An Introduction to PMBOK Guide 5th Edition: Knowledge Areas, Processes and Process Groups

Absolute Beginners' Guide to the PMBOK Guide


pmbok guide- process groups, knowledge areas and 47 processes of project management

One of the most discussed tables in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI), A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition is the “Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping” matrix, found in Table 3-1 on page 61. This table maps the 47 processes of project management to their corresponding Knowledge Areas, as well as to their corresponding Process Groups.

At first glance, the table seems quite complicated, so let’s break it down and uncover why a solid understanding of the relationships between processes, Process Groups, and Knowledge Areas is important to anyone preparing to take the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam. It’s so important, in fact, that we suggest you memorize this matrix and the relationships it calls out. Memorizing the table will prove to be a valuable asset to you during your PMP® Exam.

Further reading: my personal PMP® Exam study notes here.

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What is a “Process” of project management?

Let’s start with the building blocks of the matrix – what is a process? At its most basic level, a process is simply a way of transforming an input into an output using proven tools and techniques. Good processes-based on sound principles and proven practices-are extremely important for a project’s success. Processes, like a roadmap, keep the project going in the right direction; they can also help minimize confusion and uncertainty among the project manager and the project stakeholders and can help drive progress from start to finish. The PMBOK® Guide identifies 47 processes of project management that are instrumental to project success.

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What is “Knowledge Areas”?

The overarching piece of our matrix are the Knowledge Areas. Each Knowledge Area is made up of a set of processes, each with inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. These processes, together, accomplish proven project management functions and drive project success. Thus, the Knowledge Areas are formed by grouping the 47 processes of project management into specialized and focused areas. Knowledge Areas also assume specific skills and experience in order to accomplish project goals.

The PMBOK® Guide currently recognizes 10 Knowledge Areas, each of which includes a detailed description of the processes associated with that area. These Knowledge Areas are Project Integration Management, Project Scope Management, Project Time Management, Project Cost Management, Project Quality Management, Project Human Resource Management, Project Communications Management, Project Risk Management, Project Procurement Management, and Project Stakeholders Management (added in the Fifth Edition).

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What is “Process Groups”?

So, where do Process Groups fit in? The 47 processes of project management are also grouped into five categories: 1) Initiating, 2) Planning, 3) Executing, 4) Monitoring and Controlling, and 5) Closing. These groupings reflect the logical integration and interactions between the individual processes, as well as the common purposes they serve. That is, the Process Groups band together the project management activities that are relevant to each project phase and provide a means for looking at best practices within one Knowledge Area at a time. For example, in the Initiation Process Group, you’ll complete the individual Initiation processes like defining scope, goals, deliverables, assumptions, limitations, etc., that make up the project charter. Within the Initiation Process Group, you would also complete all activities and processes for identifying project stakeholders. Similarly, processes required to track, review, and regulate the progress and performance of the project are all included in the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group. So, processes with a common goal or theme are grouped together into a Process Group.

It’s important to remember that Process Groups are not the same as project phases-most projects are comprised of multiple subprojects or phases, and you’ll likely repeat each of the Process Group activities within each project phase or subproject.

Why do we group processes like this? One way to think about this is that the Knowledge Areas encompass what the Project Manager needs to know, while the Process Groups describe the actions the Project Manager (and team) needs to do. Or, put another way, Knowledge Areas are about knowledge on project management topics, while Process Groups seek to apply that knowledge. They provide a logical sequence of steps within the Knowledge Area.

Every one of the 47 processes can be mapped to one Knowledge Area and one Process Group, identifying the proven project management principle(s) behind the process, and at the same time providing the means to accomplish it. As you study the processes within each Knowledge Area, it’s helpful to remember that the processes have a logical connection across the knowledge areas, so try to focus on that, rather than solely trying to memorize which process goes where.

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PMBOK® Guide and PMP®

So, why do I need to know this for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam? Recognizing the interdependent nature of the development lifecycle is critical to effective project management. As a project manager, you’ll need to be able to identify ways in which the process groups interact with each other through the life of your project. Execution within some of the Knowledge Areas and processes will accomplish some project objectives directly; delivering on other Knowledge Areas provides a method to achieve other objectives.

