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Thoughts on The 5th Edition PMBOK Guide Exposure Draft

93The 5th Edition PMBOK Guide has hit the streets, and for a few of us, this is actually an exciting event. I spent some time with it this weekend, and I have some initial thoughts about the direction it has taken and the implied changes. An in-depth analysis would take many, many pages, so I’ll try to hit the highlights here.

First off, the traditional process groups of Initiating, Planning Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing are unchanged. This is still the context for the flow of processes and activities, and this should come as a sigh of relief.

The knowledge areas have expanded to include Stakeholder Management. This change makes some sense if you think of most of the knowledge areas as looking inward at the project itself. You need some to look outward at the stakeholders, it traditionally fell under communications, but we all know that real stakeholder management may require more than just communication. I have long advocated for more attention to be given to Issue Management along those same lines.

There are now 47 processes in the 5th edition PMBOK Guide exposure draft, representing a 12% increase over the 4th edition. The concept that each knowledge area should have a master planning process has made a return. This was attempted in the 3rd edition but was mysteriously abandoned in the 4th edition. Now it’s back with new processes such as “Plan Scope Management” and “Plan Human Resource Management.” This was a needed reorganization for the sake of consistency.

However, the overall PMBOK Guide draft is much larger, and jumps of this size always make me nervous as a practitioner. When we look back in time at previous PMBOK Guides, we can see the size of content (processes and input/tools/outputs) growing over time per the following graphs:






Before you assume that the new processes are simply an organization of practices that have been reflected in the PMBOK Guide all along, let’s look beneath the processes at the inputs, tools, and outputs associated with each. This draft hits another record, with 614 inputs, tools, and outputs. That represents a whopping 19% increase over the 4th edition.

Another curiosity is that I only found the word “agile” in the body of the exposure draft a total of six times (it didn’t make the glossary at all). It does address adaptive methodologies, which it uses as a device to encompass agile, but it’s interesting that agile isn’t given more of a role here – especially given the expanded role that Agile is taking within PMI.

And this raises an interesting question: Is the PMBOK Guide intended to be a guide to all project management or primarily to waterfall project management? If it is intended to encompass agile, then it’s curious that the words “planning poker”, “Fibonacci”, “self-organizing”, “osmotic”, and “disaggregation” do not appear anywhere in the exposure draft, but traditional vocabulary techniques like “Delphi”, “dependency”, and “WBS” are well-represented.

This will undoubtedly have many asking if there is a need for a separate Agile Body of Knowledge and what role does the PMBOK Guide want to play in the agile world.

My cursory evaluation has led me to the conclusion that stakeholder management was a positive addition to the organization of the 5th edition; however, the corresponding bloat in processes, inputs, tools, and outputs (and overall content) is not as welcome. The simple truth is that the more the standard grows, the more unwieldy it becomes (the 1996 PMBOK Guide was a useful 176 pages, while the 4th edition was 476 pages and was correspondingly more difficult to navigate. The 5th edition will almost certainly be even longer). Organizations try to develop methodologies from this, and every four years these undergo significant upheaval. If the change is because of new practices that are emerging, then it is welcome, but if it is simply another committee leaving their mark, then it is not so welcome. I believe that PMI would be well served by scrutinizing every change going forward.

If you have seen the 5th Edition PMBOK Guide Exposure, what are your thoughts?

28 responses to “Thoughts on The 5th Edition PMBOK Guide Exposure Draft”

  1. Avatar Magda Panaitescu says:

    Andy conclusions on the “Thoughts on The 5th Edition PMBOK Guide Exposure Draft” are very very important as reflect the organizations trends.
    Thank you Andy; hope PMI will make the necesary changes in the 5th PMBOK.

