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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
Prior to the revision, the standard for project management involved five process groups:
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.
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 10 reference books recommended for the PMP exam. Moreover, the test questions are based on the exam content outline (ECO), which isn’t entirely about the PMBOK® Guide.
To better understand how the PMP exam works, it’s important to know how the questions are developed. Here’s an overview of that:
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:
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 exam simulator and other resources available on this site. Watch the full video of Cornelius Fichtner’s first impressions on PMBOK® Guide 7th below:
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