Because the project management processes, Process Groups, and Knowledge Areas span the entire project lifecycle, questions discussing their relationships appear frequently in the PMP® Exam. Remember that the Knowledge Areas focus on what the Project Manager needs to know, while the Process Groups describe the actions the Project Manager (and team) needs to do. Understanding and memorizing the hierarchical and yet interdependent relationships between the Knowledge Areas (strategy), the Process Groups (steps), and the building blocks (47 processes of project management) will help you during the PMP® exam.

Most exam takers would make use of the first 5 minutes of their PMP® Exam time to draw this table onto an empty sheet of paper (from their own  memory), so that they can use it as a reference in answering their 200 exam questions.

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Additional PMP® Study Resources

If you find the above PMP® study notes useful, you may want to check out the recommended PMP® Exam study resources on my website (all are free):

Wish you PMP® Exam success!

 

~ Written by Cornelius Fichtner, PMP®, CSM – Instructor and producer of PM PrepCast™ and Edward Chung, PMP®

 

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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21 Responses

  1. Neer says:

    Hi Ed , Could you please share mind map link to my email

  2. Jeff says:

    Hi Edward, thank you for your notes and posts concerning PMP exam prep. I found your site fairly late in my study/prep process. Nonetheless, your notes were great for review and helped me identify and fill a few gaps before taking the exam, which I recently passed.

    I’ll be pointing my friends/colleagues who are studying for the exam your way!

    Thank you,
    Jeff

  3. Lenz says:

    Hi Edward. I wanna say really thank you because I’ve just passed my PMP exam using your great website as a very helpful study book. thank you!

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Lenz,

      Congratulations on passing the PMP Exam! I am sure your experience will be helpful to fellow PMP Aspirants! Would you so kind to share your lessons learned with us? Please email me at [email protected] and I will have it posted asap.

      Thanks in advance!

  4. Edward Chung says:

    Sorry Ali,

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    Wish you PMP success!

  5. ali says:

    Edward,
    Can you just email me or point me to link where I can download your study notes w/o all this advertisement. These ads are a lot of distraction from reading or printing relevant stuff from your website. Thanks

  6. Praveen says:

    Hi Edward,
    Could you please share the mind maps and study notes link. Thanks

  7. Yasser says:

    Hi Edward,

    your notes are really great.

    I am wondering if you have the notes in MS office format such as word or PDF

    Thanks
    Yasser

    • Edward Chung says:

      Yes, you can download them at PDF using the link “New function! Download this post as PDF” or you can simply copy and paste the contents of each page. Thanks!

  8. Justin C says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your info. Very helpful. Could you please send me a copy of the mind maps.
    Thanks.

  9. Tom B says:

    Hi Edward,

    Can you tell if a calculator is supplied for you when you take the exam? Or must all calculations be done manually?

    Thanks!

    • Edward Chung says:

      For the computer-based tests (CBT), you will mostly get an onscreen calculator. For paper-based tests (PBT), you will be provided with a calculator. There is no need to do calculations manually. Thanks!

  10. Sainath says:

    Edward,

    Your notes was so helpful in passing the exams

    Bless You

  11. Myla says:

    Hi Edward,

    I am not able to find “My PMP Study Notes – available for FREE”. I have “Liked” and shared the link as well. Not sure.

    • Edward Chung says:

      You can browse the links below with the heading “Other articles in the series PMP Exam Preparation”, all my PMP study notes are there. Wish you PMP success!

  12. Sheila says:

    Hi,

    Can you offer more explanation of the 35 Contact hours?

    I am interested in obtaining PMI certification, I have some project management experience, but don’t understand the 35 Contact hours and how to obtain them properly for the PMI

    Thank you!!

  13. I do appreciate your study notes. I wrote my test today after reading your study note only. It helped me a lot with all the terminologies that the exam has. I do have a good experience with project management and the only PMBOK that I read was in 2005.

    Your study notes were enough for me to write and pass PMP test.

    Thanks a lot

November 10, 2013