10 (PMBOK) Project Management Knowledge Areas

Let's break it down

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There’s a lot to learn as a project manager! A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition breaks down what project managers need to know to successfully pass their PMP® exam and also be effective in the role.

There are 10 project management knowledge areas covered by the PMBOK® Guide. They cover each of the 47 project management processes. This article provides a high-level view of each of these areas in relation to what you need to know and do as a project manager.

Project Integration Management

This is covered first in the PMBOK® Guide, but it’s about bringing together everything you know so that you are managing your project holistically and not in individual process chunks. Because of that, it’s easier to study this knowledge area last. Skip this section of the book and come back to it later!

Project Scope Management

‘Scope’ is the way to define what your project will deliver. Scope management is all about making sure that everyone is clear about what the project is for and what it includes. It covers collecting requirements and preparing the work breakdown structure. (Here’s how to breakdown tasks.)

Project Time Management

Project time management isn’t about being personally more effective. It relates to how you manage the time people are spending on their project tasks, and how long the project takes overall. This knowledge area helps you understand the activities in the project, the sequence of those activities, and how long they are going to take.

It’s also where you prepare your project schedule.

Project Cost Management

Cost management is, as you’d expect, all about handling the project’s finances. The big activity in this knowledge area is preparing your budget which includes working out how much each task is going to cost and then determining your project’s overall budget forecast.

And, of course, it covers tracking the project’s expenditure against that budget and making sure that you are still on track not to overspend.

Project Quality Management

Project quality management is quite a small knowledge area, as it only covers three processes. This area is where you’ll learn about and set up the quality control and quality management activities on your project so that you can be confident the result will meet your customers’ expectations.

Project Human Resource Management

Project human resource management relates to how you run your project team. First, you have to understand what resources you need to be able to complete your project, then you put your team together. After that, it’s all about managing the people on the team including giving them extra skills to do their jobs, if they need it, and learning how to motivate your team.

Project Communications Management

Given that a project manager’s job is often said to be about 80% communication, this is another small knowledge area. The three processes are planning, managing and controlling project communications. It’s here that you’ll write your communications plan for the project and monitor all the incoming and outgoing communications.

There are strong links with human resource management and stakeholder management too, even if these aren’t explicit as I think they should be in the PMBOK® Guide.

Project Risk Management

The first step in project risk management is planning your risk management work, and then you quickly move on to identifying risks and understanding how to assess risks on your project.

There is a lot of detail in this knowledge area, specifically around how you perform quantitative and qualitative risk assessments. Risk management isn’t a one-off activity, though, and this knowledge area also covers controlling your project risks going forward through the project life cycle.

Project Procurement Management

Procurement management isn’t something that you’ll have to do on all projects, but it is common. This knowledge area supports all your procurement and supplier work from planning what you need to buy, to going through the tendering and purchasing process to managing the work of the supplier and closing the contract when the project is finished.

This has strong links to the work of financial tracking on your project and also to performance management. You'll have to manage the performance of your contractors as the project progresses.

Project Stakeholder Management

The final knowledge area is, I think, the most important. This takes you through the journey of identifying stakeholders, understanding their role and needs in the project and ensuring that you can deliver those. I think we'll see this area develop further in the next edition of the standard.

If you can grasp all these knowledge areas, you’ll have everything you need to know as a project manager covered!