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  Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas

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.

Process Groups
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, Fifth Edition defines five Process Groups:
  • Initiating Process Group
  • Planning Process Group
  • Executing Process Group
  • Monitoring & Controlling Process Group
  • Closing Process Group
The PMBOK Guide requires the use of all five Process Groups in every Project. However, the rigor of implementation of the processes in these Process Groups vary according to the complexity and risk for the specific project. The processes in the Process Groups guide the project manager in application of Project Management knowledge and skills on a project, in order to meet the project objectives.

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.

Knowledge Areas
When Project Management processes are grouped by areas of specialization, they form Knowledge Areas. The PMBOK Guide, Fifth Edition defines ten 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
  • Project Stakeholder Management
All together, the PMBOK Guide, Fifth Edition defines 47 Project Mangement Processes, mapped across five Process Groups and ten Knowledge Areas. Refer to the figure below for Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping.

PMBOK Project Management Processes: Process Groups vs Knowledge Areas

The Knowledge Areas describe what a project manager needs to know, and the Process Groups describe what a project manager needs to do.

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  Understanding ITTOs for the PMP Exam: Introduction

Input, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs (ITTOs) of the Project Management processes from the PMBOK Guide are probably the most dreaded part of PMP Exam preparation. The PMBOK Guide Fourth Edition lists 42 Project Management processes in 5 Process Groups and 9 Knowledge Areas. These 42 processes have a total of 517 ITTOs. Now memorizing these many ITTOs is almost an impossible task. Even if you believe "impossible is nothing", don't expect the exam questions to be so direct as to test your memory. So, the burning question is, "What is the key to taming ITTOs for the PMP Exam?".

Update 1/1/2011: Worried about ITTOs for the PMP exam? Check out:

brainBOK - PMP and CAPM Certification System

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  How to Register PDUs with PMI for PMP Re-certification?

This post is obsolete now. Refer to the latest post - PMP Renewal: How to Report PDUs to PMI?

As per PMI's Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR), every certified Project Management Professional (PMP) needs to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) in each certification cycle (3 years), in order to renew his/her PMP Certification.

Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  Product Scope vs Project Scope vs Project Requirements

Product Scope vs Project Scope What's the difference between Product Scope, Project Scope and Project Requirements? When I was preparing for the PMP Exam I was really confused between these terms, especially Product Scope vs Project Scope. Not that I didn't understand what requirements were, it was just the academic definitions of the PMBOK Guide that clouded my mind. The easiest way for me to understand any concept is to look at examples. Unfortunately, the PMBOK Guide doesn't provide many. Even the popular exam prep guides don't offer elaborate examples. Now that I have a better understanding, let me help you understand these concepts better.

Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  10 Reasons to buy Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep Book [Updated for PMBOK 5]

If you preparing for the PMP Exam, chances are that you already familiar with Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep book. If you go by the Best PMP Exam Prep Book Survey, 65% respondents recommend this book over any other PMP Exam Prep guide. It's easily the No.1 best-selling PMP Exam Prep book. While you would have heard several favorable comments about this book, you might have also come across some contrasting remarks from critics. Either you love it or you hate it - it's that kind of a book. The critics point out the sarcastic and generally pessimistic tone of the book as the main reason for giving it a thumbs-down. If you have heeded to the advice of the critics and given this book a pass, let me tell you 10 reasons why it should be a part of your study plan.

  1. PMI-isms: The key to passing the PMP Exam is to answer the questions the PMI-way (or PMI-isms). Knowing these PMI-isms is absolutely critical to passing the exam. No matter how good a project manager you are in the real world, you must answer the PMP Exam questions the PMI-way. I think I'm sounding like Rita Mulcahy now :) Chapter 1 of this book hits the nail on its head by listing 62 PMI-isms, which are absolutely essential for passing the exam. This gets you rolling immediately. You'll find many more PMI-isms throughout the book and specifically in the Professional and Social Responsibility Chapter.

  2. Rita's Process Chart: The Process Chart elaborates the PMBOK processes and make them easy to understand. While some critique that it distorts the standard vocabulary that PMI has established, but I would say it does help you get a different perspective on the PMBOK processes. She also emphasizes on the order of the planning processes that in itself is a key to answering many exam questions.

