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Many people enjoy using recipes for cooking, although we all use them in various ways depending on the situation. When preparing a new dish, we might stick closely to the recipe, measuring ingredients precisely. However, when cooking something familiar, we are more likely to experiment and add our own unique twist.

Project management is a lot like cooking. Project managers are the chefs who bring together multiple ingredients to accomplish the outcomes that will please their stakeholders. So how does all this relate to the 10 knowledge areas in project management?

What Is Project Management?

Project management is the art of coordinating project ingredients and seamlessly blending them to achieve a unified result, much like crafting a delectable dish. Through a series of well-crafted processes, the project manager chef skillfully maneuvers the project through its life cycle to the end where we can savor our success.

What Are The 10 Knowledge Areas In Project Management?

The 10 knowledge areas provide part of the structure for the project management process framework described in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) 6th edition from the Project Management Institute (PMI). 

The PMBOK guide is considered the recipe book for project managers. Not only do we frequently refer to it while managing our projects, but it also serves as the foundation for our certification exams that we take to showcase our project expertise.

The knowledge areas are used to organize project management processes by what needs to be done to manage the project successfully. These knowledge areas are like a recipe for project success—they describe processes that direct project managers to effectively plan, manage, and finalize all aspects of a project. 

the knowledge areas to organize project management
Here's how the knowledge areas fit together.

The 10 knowledge areas include processes to make sure the project manages scope, schedule, and cost, and other constraints such as quality, resources, and risk, which are like the recipe ingredients. 

The processes in the areas of communications, stakeholders, and procurement give detailed instructions on how to plan and communicate with all stakeholders and secure goods and services from outside the organization. These are like the detailed steps in recipes such as “cream the butter and sugar until lightly colored”.

The integration knowledge area is the finishing touch: it brings everything together into a seamless whole and serves up the finished meal.

Knowledge AreaPurpose
Project Integration ManagementCoordinate work to make sure that all aspects of the project come together at the right time to accomplish the project objectives.
Project Scope ManagementDefine project objectives, establish a scope baseline and monitor and control the project to meet the scope baseline.
Project Schedule ManagementDetermine a realistic schedule baseline and monitor and control the project to meet this baseline. This is often alternately referred to as project time management.
Project Cost ManagementEstimate costs, establish a realistic project budget and cost baseline, and control costs so the project is completed within the approved budget.
Project Quality ManagementDetermine project quality requirements and ensure that project will meet these requirements. 
Project Resources ManagementEnsure necessary equipment, material, and facilities are available in a timely fashion, assign the right people to work on the project, and organize them to create a high-performance team.
Project Communications ManagementEnsure timely and appropriate generation, collection, dissemination, storage of project information to all stakeholders.
Project Risk ManagementIdentify risks, analyze risks, and monitor risks. Plan risk responses and prepare to handle individual risks and project uncertainty.
Project Procurement ManagementPlan, manage and control the acquisition of goods and services from outside the performing organization. 
Project Stakeholder ManagementEnsure thorough identification of all stakeholders and conduct effective stakeholder engagement throughout the overall project.

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What are the 5 Process Groups in Project Management?

The project management process groups provide the rest of the structure of the PMBOK 6th edition project management process framework. They organize project management processes by when they need to happen. 

This helps you with project sequences and timelines making sure project management activities occur at the right time, like a cooking guide about what steps to do when in the recipe.

5 process groups in project management
The process groups in project management.
Process GroupPurpose and Definition
Initiating ProcessesDefine and authorize a project or a new phase of an existing project. Create a project charter.
Planning ProcessesEstablish scope, refine objectives, and plan a course of action required to deliver the scope the project needs to achieve. Create a communication plan and work breakdown structure (WBS).
Executing ProcessesCoordinate people and resources and develop the team to complete the work defined in the project management plan that satisfies the project requirements.
Monitoring & Controlling ProcessesTrack, review and regulate the progress and performance of the project, identify required changes, and initiate these changes.
Closing ProcessesFormalize acceptance of the product, services, or result and bring the project or a project phase to an orderly close.

The PMI framework of knowledge areas and process groups is a very detailed, tried-and-true recipe for managing projects. And until lately, anyone who wanted to pass the PMP certification exam needed to commit this framework to memory. However, this detailed recipe doesn’t exactly fit all projects! 

This is why PMI created the PMBOK 7th edition, to provide guidance in our projects while allowing project managers the freedom to create their own unique project recipes.

Why are the Knowledge Areas Of Project Management Important?

The PMBOK knowledge areas assist project managers with categorizing and organizing the various project components, and then creating a systematic approach to project execution.

In the case of our dental convention, the knowledge areas help us organize and coordinate all aspects of the event, ensuring its success by preventing any important details from being overlooked.

How Are Knowledge Areas Used In Real-Life Projects?

Let’s take the example of a dental convention, a large-scale project with thousands of attendees. Each knowledge area plays a crucial role in ensuring the success of the convention.

First, the scope management knowledge area is used to create a comprehensive scope statement so we understand exactly what type of event we are creating. Next, the cost management knowledge area determines the total budget for the event, while the quality management knowledge area assists in creating a quality plan

The resource management knowledge area helps determine the number of staff needed to host the convention, and the communication knowledge area is used to craft effective marketing communication to attendees. Additionally, the procurement knowledge area is used to secure contracts for the venue, suppliers, and vendors.

What Happened To Knowledge Areas & Process Groups In The 7th Edition Of The PMBOK?

The PMBOK 7th edition is a very different kind of recipe book. Instead of being based on a detailed project management process framework, the 7th edition presents foundational principles and domains, collections of essential activities, that experienced project managers in all types of project environments can use to lead a successful project. 

