About "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge"

Also known as the PMBOK® Guide, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (published by Project Management Institute) is a 450+ pages document, or a book rather, which is the de-facto global standard for managing most projects most of the time. It has become a sort of a bible for project managers, and it is only normal that a lot of people reference it.


There is a common mistake many project managers make when they’re talking about this document. They call it just PMBOK. Of course, what they’re actually referring to is really a PMBOK Guide, which is only a subset of the whole PMBOK.

Obviously, the whole body of knowledge is much larger than just the guide to it. It probably wouldn’t be very practical to put the whole body of knowledge in one book or document, and maybe not even possible at all.

However, while saying “PMBOK Guide” is a lot easier than saying “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”, saying just “PMBOK” is even easier. Even though it is not correct. This mistake is probably not ill-intended and in fact it is rather harmless, but people new to project management might find it useful to be alerted to this distinction.

So please, when you’re speaking about the PMI’s document “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”, use the correct term and say “PMBOK Guide”. You should say just “PMBOK” only when you’re really talking about the whole body of knowledge, and not about the guide, which I would expect to happen a lot less often.

Another common mistake is to use the term PM-book, and I’m not sure if that is a result of a reading error, lack of understanding, or a pronunciation mistake.

What is in A PROJECT management body of knowledge?

The document itself describes the 42 standard project management processes for a single project, and it groups them in five process groups:

  • Initiating Process Group
  • Planning Process Group
  • Executing Process Group
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group
  • Closing Process Group

Also, the document organizes the body of knowledge into nine project management knowledge areas:

  • 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
  • Project Stakeholders Management

Processes and knowledge areas are described in about 300 pages, and the rest of 150+ pages are introductions, term definitions, changes from previous versions (current version is the Fourth Edition), and some additional information (among which are the very important interpersonal skills).

Here is what PMI says about the major updates to the standard in its current, Fifth Edition (2013):

  • A 10th Knowledge Area has been added; Project Stakeholder Management expands upon the importance of appropriately engaging project stakeholders in key decisions and activities. 
  • Project data information and information flow have been redefined to bring greater consistency and be more aligned with the Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom (DIKW) model used in the field of Knowledge Management. 
  • Four new planning processes have been added: Plan Scope Management, Plan Schedule Management, Plan Cost Management and Plan Stakeholder Management: These were created to reinforce the concept that each of the subsidiary plans are integrated through the overall project management plan. 

How do I get one?

All the members of PMI receive a copy in digital format (PDF on a CD) when they join. They can also download it for their personal use from the members only part of the PMI web site.

For all the others, the easiest way to get ahold of this very informative and useful book is to order it online. It is usually cheaper to buy it from Amazon (referral link) than directly from PMI, go figure.

There are also Kindle (more expensive) and audio (CD-ROM) versions. CD-ROM version seems to be unavailable right now, but truth be told, I can't imagine anybody listening to it. Come on, it's a reference book, not an exciting thriller or love story. 

In any case, this book helps project managers utilize the best practices that are evolving with time, and use the common terminology with other project managers. And even more, it is also essential for everyone who strives to reach the PMP or CAPM certification. Are you eligible for PMP certification?

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