  2. Avatar Mark Tolbert says:

    Hi Andy, Bill & Louis – hope you all are doing great! I’ve been very interested in how Agile methodologies fit in with the PMBOK Guide for some time, and as you indicate, I too believe PMI should include Agile methodologies in the scope of the PMBOK Guide in a broader, more significant way. (If they don’t do this, will the PMBOK Guide remain as valuable and relevant in the coming years? With ~500,000 PMPs today, and roughly 70% I.T. PMs, Agile will become more and more important). I did a presentation in January at the PMIWDC dinner meeting – “Agile vs. PMBOK Guide, ” and I ended up writing a fairly lengthy paper on this – (over 15 pages). I’ve put this on my website in several different sections. The first section is –

    Also, incidentally, Bob Mahler happened to be main dinner meeting speaker that night at the meeting. He spoke on “Special Forces Project Leadership.”

    Best wishes,


    • Andy Crowe Andy Crowe says:

      You’ve raised good points, Mark. I expected to see much more about Agile in the 5th edition, but I also understand the real challenge in doing so. It’s complicated to try and retrofit Agile into the PMBOK Guide (even though someone recently tried to argue that Agile had been a part of the PMBOK Guide all along). It would increase the bulk by at least 33% to 40%, and it would require a lot of reorganization.

      Whether they like it or not, the PMBOK Guide is now set up as primarily a waterfall document, which will raise the need for an AgileBOK, and that presents a whole new set of challenges.

  3. Avatar Upendra Agnihotram says:

    Hi Andy,

    Can you please help me understand why there is a need add stakeholder management as a seperate Knowledge Area when it is tightly coupled with communications management?


  4. Avatar manikandan says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am about to appear for the pmp exams this year(2012).Would it be possible for you to tell whether PMBOK 5 th edition will be incorporated for the upcoming exams.if so i can atleast not buy reference books and wait for sometime.

    • Thank you Andy,

      Manikandan, don’t worry the exams will not be based on the 5th Edition (which is still in draft) for some time.

      Let me state my position, I am a strong believer in Agile having used DSDM ( since 1996 and taking many of the principles into Projects regardless of their deliverable.

      Andy, the PMBOK strives to cover most projects most of the time (if memory serves me well). That may mean that many projects may have practices that have little need of agile techniques.

      The PMBOK will always lag behind the leading edge thinking and within PMBOK it states (or it used too) you need a project management methodology and many methodologies state “you need to tailor this to suit the project”. The PMBOK isnt a methodology it is a body of knowledge and as the PMP is based on a knowledge base wider than the PMBOK so should our organisation’s PM Methodology.

      We have adopted PRINCE2 as our base PM methodology and then tailor the delivery lifecycle dependent on the type of project. i.e. for continuous improvement we use Lean DMAIC project methodology, for systems we are adopting DSDM Atern (agile) and for Service Transition we have a inhouse waterfall style method that utilises some Agile principles.

      Our project managers are expected to be certified in PRINCE2 and also gain PMP certification. Their knowledge is also added to with training in our specific project type methodology, tools and techniques.

  5. Avatar John says:

    wonderful, hoping the PMI is the center of excellence in Project Management.
    Soon I will be a member,.

    I am a MSc student and my project management instructor (Prof. Lema) seriously 100% give me a full insight in PMP.

    Again i will do it soon.

  6. Avatar Margaret says:

    Can agile apply to any type of project – including construction and engineering? The PMBOK guide applies to all projects, so they will not likely emphasize a new approach unless it is becoming a best practice in construction and engineering, which was at one time the heart and soul of PMI and project management.

    • Andy Crowe Andy Crowe says:

      But that’s just my point. If a project embraces Agile, then the PMBOK Guide doesn’t apply in its current form. For example, there is no comprehensive project management plan (arguably the backbone of the PMBOK Guide) under Agile, and the terminology and vocabulary are different. So, the PMBOK Guide needs to embrace Agile in order to apply to all projects.

      This wouldn’t have been true had PMI continued to ignore Agile, but when they embraced it, I think it’s time for the PMBOK Guide to do the same.