This principle-based approach differs substantially from the 6th edition approach of presenting a detailed recipe. This recipe book offers a more hands-on cooking experience based on principles and guidelines. 

The 7th edition is designed to help project managers be more proactive, innovative, and nimble with today’s fast paced projects to create customer satisfaction.

What are the PMBOK 7th Edition 12 Principles?

The 12 principles in the 7th edition guide the behavior of people involved in projects, no matter how big or small. These principles provide a foundation for all project activities regardless of what you are doing or where you are in the project life cycle. Much like in cooking, principles serve a similar purpose of ensuring that the food you serve is healthy, reasonably priced, and meets the expectations of your guests.

Project Management PrincipleSummary
StewardshipDemonstrate integrity, care, trustworthiness, and compliance with internal and external guidelines including financial, social, technical, and environmental sustainability.
TeamCreate collaborative teams composed of individuals with diverse skills, knowledge, and experience to accomplish shared objectives.
StakeholdersEngage proactively with stakeholders throughout the project life cycle to create project success and customer satisfaction.
ValueContinually evaluate and adjust projects to align with business objectives and create the intended benefits and value.
Systems ThinkingTake a holistic view of how all parts of the project interact with each other and with external systems to positively affect project performance.
LeadershipAdapt leadership behaviors to support individual, and team needs and ultimately lead to project success and positive project outcomes
TailoringContinuously adapt the approach based on the context of the project, its objectives, stakeholders, governance, and the appropriate level of formality for the organization.
QualityMaintain a consistent focus on producing quality deliverables that meet the project objectives and align to the needs, uses, and requirements of relevant stakeholders
ComplexityStay vigilant in identifying complexity resulting from human behavior, system interactions, uncertainty, and ambiguity and use a variety of methodologies to reduce the impact
RiskConduct both a qualitative risk analysis and quantitative risk analysis, and continuously evaluate project exposure to risk, both opportunities and threats, to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts to the project and its outcomes.
Adaptability & ResiliencyBuild organizational and project team’s approaches to help the project accommodate change, recover from setbacks, and advance work of the project. 
ChangeHelp stakeholders adopt and sustain new and different behaviors and processes as needed to transition from current state to the intended future state created by the project outcomes.

What are the PMBOK 7th Edition Project Performance Domains?

A project performance domain is a group of related activities that are critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes. The 7th edition defines eight interdependent project performance domains that work in unison to achieve the desired project outcomes. 

Performance DomainSummary
StakeholdersWork with all stakeholders to maintain alignment and engage them to foster positive relationships and satisfaction.
TeamCreate shared ownership, high performing teams, and foster leadership and interpersonal skills for all team members.
Development Approach & Life CycleDetermine appropriate development approach, delivery cadence, and life cycle phases for the project.
PlanningCreate and maintain a roadmap to ensure that the project progresses in an organized, coordinated, and deliberate manner to accomplish the project deliverables and outcomes.
Project WorkEnsure effective project performance to accomplish objectives, conduct stakeholder communication, manage procurements, manage physical resources, and foster a learning environment. 
DeliveryDeliver complete scope and quality results that accomplish the intended outcomes and create benefits that contribute to business objectives and advancement of strategy.
MeasurementAssess project performance and take appropriate actions to keep performance on track to meet stakeholder expectations. 
UncertaintyIdentify and be prepared to handle uncertainty, ambiguity, complexity, and volatility.

These performance domains replace the 6th edition project management framework organized by process groups and knowledge areas. Both views cover all aspects of managing a project, however with a different emphasis. 

The 7th edition performance domains emphasize performance in all domains with the goal of delivering value. The 6th edition process framework focuses on doing the right processes in the correct order. The performance domains are like the general cooking instructions we read at the bottom of each recipe.

How Does The Framework Influence The Principles And Domains?

The PMBOK 7th edition does not mention the knowledge areas or process groups. Instead, it presents project management in terms of principles and performance domains. However, the knowledge areas and process groups are not gone, they have just morphed into the more general performance domains. 

We can use the example of running our dental convention to demonstrate how the 7th edition principles and performance domains apply to projects in the real world. The principles apply to everything we do as we are planning and conducting the convention. 

For example, at our dental convention we apply the principle of stewardship to ensure the vendors we hire for the convention follow local guidelines and regulations. The performance domains describe activities that we will use to deliver a successful convention. 

We use the activities in the stakeholder domain to proactively identify the needs and expectations of all convention attendees, and we do our best to make sure these needs and expectations are met. We use the activities described in the planning and project work domains to plan and execute the convention. 

During and after the convention, we use the activities in the measurement and delivery domains to make sure the convention delivers the intended business value. 

The Recipes For Project Success

Just like chefs, anyone who leads a project benefits from guidelines to get the job done. There are many project management recipes and approaches to choose from. 

The PMBOK 6th edition project management process framework using knowledge areas is a step-by-step detailed recipe—if you select and follow all the steps correctly you will have a successful project.

The 7th edition performance domains are like an overall description of the science of cooking—when you use these principles and performance domains and put them together in the best way, your project will accomplish its goals.

Project managers can benefit from both approaches, in the same way that people who like to cook use a lot of different types of recipes. 

What are your project management goals? What kind of guidelines are you looking for?

Whether you are an experienced project chef or a novice cook in the kitchen, you can find lots more information about project management when you subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter.

By Barbara Kephart & Cheryl Allen

Barbara Kephart, PMP, is a project manager with decades of experience across various industries. She founded Projects Pivot, which matches clients to talented project coordinators and analysts while providing mentorship for project success.

Cheryl Allen, PMP, is a highly experienced project manager and trainer with over many decades of experience in various industries. She works as a learning partner at Projects Pivot, where she shares her extensive knowledge and learnings with project managers.