luxury of natural learning. PM methodologies thus focus on the conscious deliberate approach to build capacity in the project team for execution through training, clear definition of the project, roles and responsibilities, resources, progress definition and methods of tracking progress, communication, risk management and mid course correction, and so on. These are achieved through defined processes and definition of functional areas and their relationships. A project organization structure will deliver the output in line with the processes defined in the PM methodologies. Thus a structured approach greatly helps in avoiding costly and time consuming discoveries during the project phase, and adopting a trial and error method. It is basically an attempt to define and clarify upfront, and put in place processes to implement tasks that are clarified and defined. PM methodologies also ensure through IT technology that drives them, consistency and integrity of project information and the data it relies on, for subsequent actions by various project team actors. Data consistency and timely availability is one of the most critical impediments to any project. Technology induction in PM helps in having one single page view of all facets of the project at any point in time, for all stakeholders, on a need to know basis, within as well as outside the project. As structured approaches removes this shortcoming by capturing data from the business processes itself, there is no need for or time lost in database updating. The updating is thus compulsive, error free and automatic.

Structured approaches also helps define criticality and automatic generation of alerts on defined project events for timely intervention as well as tracking performance. This helps avoid costly actions that otherwise would have been taken based on hunch, without access to current data.

Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)

PMBOK was initiated by the PMI in 1987 to standardize generally accepted project management practices. The focus is on process driven management to ensure standardization of good practices on the lines of ISO 9000 and the Software Engineering Institute’s CMMI. PMBOK is structured as five process groups and nine knowledge areas and is compliant with IEEE Std 1490-2003. The five processes are: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. PMBoK processes are project phase driven in terms of Inputs (documents, plans, designs, etc.), Tools and Techniques (mechanisms applied to inputs) and Outputs (documents, products, etc.). The nine knowledge areas address Project Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk and Procurement.

Each knowledge area is conceived to comprise all or some of the processes. The philosophy of any PM methodology is breaking down the works in a structured manner (WBS), sequencing them, define their relationships, dependencies, start and end dates, resources needed, costs, risks, and follow concepts of critical paths, resource leveling and so on.

PM methodologies explicitly identify all above ingredients of a project that are mostly internal to the project. In addition, there are several factors considered to be exogenous to the project itself, which thinking is changing now. These exogenous factors are the human resources, finance, environmental management, stakeholder management, regulations, relationships, risks, project outcomes in terms of quantifiable benefits and the time when they are to occur, Thus project management has extended its boundary by internalizing their forward and backward linkages with the project itself. PM is no longer a pure engineering function, but a critical holistic techno, commercial – managerial task.

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Why PMBoK?

The project management body of knowledge is a generalized body of knowledge on the discipline, developed to create basic competence and knowledge, in project management personnel, to handle complex projects in a structured manner. This was important since the people working and managing projects (having to manage projects) in the IT industry, was young and inexperienced, and IT project management itself was an emerging area. Therefore it was felt that a defined body of knowledge is necessary to build the concept of PM.


PRINCE2 project management methodology is a world-class standard for managing projects to a successful conclusion. Apparently Prince is weak on the quality management in projects and strong on Risk Management. PRINCE2 is the UK de-facto standard for project management developed by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), UK Government, and used in both the public and private sectors, deployed extensively by the UK government.

PRINCE2 is a generic, tailor-able, simple to follow project management method. It covers how to organize, manage and control your projects. As a Project manager, the principles of PRINCE2 and the associated training can be applied to any type of project to manage risk, control quality and change effectively, as well as make the most of challenging situations and opportunities, that arise within a project.

PRINCE2 does not cover all aspects of project management. Areas such as leadership and people management skills, detailed coverage of project management tools and techniques covered by other existing and proven methods are excluded from PRINCE2.

