What is the difference between Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas? The answer seemed so obvious, yet when I thought about it, I found it hard to describe in words. So, I went back, did some reading and put my understanding in words.
When Project Management processes are grouped logically, they form Process Groups. For example, all the processes required to define a new project or a project phase are grouped into Initiating Process Group. All planning related processes go under Planning Process Group, and so on.
The PMBOK Guide, Fourth Edition defines five Process Groups:
- Initiating Process Group
- Planning Process Group
- Executing Process Group
- Monitoring & Controlling Process Group
- Closing Process Group
The Process Groups are linked by the output they produce. For instance, the Initiating Process Group provides the Project Charter as input to the Planning Process Group, which in turn provides the Project Management Plan as input to the Executing Process Group.
Though the Process Groups appear to be discrete and laid out in a specific order, in practice they overlap and interact in several ways. Most processes are iterative and are repeated during the project. Though the Initiating Process Group begins the project and the Closing Process Group ends the project, the Monitoring and Controlling processes overlaps with processes in all other Process Groups and are carried out throughout the project. As an example of iteration, during the Executing Process Group, there may be a need for re-planning and update to the Project Management Plan.
Note that Project Management Process Groups are NOT the same as Project Phases. The PMBOK Guide is very particular about this. For example, in a software project, the Project Phases could be Requirements Analysis, Design, Development, Testing, Release etc. As you can see, these are clearly different from the five Process Groups. When a large project is divided into phases, all five Process Groups would be repeated in each phase.
When Project Management processes are grouped by areas of specialization, they form Knowledge Areas. The PMBOK Guide, Fourth Edition defines nine Knowledge Areas:
- Project Integration Management
- Project Scope Management
- Project Time Management
- Project Cost Management
- Project Quality Management
- Project Human Resource Management
- Project Communications Management
- Project Risk Management
- Project Procurement Management
The Knowledge Areas describe what a project manager needs to know, and the Process Groups describe what a project manager needs to do.