Welcome to the PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition

03 July, 2013

If you have signed up for a PMP® preparation course, you will be preparing to take a PMP® exam based on the fifth edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Even if you have already passed the PMP exam, you should be aware of the updates in the PMBOK® Guide. If you are a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), you can download the new edition for free. It contains a very useful appendix (pp.463-482) where the changes since the fourth edition are highlighted.

From July, the PMP® exam will be based on the fifth edition. So should you be kicking yourself for not preparing earlier, or is the new PMBOK® Guide edition going to be easier to come to terms with? It is hard to say. In some cases, things have become much more straightforward.

For instance, the naming conventions used are a lot more consistent. In the fourth edition, the Integration knowledge area spoke about the Project Management Plan, but we also saw planning documents in Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk and Procurement. Now, all the knowledge areas have an explicit planning process in the Planning group. Also, the same naming convention is used everywhere: Plan <knowledge-area> Management. The only inconsistencies are Integration (Develop Project Management Plan) and Time (Plan Schedule Management).

The Monitor and Control process group has similarly been rationalized. Now Control <knowledge area> is used for most of the knowledge areas. This finally sees the end of Administer Procurements.

Another major improvement is the change in name from Verify Scope to Validate Scope. This is logically correct. As Barry Boehm pointed out back in the 1980’s, verification is about building the product right, while validation is all about building the right product. However, there is a small element of confusion. In Figure 5-14, the Validate Scope process contains an input called Verified Deliverables, but in Figure 5-15, it is shown as Validated Deliverables. The inconsistency continues because, according to Figure 8-1, the Control Scope process produces an output called Validated Deliverables, yet Figure 8-11 says the output should be Verified Deliverables. Validated Deliverables are again mentioned in the Glossary at the end. Given Boehm’s definitions, Verified Deliverables would be the appropriate output from Control Quality. Quality is, after all, about ensuring that what you asked for is what you get. Validate Scope, on the other hand, is trying to ensure that we have asked for the right thing in the first place.

The decision to separate Stakeholder Management from Communications Management can also be a mixed blessing for budding Project Management Professionals. It does add a whole new knowledge area, but the consistent naming conventions will make the processes easier to remember. Identify Stakeholders is still there, but is now trading under the Project Stakeholder Management banner. For both knowledge areas, the remaining processes are called Plan, Manage and Control. Now Communications can concentrate on the medium and the message, while the issues of identifying and managing the various project stakeholders have been separated out.

There is a noticeable change also in how inputs, tools & techniques and outputs are organized. The fifth edition of the PMBOK® Guide seems to have hidden detail in these lists.

For instance, in the fourth PMBOK® Guide edition, the following tools and techniques were listed explicitly for Plan Quality: cause and effect diagram, flowcharting, Pareto diagram, histogram, control/run charts, scatter diagram. These are no longer listed. Instead, they are encapsulated as the “Seven Basic Quality Tools”. Observant project managers will have noticed that the fourth PMBOK® Guide edition list only has six tools/techniques; the fifth edition has indeed added another, called checksheets to the mix.

However, another entry that breaks down into seven tools and techniques is a bit more difficult to understand. An entry called Quality Management and Control Tools appears in Perform Quality Assurance. These tools seem very generic: affinity diagrams (mind maps), process decision control charts (steps taken to reach a goal), interrelationship digraphs (plots relationships between many entities), tree diagrams (which are used in the WBS, RBS and OBS as well as decision trees), prioritization matrices (e.g. power/influence grids), activity network diagrams (as used to graph schedules) and matrix diagrams (e.g. the requirements traceability matrix). However, the text in the PMBoK® does not explain how these tools are employed specifically in the Quality Assurance process.

Another abstraction for project managers to be aware of is Project Documents Updates. This appears as an output in many processes. However, the reader needs to drill down to find out what documents are actually updated. Even then, s/he will not be presented with a definitive list, but will meet that great obfuscator: “may include but is not limited to”.

So the fifth edition is a mixed bag for would be PMPs®. It definitely has more in it – the number of knowledge areas has increased by one, while the number of processes is up by five. To balance that, the naming convention has made the processes easier to remember. Having said that, I do regret that the PMBOK® Guide authors did not go further and rename Conduct Procurements to Manage Procurements. There is still confusion over the terms validation and verification, but, overall, it is a well written document.

Velopi’s PMP® preparation courses will all be based on the fifth edition from June 2013. All the training materials, as well as the trial exams, have been revised to give you the best chance of becoming a Project Management Professional (PMP)® and passing the PMP® exam on your first attempt!

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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