PMI PMBOK Guide (2024): What is Project Management Body of Knowledge and Why is it Important in Project Management?

By Yad Senapathy, MS, PMP
CEO of 4PMTI, PMP Jedi Master

What is the PMBOK Guide?

PMBOK Guide stands for the Guide to the Project Management Body Of Knowledge. PMBOK confuse it to be a book of knowledge. It is a foundational standard for project management developed by Project Management Institute (PMI).

A foundational standard provides guidelines, rules, and characteristics. The guide specifically addresses the project management field. They are developed and approved under a census-based process. Further, PMI ensures that as the project management profession evolves, so do their standards.

PMI publishes three different type of guides.

  1. Foundational Standards
    These are generally recognized standards. They are based on on-going research into practices that have been proven over multiple projects and in multiple industries. They also provide the terminology and guidelines.
  2. Practice Standards and Framework
    These are based on up and coming practices that have been recognized in the foundational standards. They tend to be either tools, techniques, or a method. An example is a practice standard for project risk management to address one of the ten knowledge areas.
  3. Practice Guides
    Practice guides help a management professional apply the standards in foundational or practice standards. An example is the Agile Practice Guide.

The PMBOK Guide is PMI’s fundamental and the world’s most popular resource for effective project management practices. The knowledge in the PMBOK Guide reflects what is actively practiced and historically proven. This guide is consistently updated to reflect the best practices that are evolving within the project management profession. Project managers use PMBOK Guide for project management industry-consistent lexicon and for adopting time-tested practices.

Max Wideman, PMTI instructor, advisor, and past chairman of Project Management Institute played a key leadership role in creating the guide.

The PMBOK Guide is published roughly every four years. The latest one is the PMBOK Guide 6th edition and was released in September 2017. This eclipsed the PMP certification exam based on the PMBOK Guide fifth edition on March 26, 2018.

The body of knowledge in PMBOK Guide latest edition also addresses Agile processes. Additionally, PMI published a separate companion document called the Agile Practice Guide along with the sixth edition.

PMBOK Guide and Project Management Process Groups

The latest PMBOK Guide standard is organized into the following major sections:

  1. The role of the project manager
  2. Project Management Knowledge Areas, and
  3. The standard of project management

PMI described the role of project manager in detail in the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide. This included expanding the role into strategy and leadership. It adopts the PMI Talent Triangle as a model for exceptional project management.

The meat of the PMBOK Guide is in the ten project management knowledge areas and the five basic process groups.

This project life cycle is divided into 5 basic process groups (five phases of project management):

  1. Initiating
    Authorizing a project and identify stakeholders
  2. Planning
    Develop a comprehensive project management plan to guide execution and control
  3. Executing
    Get things done by implementing the plan and managing team
  4. Monitoring & Controlling
    Assess, review, and oversee project work while controlling changes
  5. Closing
    Closeout any financial, legal, or administrative effort

PMBOK Guide 5 Process Groups

The 10 project management PMP knowledge areas are:

  1. Scope
    Ensure all the work and only the work promised gets delivered
  2. Schedule
    Manage the project to completion with the time allocated
  3. Cost
    Complete the project within budget
  4. Quality
    Meet the expectations of customers and other stakeholders
  5. Communications
    Ensure optimal information is distributed
  6. Resources
    Identify, acquire, and manage optimal physical and team resources
  7. Risk
    Maximize opportunities and minimize threats
  8. Procurement
    Acquire components or resources from vendors as needed
  9. Stakeholders
    Engage people interested in the project
  10. Integration
    Unify all the above for optimal delivery and maximum performance

Project managers have to perform all of the above while holding professional, social, and ethical responsibilities. This involves being fair, respectful, responsible, and honest.

PMBOK Guide emphasizes that projects impact organizations significantly. Projects are part of programs which in turn are part of portfolios. Portfolios address the strategic goals of the project. Programs and projects carry-out the effort.

PMBOK Guide also addresses emerging practices. It suggests other practice standards and practice guides for further knowledge.

PMBOK Guide 10 Knowledge Areas

How to Download the PMBOK Guide?

The PMBOK Guide is a copyrighted and proprietary standards document developed by PMI. PMBOK Guide in pdf format is available as a complimentary download for PMI members. If you are interested in downloading an electronic copy of the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, follow these steps:

  1. Head over to
  2. Become a member.
  3. Then, go their menu options on the “PMBOK Guide and Standards” menu.
  4. When you download the document, it is secured with a password.
  5. Enter your membership password.
  6. Enjoy the unlocked copy that is licensed to you!

PMBOK Guide 6th Ed

Previous PMBOK Guide versions

The PMBOK Guide was honored in 1991 as a formal American National Standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). PMI continues to improve and expand the PMBOK Guide as well as additional standards. The first edition was published in 1996. Subsequently, the most important changes came in the fifth and the sixth editions of the guide.

PMBOK Guide 5th Ed: After receiving a considerable amount of recommendations, PMI released the 5th edition in 2013. This guide represented PMI’s efforts to continually update and upgrade the body of knowledge of the project management profession.

This edition attempted to include advancements within the project management field. This edition added the stakeholder management knowledge area. These recommendations were added to the PMP certification exam. PMBOK Guide 5th edition pdf is also available as free download for PMI members.

PMBOK Guide 6th Ed: The 6th edition is the largest shift in PMI’s foundational standards since its first edition. It added Agile processes and changed knowledge area names. The project team is now managed as part of human resource management. PMTI has a detailed description of the PMBOK Guide 6th edition changes. Please head over to learn more.

Other PMI Standards

PMI developed several other standards that are relevant to project management. Here is a quick summary:

The Standard for Program Management, fourth edition is a definitive guide to promote effective and efficient coordination among related projects. This principle-based guide is a tool for a broad range of organizations, regardless of their project delivery approach.

The Standard for Portfolio Management, fourth edition integrates portfolio performance management, portfolio strategic management, and portfolio communication management. Portfolio managers oversee a variety of projects and programs that are grouped together to meet the strategic needs of a business. Being principle-based, this guide is applicable to a broad range of organizations.

The Practice Standard for Scheduling provides an objective and actionable measurement process for schedule and project models. Schedule management is an essential factor in the success or failure of any project.

Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures. Work breakdown structures (WBS) are guides to define work as it directly relates to a specific project’s objectives. Project management professionals use WBS to expand on deliverables for a project and establish the structure to manage work to completion.

The Practice Standard for Project Estimating guides a practitioner to achieve a sound estimating discipline for their project. It goes through the stages of the project estimating process, resources, costs, durations and explains the concept of progressive elaboration.

The Practice Standard for Earned Value Management is also known as “management with the lights on”. Its primary purpose is to help a project manager get clear and objective visibility into project costs. It ensures work is being accomplished as planned and the costs of remaining work are achievable. This allows a project management professional to see where a project is heading compared to where it’s supposed to be.

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