      • Avatar Adrian says:

        Agile-based software development methodologies (e.g., Scrum) are nothing more than marketing tools for IT vendors so I’m relieved to see that the 5th edition has not embraced agile. And the thought of an agile construction/engineering methodology (e.g., constructing a building or manufacturing an airplane without first developing a comprehensive architecture/design) is frightening.

        • Avatar Jeff says:

          I don’t see Agile as a marketing tool at all. It is not a replacement for a full project management tool but it certainly has some great uses in software development. The main issue I have with the PMBOK is that it front loads all of its efforts in the planning stage and leaves very little room for project flexibility in the long run.

          I wish the PMI would recognize this and begin to fill out its framework with additional contingency methods that work in the real world. Right now it is stuck in academia and the only folks that fully use it are academics.

          • Andy Crowe Andy Crowe says:

            Jeff, I agree with your point about filling out the framework. That said, synthesizing those contingency methods with the PMBOK Framework and making them all hang together in a logical way might be more difficult than it sounds.

            I disagree that the only people who use this are academics. I run across a lot of people who use it quite a bit. That said, I have only met a couple of organizations that try to follow it rigorously and to the letter.

  7. Avatar Wallace Johnson says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am going to be studying for the PMP starting in August. My goal is to take it before the end of the year. Have you heard of a timeline for the PMBOK 5 to come out. I don’t want to start studying and then have to change study materials mid swing…

    • Andy Crowe Andy Crowe says:

      Hello Wallace. The PMBOK Guide changes January, 2013, but the exam won’t change until June 2013.

      You have plenty of time, and now is a great time to knock this out!

      Good luck with it, and let us know when you pass!

  8. […] note, the other day Andy Crowe shared his thoughts on the fifth edition of the PMBOK. He made a very good point on the growing number of processes, inputs and tools in the fifth […]

  9. Avatar Jing Zhao says:

    we are often confused by formality. we know that design’s formality is design specification, coding’s formality is code source.but who tells you that design’s formality can’t be code source. judging a process depends on its function and effection. thus, is agile really different from PMBOK?

  10. Avatar Becky Hartman says:

    Hi Andy,

    Does the CAPM test change the same time the PMP does? We are researching for one our CAPM candidates and on cursory Google search I do not find mention of it.



  11. Avatar Sankalp Navghare says:

    Hi Andy,

    Please release your updated book on PMBOK 5 as soon as 5th ed PMBOK is out, I am appearing for exams sometime in DEC 2013 so i would have to study the new pattern.

    Also, I waiting for your quick brain dump that is there for 4th edition. Would love to have it for 5th edition as well.

    Also do you think studying & passing is going to be tougher with PMBOK5


  12. I just have gone through PMBOK Guide 5 and I loved it! Now that Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area is added, naming of processes is following a common style, a clear list is shown for project documents and project management subsidiary plans, Time Management is improved as well as Cost Management Earned Value Concepts and formulas are clearly listed and many more, I believe to understand PMI concepts and passing PMP exam is much easier with all those improvements. I would expect construction extension 5 to be released and I would be volunteer for sure

  13. i’ve made an excel file comparing the 4th and 5th edition of PMBOK, Feel free to download and comment


  14. Avatar Raji Chary says:

    I am appearing for PMP exam end of June. Should I be studying the 4th or 5th edition?

    • Andy Crowe Andy Crowe says:

      You should use the 4th edition materials up until July 31. That is the date the exam cuts over to the 5th Edition.

      I hope this helps – let us know how you do!

  15. Avatar sankalp navghare says:

    Hey Fendy,

    Loved ur excel chart on comparison. I am presently studying based on Andy book on PMBOK 4.

    Use it as a reference! Must say good work!

    Hi Andy,

    Also wanted to know by when will be your book available in the market based on PMBOK 5.


  16. Avatar Yazdan says:

    Hi andy,
    I am going to prepare presentation on 5th edition changes, could you please send me more information on two above charts.


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