Poring over PMBOK 7!

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Some time back I wrote a blog on scope management and its relevance in agile projects. A few days later, a friend stopped by for a chat and gave me a shocker, saying “why are you writing about such dated stuff like scope management? Don’t you know that with PMBOK 7 all the knowledge areas are thrown out of the window including your pet scope management?”. Recovering somewhat, I got very curious, a PMBOK without knowledge areas?! Impossible! I promptly got hold of the book to check it for myself.

My first stop was at the glossary of PMBOK 7. I found seventeen occurrences of “scope” related items. Okay, that was reassuring – scope management is not quite dead! A quick look at the references showed that most of them were in the new “Delivery Performance Domain” of the book (those of you not familiar with the eight project performance domains of PMBOK 7, here is a reference). In fact, the introduction to the delivery performance domain goes like this: “The Delivery Performance Domain addresses activities and functions associated with delivering the scope and quality that the project was undertaken to achieve”. The other references to scope are in the “Models, Methods and Artifacts” section of PMBOK 7. You will find items like “scope management plan” and “scope baseline” right there – large as life! So, I presented the evidence to my friend (and mighty pleased to see the smirk disappear!).

In fact, so it is with other knowledge areas. Take risk management, for example. The references to typical terms like risk register, risk management plan etc. are there mostly in the “Uncertainty Performance Domain” and some under the “Models, Methods and Artifacts” section. Extending this further, one could actually develop a cross reference of the previous knowledge areas of PMBOK 6 and the new performance domains of PMBOK 7. It is quite likely that someone in the planet with time on his / her hands has already done precisely that!

One could follow the above general drift and look inside the knowledge areas – the much-disliked Inputs – Tools & Techniques – Outputs (ITTO) format of earlier PMBOKs – and see how they are still present in PMBOK 7 – albeit in a more distributed fashion. While the process focus and ITTO format have been abandoned in PMBOK 7, you can find many of the tools & techniques carried over in the Methods sub-section and many of the Inputs and Outputs are in the Artifacts sub-section of the Models, Methods and Artifacts section of the book.

In sum, the knowledge areas are alive and well. It is just that PMBOK 7 does not use that structure and the terminology anymore. The concepts and artifacts of PMBOK 6 have been carried over under a different structure and nomenclature.

So, is PMBOK 7 like a cocktail of the old and new? Yes and No. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not deriding PMBOK 7 at all – far from it. PMBOK 7 is more outcome-based and at a higher level of abstraction than earlier PMBOKs – more at the level of Values and Principles without any prescription at the process level. An excellent guide developed with great care and extensively reviewed with industry folks. However, the book quite clearly states that “Nothing in this edition negates alignment with the process-based approach of past editions of PMBOK” and “many organizations and practitioners continue to find that approach useful…”. So, PMI’s stance seems to be not to replace PMBOK 6 altogether but position it as a process-level implementation model of the Values and Principles in PMBOK 7. PMBOK 6 continues to be listed as a study material for the PMP certification and the PMP examination format has not changed with the issue of PMBOK 7. So, that’s why the answer is Yes and No as to whether PMBOK 7 is a cocktail of the old and the new.

Hope the above clears the air a bit with regard to knowledge areas, PMBOK 6 and PMBOK 7. Look forward to hearing comments from you all – especially those keeping track of PMI directions in standards and any confused souls preparing for their PMP certification. Would be happy to answer any queries.


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