IT Project Governance and PRINCE2 Project Management

IT project governance has emerged as one of the most vital corporate responsibilities. With technology at the heart of most businesses, the ability to maintain tight executive and board control over major IT projects throughout their lifecycle, has become a deciding factor in determining which businesses thrive and which founder. (5)

PRINCE 2 is a process-based approach to project management. It provides a process model (of eight processes) that is intended to be applied, as a set of steps in a logical sequence by a project manager in planning and managing a project. The application of the process model is adaptable to most types of projects and a wide range of complexity. In addition the PRINCE2 manual (Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2) includes a number of ‘Components’ that are guidance for a project manager in applying the process model. These Components have similarity to the PMBOK Knowledge Areas.

The PMBOK details a set of processes that fall under nine Knowledge Areas and can be linked in five groups if the project manager chooses. The underlying difference between the PMBOK and PRINCE 2 is that the PMBOK offers the project manager a considerable array of information about proven practices in this field and invites the project manager to apply these where they deem appropriate, whereas PRINCE2 provides a more prescriptive (although flexible) set of steps for the project manager and teams to follow.

Knowledge areas of the PMBOK and the processes and components of PRINCE2 and APM cover many common topics. Apart from a number of terminology differences, it is clear that all three represent ‘best practice’ with their variance being in the implementation as a methodology. The PRINCE 2 approach has the advantage that (because it is somewhat prescriptive) it causes a degree of standardization in an organization. Whilst allowing for tailoring to a range of projects, it generally requires all projects to undertake the same steps (processes) and use the same terminology. This has obvious benefits in corporate program management, project staff training programs, and project performance and tracking systems. The disadvantage may be that it potentially constrains creativity in the variety of methods applied to managing a project.

Several organizations have recognized that there are benefits in allowing both PMBOK and PRINCE2 to co-exist. PMBOK provides the academic knowledge resource that is useful in enhancing the profession of project management, and by not prescribing allows flexibility in its adoption and implementation that shall be context driven. Though there are several commonalities across projects of all types; no two projects are the same that is why they are projects. Therefore, by not being prescriptive it gives scope for creativity, but for one to exploit the flexibility, one needs to have organizational competency. PRINCE2 provides a useable process model that can be applied directly by project managers and teams from a diverse range of backgrounds to produce consistent project management and project outcomes. In short PRINCE2 is a ready to consume food, while PMBoK and APM are ingredients that need to be cooked the way one wants, but one need to know how to do it (6).

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The PRINCE2 process model

PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management, released in 1996 as a generic project management method. It combined the original PROMPT methodology (which evolved into the PRINCE methodology) with IBM’s MITP (managing the implementation of the total project) methodology. PRINCE2 provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework. PRINCE2 describes procedures to coordinate people and activities in a project, how to design and supervise the project, and what to do if the project has to be adjusted, if it does not develop as planned.

In this method, each process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out. This allows for automatic control of any deviations from the plan. Divided into manageable stages, the method enables an efficient control of resources. On the basis of close monitoring, the project can be carried out in a controlled and organized way. PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project. The various management roles and responsibilities involved in a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organization.

Community edition (CE) of PRINCE2 (7)

Community Edition is widely recognised as the best product to support PRINCE2 learning and is used extensively by people training in PRINCE2 and to support the delivery of personal PRINCE2 projects.

Community Edition provides users with a full set of the official PRINCE2 templates. These are provided within a structured framework so you are shown the documents relevant to where you are in the process. Community Edition manages the configuration of these templates and any other documentation you add with checkout, and in capability keeping a clear audit trail of changes. Hints and tips are also provided to keep your processes authentic. Community Edition also provides this for PRINCE2 2005 as well as 2009.

CE also has a multi-language capability so you can create a translation file and operate in your language of choice. CE can be upgraded into Personal Edition easily.

With Community Edition you can take your projects with you as the software is a .NET portable application. This means that you can load it on to a USB stick and move around between computers taking your project environment with you. All that the host PC needs is the .NET framework and you won’t even need to have admin rights on the PC, which is a great help if you are a consultant or working away on a customer’s site.

If you want to do a conventional install to program files on your PC or laptop you can do that as well. If you are a Mac user all is not lost as you can run Community Edition on Parallels. Community Edition is also provided on CD to training delegates

Community Edition is free and not a trial version so people can use it on their projects. It also provides a full set of PRINCE2 templates, guidance, process diagrams and structured configuration capability.