  3. The Sample Questions: The quality of the questions in Rita's book (and her PMP Fastrack Exam Simulator) is the best in my opinion. The book contains about 400 sample questions.

  4. Tricks of the Trade: Each chapter has several "Tricks of the Trade" sections, which offer very useful information and tricks for tackling exam questions and also dealing with project managements issues in real world.

  5. Succinctness: The book is written with a razor-sharp focus on the exam. The wording is precise, and content to the point. There are no wasted words in this book.

  6. Exercises: The book has tons of exercises. It really gives you an opportunity to think, write down your answers in blank spaces provided, look at the answers and compare notes to fill in your gaps.

  7. Games: The book includes many other exercises (read Games) such as Rita's Process Game, What-comes-before/after Game and Project Management Scrabble Game. The games really help get your mind around the course material. Just don't expect the same thrills as from your Playstation.

  8. Templates: The book provides some useful templates and samples of Project Management documents such as the Project Charter and WBS Dictionary. These are really useful for people who don't deal with these documents on their projects.

  9. Content Presentation: Use of visual cues, diagrams, charts, tables and bullet points rather than plain text, make the content easy to digest and remember.

  10. Insider Info: Last but not the least, the book gives lots of insider info like the psychology of the exam authors, how the exam questions are written, the important topics for the exam, Knowledge Area and Process Groups wise level of difficulty of exam questions, the common pitfalls, etc. Rita's knowledge and experience truly reflects in this book. After reading this book, you realize why she's a "household name" among PMP aspirants.

While I agree that the book has a general negative tone to it, so much so that it has a chapter named "Reasons you might fail the exam", I still believe it's an indispensable tool for the PMP Exam. Let me tell you a trick to reading this book (BTW, trick is Rita's favorite word). The first time you read this book, strike-out all the stuff that you find negative, with a black marker. After that, you'll be left with a really useful book.

If you are studying for the PMP Exam, I strongly recommend this book. It's the "Gold Standard" in the PMP Certification world against which all other study material is measured.

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  What can Indo-Pak Conflict teach PMP Aspirants?

Recently, a PMP aspirant asked a question about the difference between the two conflict resolution techniques - Smoothing and Compromise - in PMP Cert Online Study Group. His question inspired me to write this article.

First, let's understand what Smoothing and Compromise are, and then we'll look at some examples to understand them better.

Smoothing (or Accomodating) is a conflict resolution technique where the areas of agreement are emphasized and those of disagreement downplayed. The points to note are:
  1. The issue is not resolved, but swept under the carpet. In other words, the issue is 'avoided'.
  2. Since the underlying issue still exists, the conflict may resurface.
  3. Smoothing is used when stakes are low.

Compromise is a conflict resolution technique where the parties involved agree to "give up" something in order to resolve the conflict. The key points are:
  1. The issue is actually resolved, and not just covered-up.
  2. It is considered to be a lose-lose situation because both parties give up something.
  3. It takes more emotional intelligence than smoothing because the issue is brought out into the open and discussed.
  4. It may be useful when the stakes are moderate and when both parties want to maintain the relationship.
Put simply, Compromise is usually better than Smoothing, but depending upon the situation either one can be justified.

Let's take the example of the dispute between India and Pakistan.
  • Smoothing: After the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India suspended dialogue with Pakistan and demanded Pakistan to take action against the perpetrators. But a new development yesterday really caught my attention. When Indian PM and Pakistani Prez met in Egypt yesterday, they decided to delink the issue of terrorism from talks and resumed the dialogue on other issues. Here the main issue of terrorism has been "swept under the carpet". The issue still exists and will surely resurface, but for now, they are talking to each other. This is a perfect example of 'Smoothing'.

    You can read the complete story here: India, Pak delink terrorism from dialogue

  • Compromising: The whole world knows about the stand-off between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. Let's say India and Pakistan decide to split Kashmir into two parts (I mean 'officially' split it) and take control of one part each. If they resolve the issue in this manner, it would be a 'Compromise'. Both parties want Kashmir but at the end of the day, they resolve the conflict by 'Compromising' and giving up some part of their demand. This is just a hypothetical example. Since the stakes are so high, a compromise may not work in this situation.

