The PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition has been released by PMI on 6th September 2017. The latest edition has introduced with new changes for PMP aspirants. If you are a project management professional, you will be curious to understand the trends and direction of project management domain. I keep getting calls from participants of our PMP® online program inquiring about the PMBOK® changes and how it will impact their preparation.

The regular update in PMBOK® Guide ensures that the PMI processes and framework are relevant to Project Management professionals and current market needs. PMI conducts Role Delineation Study (RDS) every 3 to 4 years and in this research, they study the techniques and tools of Project management professionals. Their tools and techniques analysis and observation become the basis for PMP® exam and modifications in PMBOK® Guide.

What’s New in PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition in a nutshell

  1. Agility and Project Management:
    PMI’s approach of doing RDS (Role Delineation Study) ensures that it captures the maturing practices of project management and makes them available to masses. I usually do not like the lag approach of PMI because it catches the trends only after it becomes popular but for a scale at which PMI works this is a good approach. Agile is a mature project management practice now, and many software and non-software projects are using Lean and Agile based approaches. The PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition embraces agile in all aspects of project management; it has a section in each knowledge area where it elaborates how agile based approaches may tailor the processes discussed in given Knowledge Area. The PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition also elaborates agile practices for planning and monitoring. PMI has released the Agile Practice Guide along with the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition, which covers more about Agile Based approaches.
  2. The Section on Key Concepts:
    Now each knowledge area chapter has a section on its key concepts. This information was presented in earlier editions but in this edition it is consolidated and presented for consistency between knowledge areas. This is a good approach to get crisp contents on a given knowledge area.
  3. Coverage of Upcoming Trends and Tailoring:
    Each Knowledge area contains a section on upcoming trends which were observed in PMI Study, these trends are not enough mature to be a part of PMBOK® Guide. This is a useful section as it offers some insights into the future of project management.The tailoring section is something which gives us an idea to customize the knowledge area processes based on the need of the project and context of the project. Tailoring was always a part of project management in practice, but now it is explicitly mentioned in the new edition of PMBOK® Guide.
  4. Addition of 3 new Processes:
    1. Manage Project Knowledge: We are living in the world where we need to upgrade knowledge to remain ahead in the competition, so now we have an explicit process for it. It talks about what we need to manage and learn on day to day basis, managing learning is not a phase end job anymore. Its part of daily routine of a project manager.
    2. Implement Risk Response: The most awaited process from last few years, wherein project managers felt that the mitigation part of all identified risks comes under Execution process group. Thus the gap that existed between the five planning processes and one monitoring and controlling process group is filled now. Knowing the importance of risks on projects, this is a welcome addition.
    3. Control Resources: This section takes care of the concern of project managers, considering the importance of assessing actual vs. planned usage of equipment, material, supplies, and human resources.
  5. Change of Name or Moving of Processes
    Well, there are quite a few of changes of this nature in this PMBOK® Guide. They fall into two categories:

      1. Change of Name of Knowledge Areas – When these happen, these are notable changes.
        1. The change of “Project Time Management” to “Project Schedule Management” is a corresponding switch.
        2. However, change of “Project Human Resource Management” to “Project Resource Management” represents a pro-active stance from PMI for project managers to keep an eye on all resources – not just human resources. This includes physical – equipment, supplies, and material, and of course, human resources.
      2. Change of Name of Processes –
        1. Stakeholder Management to Plan Stakeholder Engagement.
        2. Plan Human Resource Management to Plan Resource Management: This follows the change of the knowledge area above.
        3. Control Communications to Monitor Communications.
        4. Control Risks to Monitor Risks: A new strategy, “Escalate Responses” is added, empowering a Project manager to increase the risk to the appropriate party so that the risk is no longer his/her responsibility. Once escalated, the Project Manager will now have the option of :
          • Either removing the risk from the project’s risk register after analysis
          • Or keeping it in the risk register, but classifying it as “Escalated/Assigned To.”
        5. Control Stakeholder Engagement to Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.
        6. Perform Quality Assurance to Manage Quality: This is a shift of name that does not gel with the industry standard terminology of “Quality Assurance.”
  6. Project Managers are now more facilitator and coach, no longer “Control” enthusiasts!
    PMI has attempted to move away from the phrase “Control’ to “Monitor” where applicable. Here are the changes of names:

    1. Control Communications to Monitor Communications
    2. Control Risks to Monitor Risks
    3. Control Stakeholder Engagement to Monitor Stakeholder Engagement

    But some of the following processes continue to have the word “Control” in them for certain purpose

    1. Monitor and Control Project Work,
    2. Control Schedule,
    3. Control Costs,
    4. Control Quality,
    5. Control Procurement, and
    6. The newly added process of Control Resources.
  7. Closing Procurement is closed out from PMBOK® Guide
    Rather than having dedicated Close Procurement Process, the activities involved in old “Close procurement” process are now part of “Close Project or Phase”.