Processes and sub processes of PMBOK and Prince 2

PRINCE2 has nine processes and 45 sub processes. The processes are: starting up a project (6), initiating a project (6), planning (7), directing a project (5), controlling a stage (9), managing product delivery (3), managing stage boundaries (6), and closing a project (3). Figures in brackets indicate no. of sub processes under each process.

PMBoK has six processes and 40 sub processes. These are: initiating (1), planning (11), facilitating processes (9), execution (9), controlling (8) and closing (2). Figures in brackets are sub processes under each process.

APM Body of Knowledge

The APM Body of Knowledge is a well-established collection of project management knowledge…it provides introductions and common guides to those areas considered essential to the discipline of managing projects, and it is clearly structured with definitions, explanations and suggested further reading material. This information will direct and assist those interested in project management in their work, studies and learning for recognized qualifications.

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APM Body of Knowledge and PRINCE2 Compared

There are many similarities that can be found when comparing the APM Body of Knowledge with PRINCE2. For example, they both:

Describe generic approaches to project management that can be applied regardless of the type of project

Can be applied across geographical and cultural boundaries, even though they both originate within the United Kingdom

Recognize that they cannot provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula to project success

Cover the topics of Business Case, Organizational Roles, Quality Management, Risk Management, Change Control, Issue Management, Configuration Management, and aspects of Planning and of Progress Control.

The key difference between APM Body of Knowledge and PRINCE2

PRINCE 2 is a structured project management method and APM BoK a body of project management knowledge

APM BoK provides descriptions and explanations of a broad range of project management topics and takes a discipline-based approach to project management , where PRINCE 2 Provides detailed descriptions of specific approaches that PRINCE2 has for a fairly narrow range of project management topics and takes a process-based approach to project management.

While a structure has been provided to handle the BoK, it should not be construed as one element of the structure, being independent of the other. In fact they are all interdependent and the structure is only for the purpose of logical organization and clarity. They are treated separately due to their significance and to aid in simplicity of their presentation. In reality, many topics may fit into more than one section – as they may be applicable to more than one phase of a project. For example, project risk management and project quality management are not to be treated as topics in isolation. These seven elements are further

A brief comparison of PMBOK and APM depicts following salient features

In addition to commonalities, PMBOK explicitly addresses socio economics, quality management, risk management, communication, stakeholders and organizational influences, while APM addresses success / failure criteria, post project appraisal, project environment such as law, mobilization, delegation, leadership communication, conflict, negotiation, and industrial relations, marketing skills.

Comparison with Traditional or “Waterfall” Project Management

Waterfall, as a Project Management methodology, has been criticized for not being able to cope with constant changes in software projects. The iterative nature of Agile makes it an excellent alternative when it comes to managing software projects. Agile, however, has its disadvantages. Many believe that it doesn’t scale well, hence large software projects are still being conducted in Waterfall. Additionally, since the strength and usefulness of Agile are both exhibited in projects with frequent changes, it does not offer any advantage over Waterfall, when it comes to classical projects where requirements are nearly always constant and unknowns are rare, such as construction projects. PMBOK now also includes agile methods. A summary and comparison of these and other styles of Project Management can be seen in reference (8).

Concluding observations

While there are only a few initiatives on the Body of Knowledge in Project Management such as PmBok and APM, there are several Software products that help implement a professional and structured project management practice. These products vary from stand alone packages that are implementable on single systems to the most sophisticated ones that are even implementable as a web based system, Some of the products also integrate with the other organizational systems such ERP and functional software packages that help integrate the entire functions of running an organization whether in the excusive business of managing projects or projects are only one of the activities of the organization.

While the BoK helps those in project management to understand project management as a structured disciple the products helps in implementing structured project management practice.

Project management as any other discipline is still emerging and it should not be surprising if the discipline undergoes a complete transformation as the discipline matures and branches out into further project specific specialties as has happened in the case of Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP). Project management specialists should look out for such evolving opportunities with an open innovative mind.

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