Understanding the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition for Your PMP Exam

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 7th Edition is officially out.

With the continued evolution of technology, the nature and scale of projects in this modern age have seen dramatic changes. Project managers need to be more flexible to make sure that they can quickly adapt to deliver the results that fit stakeholders’ needs. Against this backdrop, the Project Management Institute (PMI) deemed it necessary to update the PMBOK® Guide and reflect these contemporary demands and challenges.

In this article, we’ll take you through the updates in the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition. Although it isn’t included in the 2021 PMP exam, it pays to have up-to-date industry knowledge complemented with learnings gathered from using the PMP exam simulator.

PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition compared to PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition

The most significant change that happened in the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition from the prior version (or from the earlier versions, for that matter) is the emphasis on the basic principles of project management. PMI highlighted values that should guide practitioners’ actions and behaviors when managing projects.

Experienced project manager and training instructor Cornelius Fichtner noted the specific differences between the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition and PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition here:

  1. From process- to principle-based project management
  2. From process to tailoring
  3. From Knowledge Areas to Performance Domains
  4. Introduction of the value-delivery system and project delivery principles
  5. From Standard PM to inclusion of PM Principles
  6. Introduction to PMIstandards+™ Interactive Digital Content Platform

From process- to principle-based project management

The earlier versions of PMBOK® Guide, including the 6th Edition, as well as Prince2, Scrum and Agile emphasize the process or the “hows” of managing a project.

In the latest edition of the PMBOK® Guide, the focus shifts to the principles - the “whats” of successful project management. Rather than emphasizing the details, the new edition is a high-level executive overview of the discipline.

While they’re not included in the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition, the sets of processes, such as how to create a work breakdown structure, what's included in a project charter, and related matters, are placed in the management institute’s Standards plus (more on this below).

Let’s go back to the principles. The newest guide edition refers to the 12 project management principles, namely:

  • Stewardship
  • Team
  • Stakeholders
  • Value
  • Systems Thinking
  • Leadership
  • Tailoring
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Adaptability and Resilience
  • Change
Again, these principles of project management describe the ideal actions and behaviors necessary to propel project success.

From process to tailoring

As mentioned, there are no processes mentioned in the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition. Instead, it champions the importance of tailoring and choosing methodologies that fit the envisioned outcome of the project, delivering value to stakeholders.

The Project Management Institute urges practitioners to specifically tailor the life cycle and development approach, processes, engagement, tools, as well as methods and artifacts.

Here’s a quick description of the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition’s steps to tailoring:

  1. Select initial development approach. The development approach must be appropriate for the specific endeavor at hand.
  2. Tailor for the organization. Consider the organization in altering the approach.
  3. Tailor for the project. Consider the size, criticality, and other important factors of the project when altering the approach.
  4. Implement ongoing improvement. Monitor the progress and modify the process where necessary.

From Knowledge Areas to Performance Domains

The PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition features Knowledge Areas, which, as the term suggests, are the things you need to know when managing a project. The PM Knowledge Areas include:

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

Under these categories, you’ll find critical processes, from project charter development to schedule management planning to resource acquisition, and many more.

In the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition, the focus shifts to the Performance Domains. The PMI defines this as “a group of related activities that are critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes.” These are the specific performance domains:

  1. Stakeholder
  2. Team
  3. Development approach and life cycle performance
  4. Planning
  5. Project Work
  6. Delivery
  7. Measurement
  8. Uncertainty

As you can see, some of them overlap with the mentioned project management principles, emphasizing the fact that values should translate into activities to drive project success.

As you explore this section of the PMBOK® Guide, you will find an overview of the performance domain at the beginning of the discussion of each concept. The graphics will have a brief description of the performance domain, as well as an enumeration of the desired outcomes for each.

Screenshot from The PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition - First Impressions via CorneliusFichtner Youtube Channel

Introduction of the value-delivery system and project delivery principles

PMI’s revised standard project management introduces the system for value delivery. What is that exactly? In a nutshell, it refers to the structure an organization follows to run projects and ultimately create value for stakeholders. A typical system for value delivery features individual projects, programs, and portfolios.

