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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chapter 7: Project Management Knowledge Areas

In the previous chapter, we saw the project lifecycle in detail. In this chapter, we are going to take a look at the Project Management Knowledge Areas.

So, lets get started!!!

Project Management Knowledge Areas

Managing projects requires applying knowledge, skills, and tools and techniques to project activities in order to meet the project objectives. You do this by performing some processes at various stages of the project, as discussed in the previous chapter. That means processes are part of the knowledge required to manage projects. Each aspect of a project is managed by using the corresponding knowledge area. For example, each project has a scope that needs to be managed, and the knowledge required to manage scope is in the knowledge area called project scope management. To perform the project work within the project scope, you need human resources, which need to be managed; the knowledge used to manage human resources is called human resource management.

I guess, by now you have a fair idea of where we are getting to.

Each process belongs to one of the nine knowledge areas:

  1. Scope Management
  2. Time Management
  3. Cost Management
  4. Human Resource Management
  5. Procurement Management
  6. Risk Management
  7. Quality Management
  8. Integration Management
  9. Communications Management
  10. Stakeholder Management (This Knowledge Area was introduced in PMBOK 5th Edition)

Each knowledge area has its own place in the project lifecycle and they are all equally important from a project managers point of view. In practical experience you might fine one or more areas to have a greater impact on the outcome of the project, but nonetheless they are all important and play a vital role in the success or failure of a project.

Let us now look at each of these knowledge areas in detail…

Project scope management

The primary purpose of project scope management is to ensure that all the required work and only the required work is performed to complete the project successfully. This is accomplished by defining and controlling what is included in the project and what is not.

Obviously, these activities are performed by using the corresponding processes. So, project scope management, in part, defines the work required to complete the project. It’s a finite amount of work and will require a finite amount of time and resources. These need to be managed as well. The other knowledge areas cover them.

Project time management

The primary purpose of project time management is to develop and control the project schedule. Any project has a timeline by which it is expected to be completed and a well managed project is expected to complete by the set timelines.

Even though project time management takes care of all requisite parameters to manage the timelines of a project effectively, in reality you might find that the project managers are running around like headless chickens trying to get the project completed on time. This usually happens almost always. As an efficient manager, we should ensure that we don't become one of those headless chickens.

Project cost management

The primary goal of project cost management is to estimate the cost and to complete the project within the approved budget. This is one of the important activities because our bosses wouldn't approve if we exceed our approved budgets and it might have severe repercussions. Not to mention, finishing a project within budget with money to spare will always help you during your own appraisal!

The resources needed to complete the project activities include human resources, which need to be managed as well.

Project human resource management

The primary purpose of project human resource management is to obtain, develop, and manage the project team that will perform the actual project work.

There will be situations in which your organization does not have the expertise to perform certain schedule activities in-house. For this or for several other reasons, you might want to acquire some items or services from a vendor Ex: Servers from IBM. This kind of acquisition is called procurement, which also needs to be managed.

Project procurement management

The primary purpose of procurement management is to manage acquiring products (that is, products, services, or results) from outside the project team in order to complete the project. The external vendor who offers the service is called the seller.

Project Risk Management:

Any work, that is done will always have some uncertainties that give rise to project risks, which need to be managed. A project risk is an event that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on meeting the project objectives. The primary purpose of project risk management is to identify the risks and respond to them should they occur.

The goal of risk management is to help meet the project objectives and to help avoid/handle situations that might compromise the project schedule or outcome.

Project quality management

Project quality is defined as the degree to which a project satisfies its objectives and requirements. For example, a high-quality project is a project that is completed on time and with all the work in the project scope completed within the planned budget.

Project integration management

The project is initiated, planned, and executed in pieces, and all those pieces are related to each other and need to come together. That is where integration management comes in. For example, integrating different subsidiary plans into the project management plan needs to be managed. Project integration management includes developing the project charter, developing the project management plan, directing and managing project execution, monitoring and controlling project work, performing integrated change control, and closing the project or a phase of a project.

While managing all the aspects of the project, you as the project manager, will need to coordinate different activities and groups, and for that you need to communicate.

Project communication management

It is absolutely mandatory for the success of the project that the project information is generated and distributed in a timely fashion and to all the stakeholders involved. Experienced managers would say communication is the most important aspect of a project and the most important skill a project manager must have. Without any doubt, communication management is certainly a critical component of project management and a common thread that runs through the project lifecycle.

Project Stakeholders Management

As of the PMBOK 4th Edition there was no such knowledge area. In fact, processes related to stakeholders were actually part of Communications Management. Considering how critical managing stakeholders is, to the success of a project, PMBOK 5th edition included a separate knowledge area for the same. Anyone who is involved with or impacted by a project is a stakeholder and this knowledge area deals with how the project manager is supposed to manage them.

As you can see, managing a project involves performing a set of processes at the various stages of the project. Accordingly, processes are grouped corresponding to these stages and the groups are called process groups.

Processes are part of the knowledge required to manage projects. Each of these processes belongs to one of the nine knowledge areas identified in the PMBOK Guide. So a process has a dual membership—one in a process group, indicating at what stage of the project the process is performed, and the other in a knowledge area, indicating what aspect of the project is managed by using the process.

Below is a table that relates these two aspects:

Now that we know all the processes involved in project management, we will next take a look at the Project Stakeholders.

Previous: Project Lifecycle

Next: Project Stakeholders


  1. Can you update this page to reflect the PMBOK 5th Edition?

    1. Hi - thanks for your comment. Article has been updated to reflect the changes in the 5th edition


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