A Broad overview of changes in PMBOK® Sixth edition

PMBOK® Fifth editionPMBOK® Sixth edition
Knowledge AreaProject Time ManagementProject Schedule Management
Knowledge AreaProject Human Resource ManagementProject Resource Management
3 New Processes added
  1. Manage Project Knowledge (Section 4.4)
  2. Control Resources (Section 9.6)
  3. Implement Risk Responses (Section 11.6)
1 Process RemovedClose Procurements (Section 12.4)Close Procurements added as part of Close Project or Phase
1 Process Shifted
Estimate Activity Resources
Process was in Project Time Management Knowledge Area (Section 6.4)Moved to Project Resource Management (Section 9.2)
Name ChangedPerform Quality Assurance (Section 8.2)Manage Quality (Section 8.2)
Plan Human Resource Management (Section 9.1)Plan Resource Management (Section 9.1)
Acquire Project Team (Section 9.2)Acquire Resources (Section 9.3)
Develop Project Team (Section 9.3)Develop Team (Section 9.4)
Manage Project Team (Section 9.4)Manage Team (Section 9.5)
Control Communications (Section 10.3)Monitor Communications (Section 10.3)
Control Risks (Section 11.6)Monitor Risks (Section 11.7)
Plan Stakeholder Management
(Section 13.2)
Plan Stakeholder Engagement (Section 13.2)
Control Stakeholder Engagement (Section 13.4)Monitor Stakeholder Engagement (Section 13.4)

How do these changes affect the PMP Exam?
If you are a PMP aspirant planning to take your exam by end of December, it’s natural to be worried about the changes. If by any chance you are unable to take your exam before the new changes are in place, how will you cope up with the change.

  • PMP® is based on PMI’s Role Delineation Study
    It is important to understand that PMP® exam doesn’t rely on PMBOK® Guide, but it relies on RDS, in which PMI identifies, what active project managers use as best practices and how this PMP® exam remains relevant for them in future as well. Any new approach or method is included in PMBOK® Guide, once it is practiced worldwide and becomes stable. It’s not the other way round that PMBOK® Guide is introducing a new concept and then Project managers start implementing in their organization. PMI waits for some time watching it and then includes it in their latest edition. PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition is filling a gap between Fifth Edition and the study done by PMI. Role Delineation Study finds that the project managers are now accountable for project’s outcomes and needs to engage more with the stakeholders. As of now Agile-based practices are frequently being used in the industry.
  • Understanding of Agile is needed now
    In PMP® exam, with the new edition, you cannot ignore agile concepts, irrespective of your interest in agile technology. If you are preparing for the exam with the sixth edition, you need to have a fair idea of how Agile works in projects.
  • All content of PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition remains relevant
    PMBOK® Guide sixth Edition is adding more details, more agility, and relevant trends to PMBOK® Guide fifth edition. All the content of the fifth edition is relevant, even the process (Close Procurement) which is removed from “Project Procurement Management” knowledge Area is added in “Close Project” process of “Project Integration Management“. If you are preparing using PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, you should not worry, even if you end up taking the exam with the sixth edition, as your preparation will not be wasted, and would still be relevant.
  • Clarity on ITTOs
    New edition is more elaborated in terms of Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Outputs. This will make your preparation easier and faster. The new “Lessons Learned Register” is now part of the set of ITTOs. Project Managers will now be encouraged to update on a frequent basis (not just at the end of the project). Updates can be done at any time throughout the project, particularly in the end of project phases (similar to the “Retrospective” in Agile).
  • 20% more effort than PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition
    In my opinion it requires 20% more effort, so PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition is equal to PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition plus 20% effort. The new edition is an engaging guide; you should know all these things to work as an effective project manager. There is no harm in finishing the PMP® exam, before the uncertainty related to the exam concerning the sixth edition, but if you cannot take the exam before changes got implemented, nothing is going to change drastically. You need to add 20% more using a better structured and better-managed body of knowledge and pass your exam.

Should I rush to take the PMP® Exam now?

  • The PMP Exam is expected to be updated to the new PMBOK® Guide material sometime around the 1st Quarter of 2018. Exam based on updated content will start from March 2018.
  • If you have started your preparation or already in advance stage of preparation, its good to go ahead and appear for the exam before the change takes place.
  • You may need to spend more effort in PMBOK® 6 based exam since it has more content and focus on Agile. The other side of coin is, you will get the updated knowledge as per the new standards which is going to be relevant for next 3-4 years.

You may like to explore more details on the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition by watching this video.

Share your ideas/comments / questions on the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition in the comment area.