PMI and PMBOK Explained

PMI stands for the Project Management Institute. This is the leading not-for-profit professional organisation for project managers.

The Project Management Institute offers resources and research, advocacy and training. It also provides CAPM and PMP certifications that are recognisable qualifications around the world PMI also offers a set of standards by which the profession is judged.

PMBOK is the Project Management Body of Knowledge. This is a guide produced thanks to the work of the Project Management Institute.  It is a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project management and this evolves thanks to new research.

The PMBOK is presented in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is in its sixth edition. The first edition was published in 1996.  The latest version was published in 2017.

What Does PMI Offer?

PMI is an organisation that includes more than 2.9 million professionals from around the world. The organisation aims to enhance members careers, improve the success of organisations and develop the profession.

PMI advocates for project management, ensuring there are globally recognised standards, certification and professional development.

PMI offers a series of certifications that professionals can acquire.  There include Project Management Professional (PMP) certification – which is held by more than six hundred thousand professionals.


  1. PgMP, which is for Program Management Professionals who manage multiple projects in complex organisations
  2. PfMP, for Portfolio Management Professionals that recognises the advanced experience of portfolio management
  3. CAPM, which is the Certified Associate in Project Management – which demonstrates a fundamental knowledge of effective project management
  4. PMI-PBA: this offers certification for experts in business analysis and exemplifies an ability to shape output in the project and drive business outcomes
  5. PMI-RMP, for risk management professional who can identify risks and mitigate against them
  6. PMI-SP, for scheduling professionals, to demonstrate knowledge and experience in developing and maintain a project’s schedule

These are all certifications that employers recognise. PMI have evidence that gaining these professional organisation qualifications boost the careers of project managers.

PMI also offers memberships to chapters around the world. These chapters are a local manifestation of the organisation and hold events that allow project managers to meet with peers, network and share knowledge and experience.  The point of these chapters is to make connections, gain access to events and seminars and discover job opportunities.

The PMI community also extends online, and there is a knowledge portal that members can access. There are also e-learning courses if you cannot attend the face-to-face events.

Integral to the work of the PMI is the collation of knowledge.  The point is to collate best practice in its guide PMBOK. Part of this is also entering into research, which they call Pulse of the Profession. This is research into trends in project management that is undertaken annually.

This helps PMI position itself as a thought leader in project management – which offers advice and advocacy towards better business outcomes.  PMI note that the research program is the most expansive in the sector.

What Does PMBOK Offer?

PMBOK explained

The PMBOK, as its full name suggests, is a compilation of the best practices in project management. These practices are said to apply to most projects most of the time. It makes it to the book if there is a consensus that there are value and usefulness to the methods suggested.

Project managers would refer to the PMBOK as a place where good practice is described – whether it is knowledge, skills, tools or techniques that can help bring a project to successful completion.

As there needs to be a sense of consensus about the value of the content of PMBOK, any new method or strategy is not included in the guide until this is established. This means that some of the latest theories and approaches suggested by consultants might not yet have made it to PMBOK.

This means that PMBOK is developed by project managers to be used by project managers.  It is written and designed by active practitioners and subject experts. It is reviewed by the project management community before it released to make sure it reflects the current state of project management practice.

PMBOK is process-based. The guide assumes that project goals are accomplished through processes and that these processes overlap and interact throughout a project.

It is split into inputs, tools and techniques and outputs. The inputs are the documents, plans, designs that feed into the project planning process. The tools and techniques are the mechanisms chosen in the design of the project.  The outputs are documents, plans and designs that need to be completed during the progression of the project.

The PMBOK recognises 47 processes. It divides these processes into five primary process groups and ten knowledge areas. The process groups include: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing.

The knowledge areas are 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 and Project Stakeholder Management.

Each of these knowledge areas contains information about processes that will lead to effective project management. Therefore, the book is organised in a type of matrix where strategies appear in both sections.

PMI research Pulse of our Profession has confirmed that Agile practices are now seen as good practice. This means the Sixth Edition of PMBOK comes with a partner publication, called Agile Practice Guide, which was created with the help of Agile Alliance.  The two guides are said to complement each other, and the two books together act as a tool for finding the right approach to your project.

As well as the companion guide, Agile Practice Guide, PMBOK also includes information on how to implement the approaches in the book in agile environments. It also focuses on trends and emerging practices – so those that are not yet fully established but, on their way to being in the book.

In the sixth edition, there is also a greater emphasis placed on strategic and business knowledge, and there is a new section devoted to the role of the project manager.

The content of PMBOK is used as the standard to be tested in PMP, PMI-ACP ad new CAPM examinations. These examinations may also include references taken from the Agile Practice Guide. The examinations are developed by volunteer experts and their understanding of PM practice. Therefore, these experts may choose to include ideas from agile or even hybrid methods within the examination.

As the sixth edition is a recommended resource for these test developers and the Agile Practice Guide is a part of this edition, then they can choose to include agile content in the examinations.

Why Are PMI/ PMBOK Important to Project Managers?


The reason to join the PMI is access to examinations that are recognised by companies. It also gives you access to a digital copy of the PMBOK guide. This is the latest knowledge related to project management – the latest understanding of best practice written by practitioners.  This makes membership important in itself.

Joining PMI is a networking and professional development opportunity. Although not essential, it is helpful to the progression of a career. However, just holding a membership is not enough.

The point is to engage with the community and the learning it offers. Membership itself is not mandatory to be a project manager and nor is it something that you would declare to an employer as such. The point is that linking with the community of project managers offers the connection to the best practice out there – making you much better at your job.

The PMBOK is tough to handle – as it includes such a lot of information – however, if you can tame it then it can bring about streamlining to projects in your organisation. The book is a thorough and comprehensive representation of the processes of project management. Therefore, it gives project managers a chance to make sure that no stone is left unturned in the project cycle.


In short, PMI/ PMBOK together form access to the knowledge basis for project management. PMI is the organisation behind the production of the body of knowledge that represents best practice in project management.

There are other organisations, qualifications and competitors – PRINCE2 for instance – but PMI has a global reach, and PMBOK has a history of significance to the profession.

There are many, many layers of the organisation – including setting standards and offering certification. However, the reason why a project manager should be aware of PMI/PMBOK is to improve performance in their career.

PMI is made up of many expert practitioners and academics. It is these expert practitioners, that still project manage, who have joined together to share best practice. This is an opportunity that should not be overlooked.

You can build your project management practice on the shoulders of years of experience and be part of the movement to even better practice – or you will have to learn this all for yourself through a process of trial and error.

If PMI or PMBOK are not suitable for you, read about other Project Management Methodologies.

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