A Short History of the PMBOK Guide Published by PMI

A Short History of the PMBOK Guide Published by PMI

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is a publication by the Project Management Institute (PMI) which documents the standards and best practices for the field of project management. Currently in the fifth edition, the PMBOK® Guide is considered one of the most important exam prep book for the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification exam. This articles outlines the history and development of the PMBOK® Guide.

The Project Management Institute (PMI)

The Project Management Institute (PMI) was formally incorporated in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1969 with five volunteers in the field of project management working together to “advance the practice, science and profession of project management”. After its incorporation, PMI organized the first symposium in Atlanta, Georgia. 83 people attended the symposium.

The PMBOK® Guide

PMBOK® Guide is an acronym for “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”. It is the single most important publication by the PMI for PMP aspirants to study and prepare for the PMP Exam.

Most PMP Certification aspirants have the misconception that the PMBOK® Guide is the syllabus for the PMP Exam. In fact, the exam syllabus for the PMP Certification is outlined in the PMP Exam Content Outline. While there are many exam topics in the PMP Exam Content Outline covered by the PMBOK® Guide, PMI has made it clear that the exam syllabus is “not bound by the PMBOK® Guide”. The relationship between the PMBOK® Guide and PMP Exam Content Outline is described in details in this article.

The first ever PMBOK® Guide was published in 1996. Each subsequent edition was introduced to supersede the previous version as new best practices and standards are continually introduced and the organization of the PMBOK® Guide becomes more systematic. The current edition of the PMBOK® Guide is the fifth edition.

PMBOK® Guide 1st Edition [1996]

The first ever edition of the PMBOK® Guide was first published in 1996 by PMI. PMI saw a need to put together an official document and guide to advance the development of the project management profession. It initiated a project in 1981 to develop the procedures and concepts necessary to support the development of the project management as a profession. In 1983, a special report titled the “Ethics, Standards, and Accreditation Committee Final Report” was published and the guideline for the Project Management Professional Certification was also created (the first ever PMP certification was awarded in 1984). The special report underwent further development and expansion during the subsequent years and in 1987, “The Project Management Body of Knowledge” was published as a standalone document. It was an attempt to document and standardize accepted project management information and practices. Finally after extensive consultation and revision, the PMBOK® Guide (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) was published  in 1996 to supersede the previous documents. This was known as the PMBOK® Guide 1st Edition.

PMBOK® Guide 2nd Edition [2000]

In 2000, the second edition of the PMBOK® Guide was published. It was based on the work in the PMBOK® Guide 1st Edition. New materials reflecting the growth of the project management profession were included in the new edition. It aimed to include knowledge and practices that were generally accepted in the field of project management that were useful and valuable to most projects. Errors in the previous edition were also corrected.

PMBOK® Guide 3rd Edition [2004]

The third edition of the PMBOK® Guide was published in 2004. After the publication of the PMBOK® Guide 2nd Edition, thousands of recommendations for improvements of the PMBOK® Guide were received by the PMI. The PMI formed an editorial committee to review each recommendation and tried to incorporate the suggestions into the new PMBOK® Guide as appropriate. One major change to the PMBOK® Guide in this edition is to evaluate project management practices based on “generally recognized as good practice on most projects most of the time”. This essentially means that the project management practices included in the PMBOK® Guide would be useful to most projects.

PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition [2009]

The 4th edition of the PMBOK® Guide was published in 2009, five years after the publication of the PMBOK® Guide 3rd Edition. This edition aimed to make contents the PMBOK® Guide more consistent and accessible. Clear distinction between the project management plan and project documents was made. The widely recognized “triple constraints” for project management were expanded to six, namely, scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources and risk. New processes were added while obsolete processes were deleted.

PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition [2013]

The 5th edition of the PMBOK® Guide — the fifth Edition was released in 2013. As usual, PMI received quite a lot of comments and recommendations to the PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition and the 5th edition represents PMI’s continual efforts to update and upgrade the body of knowledge for the project management profession. The update team of PMI tried very hard to achieve consistency and clarity of the PMBOK® Guide by standardizing the terms, processes, inputs and outputs. This edition also attempts to include advancements in the field of project management, in particular, rolling wave planning and adaptive lifecycle, in its contents. Most PMP Certification aspirants would read the PMBOK® Guide during their PMP exam preparation.

PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition [2017]

The 6th edition of the PMBOK® Guide will be published in September 2017 as review and editorial work is now in progress. The 6th edition of PMBOK® Guide will cover more content on Agile project management as Agile has fast become one of the fastest growing project management methodologies these years. There are minor changes in the processes, process groups and naming of the PMBOK® Guide project management methodology. The industry survey results, in particular the PMI Talent Triangle (Technical Project Management, Leadership, Strategic and Business Management), will also be incorporated into PMBOK® Guide 6th edition.

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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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4 Responses

  1. Khaled Karam says:

    Dear Edward,

    Thank you for the fruitful article.

    Can you help me out in finding statistical data correlating the history of successful projects versus the increase in PMP certified professionals?

    Also, I would like to know more cited reference detailing the changes that incurred and affected the several editions of PMBOK which resulted in edition 2, 3,4, 5 and lately edition 6.

    Thank you for your support

  2. Sandy Jolley says:

    I am writing my dissertation now for a PhD in IT and Project Management and I would like to use your Short History of the PMBOK article or information therein but I need your written permission for my file in order to use it: I would very much appreciate your help.