There are many ways to approach delivering business value. Mark Phillipy, known online as The Sensible Project Manager, outlined one in a PMI conference presentation. He shared the following steps:

  1. Understand the vision. The vision should clearly state the purpose of the project and a high-level view of the scope.
  2. Be clear about the business value of the project. Identify the value of the project, for example, in monetary terms and how it will be measured as the project progresses.
  3. Evangelize the vision and business value to the project team. Rally the team towards hitting the goal and producing the value expected from the project.
  4. Foster a team environment to effectively deliver value. Eliminate, if possible, any hurdles to the team's efficiency.
  5. Measure the realization of the business value. As deliverables are accomplished, evaluate the progress of the project.

From Standard PM to inclusion of PM Principles

Prior to the revision, the standard for project management involved five process groups:

  • Initiating, which involves defining the project's vision and goals, as well as getting approvals from stakeholders;
  • Planning, which involves building a roadmap for success, setting up structures and plans, such as the project scope, work breakdown structure, and project management plan;
  • Executing, which involves putting the plan into action, allocating the budget, and producing deliverables;
  • Monitoring and controlling, which involves tracking the progress of the project as mapped out in the plan, and adjusting strategies where necessary;
  • Closing, which involves delivering the project and getting a sign-off or approval from the stakeholders.

The revised standard for project management still values these five process groups, but it's largely focused on the system for value delivery and the basic project management principles.

Introduction to PMIstandards+™ Interactive Digital Content Platform

Since the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition only tackles the principles, a high-level executive overview of project management, the details, such as the methods, tools, and artifacts, are in a different platform: PMIstandards+™. This online tool contains all the PMI’s standards and guides, how-to articles, case studies, graphics, videos, audio content, and templates.
With the search filters of the tool categorized into approach, industry, format, and topics, you can easily find what you're looking for. The vast resources provide real-world examples of practitioners applying the PMI standards to their projects. Moreover, you can get templates that can be useful for your endeavors.

How Does the PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition Affect the PMP Exam?

The most important thing you need to remember is that the certification exam isn’t all about the PMBOK® Guide. For one, the guide is only one of the PMP books recommended for the PMP exam.

To better understand how the PMP exam works, it’s important to know how the PMP exam questions are developed. Here’s an overview of that:

  • Topics. The ECO dictates what’s included in the exam. These topics covered in the outline are then turned into questions.
  • Questions. Typically, the queries will have four answer-choices. The correct answer among the options is determined by the references.
  • References. The 10 books, which include the PMBOK® Guide, will provide the explanation for the answers in the questions.

Given this structure, an update in the PMBOK® Guide doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an overhaul happening in the actual exam. It’s a different story, however, when the ECO changes. Expect a modification to the test when that happens.

The training materials we provide here in the PM PrepCast, including the PMP exam simulator, are based on the ECO and have a reference to the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition (the latest reference the PMI promotes in preparation for the 2021 exam). Once the institute changes its reference, perhaps in 2022, we will update our materials to reflect these. But for now, there’s no need for that yet.

In summary, then, we recommend these study materials:

  • 2021 Exam: use the ECO, PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition, and other reference books
  • 2022 Exam: use the ECO, PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition, PMIstandards+™, and other reference books, (also perhaps the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition, depending on the management institute’s move)

To make sure that you’re thoroughly prepared for the exam, cover all your bases by considering the following:

The PMBOK® Guide 7th edition gives a high-level executive overview of the ideal project management practice - one that is hinged on principles. Although the guide isn’t included yet in the 2021 exam, it’s an excellent reference for the values you should embrace in real-world projects. Thus, it’s useful for your practice.

As for your preparation for the upcoming exam, feel free to use our free pmp exam questions and other resources available on this site. Watch the full video of Cornelius Fichtner’s first impressions on PMBOK® Guide 7th below:

Training for Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®

Copyright © 2008 - 2024 OSP International LLC.
The PM Exam Simulator is a mark of OSP International LLC. PMI, PMBOK, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CAPM, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, and PMI-PBA are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.