Wednesday, January 02, 2013

PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition: Big-Time Changes That Will Impact Your PMP Exam Studies

I always thought that the PMI Standards Subcommittee that developed the fourth edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (the PMBoK Guide) was light years ahead of the rest of us. Who else could update that standard to allow it to answer all of our project management questions as well as set the number of processes to provide “the answer to the great question of life the universe and everything”1. Well, time marches on; and so does the PMBoK Guide. During the last week of December, 2012, the PMI released the fifth and latest PMBoK Guide edition. On 31 July 2013, the PMBoK Guide fifth edition will become the basis for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. The answer to the great question of life the universe and everything” just became more complicated. Over its lifetime, the PMBoK Guide receives updates every few years. Compared to the level of change in the fifth edition, the sum of all the second through fourth edition updates are minor. 

Don’t attempt to read the text in Figure 1; just look at the colors. Here is the familiar table that lists the PMBoK Guide processes, within the framework of the horizontal Knowledge Areas and vertical Process Groups. The first thing you will notice is how colorful things are. Instead of 42 Processes, there are now 47, and a new Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area. And how many Processes were left untouched?...None!!...The color coding provides an indication of how a process changed. 

Fig 1 - All Fourth Edition Processes Received Changes

Figure 2 lists the types of changes the processes received. The single largest point of this article is that all of the fourth edition processes received some type of change in the fifth edition. That will render all of the existing study material irrelevant. So, if you are testing on or after 31 July 2013, you will need new fifth edition-based study material.

Fig 2 - Type Of Change (Some processes received multiple changes)

Another major change involves the migration of much of the information from Chapters 2 & 3 to a new Annex 1 section near the back of the PMBoK Guide. The intent is for the Annex 1 section to become a separate standard for Project Management.

I like the fifth edition. It provides a significant update that pulls the PMBoK Guide a whole lot closer to the actual methodologies currently in use. It spends significant time on virtual teams and Agile. The 2000 edition (second edition) didn’t want to admit virtual teams existed and the fourth edition only started to mention that there is this thing called “Agile” out there. All of this is great progress!

So, what should you do, if you are studying for the PMP exam? Hurry-up! To beat the last minute rush, use your current materials and sit for the exam before the end of June, 2013. If history is an indicator for potential future situations, in July 2013 you will have a difficult time finding a test center with an open seat.

All the study material out there right now is fourth edition-based. It will be a couple months before fifth edition study material will be readily available. As I tell the folks in my PM Lessons Learned Study Group, be very careful that you know the PMBoK Guide base of anything that you buy. Some dastardly people are still selling third edition study material!

If your personal situation forces you to sit for the PMP exam after 31 July 2013, don’t despair. Just grab a copy of the fifth edition now and start reading. The fifth edition study material will be along shortly.

1. “The Answer to the Great Question... Of Life, the Universe and Everything... Is... Forty-two,' said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”