I won't delve further into politics. I hope you can clearly see the difference between Smoothing and Compromise now. Peace.
Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  What is PERT?

What is PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique)? What is PERT? (Part 3): In the previous article The Power of Three in Project Estimation, we learned about the advantages of 3-point estimation. In this post, we’ll carry the concept forward and talk about a special type of three point estimation technique called Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).

Three Point Estimates are better than a Single Fixed Estimate

After reading the previous article, can I say that we agree that three point estimates are better than a single fixed estimate? There's a very little probability of completing a project on any one given date. Three-point estimates use 3 different estimates - Optimistic (O), Most Likely (M) and Pessimistic (P) - to estimate project duration and cost. Rather than using a single estimate, three-point estimates use a range of estimates. The three estimates take into consideration the risk in the project and help project managers develop a more realistic schedule or budget. For the purpose of planning, a single estimate is derived from the three-point estimates.

What is simple average three point activity duration estimate?

As a project manager, I go around to project team members, collecting 3-point estimates for all the activities on the network diagram. But wait a minute, in order to calculate the critical path using the Critical Path Method (CPM), I need to get a single fixed time estimate for each activity on the network diagram. If you are familiar with CPM, you know that the critical path is the path with the longest duration in the network diagram, and each activity in the network diagram has a fixed estimate. Therefore, we need to somehow convert the 3-point estimates for each activity to a single estimate.

Let's take the example of Activity Duration Estimate.

If you use a "simple" average estimate for a project, you would take a mean of all the 3 estimates i.e. add up all the 3 estimates and divide them by three.

Simple average Duration Estimate = (O + M + P) / 3

where O is the Optimistic estimate, M is the Most likely estimate, and P is the Pessimistic estimate.

What is PERT?

PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. PERT was developed jointly by the U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin, and the consulting firm of Booz, Allen and Hamilton working on the Polaris nuclear submarine project, in the 1950s. PERT is one of the most commonly used techniques used along with Critical Path Method (CPM) to estimate the minimum time needed to complete a project.

PERT and CPM are two common techniques used for project duration estimation.

PERT is a "weighted" average duration estimation technique

PERT combines probability theory and statistics to derive a formula for the average (mean) activity duration from the three point estimates. PERT uses 1-4-1 weightage i.e. tt gives 4 times more weightage to the Most likely (M) estimate than the Optimistic and Pessimistic estimates. The formula for PERT estimate is:

PERT estimate = (O + 4M +P) / 6

Note: PERT estimate is also known as the Expected Activity Duration or EAD or simply Expected Duration.


PERT is a type of three-point estimation technique. PERT uses a "weighted" average estimate rather than a simple average. Three-point estimates are also used for Monte-Carlo Analysis. In this next post in this series, we'll learn how the PERT formula is derived and the underlying assumptions behind it.

Suggested Reading: It Takes Three to Make Good Estimates by Oliver F. Lehmann

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below. I would be happy to help.

8-part series on Project Estimation and PERT
  1. Get Intimate with PERT
  2. The Power of Three in Project Estimation
  3. What is PERT? (you are here)
  4. The Magical PERT Formula
  5. Probability and Statistics in Project Management
  6. PERT and CPM get Cozy
  7. PMP Quiz Contest - Activity Duration Estimates
  8. Standard Deviation and Project Duration Estimates
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  3 Free Video Episodes of The PM Prepcast

The PM Prepcast is one of the best self-paced distance learning programs for the PMP Exam. It's a one of its kind, revolutionary product that is very attractively priced and delivers more than it promises. It also qualifies for the 35 Contact Hours of Project Management education, which is a pre-requisite for the PMP Exam.

Here are 3 free video episodes of The Project Management Prepcast that can help you evaluate the program and make a more informed decision.

You can also read Review of The Project Management Prepcast, and compare it with your own evaluation.

To know more, see The Project Management Prepcast.
Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  The AMA Handbook of Project Management - A Refreshing take on the PMBOK Guide

Are you preparing for the PMP Exam? If yes, tell me honestly - do you know that The AMA Handbook of Project Management is a PMP Exam Prep book? Handbook and Exam Prep Book? Doesn't sound right, isn't it? You might have heard about PMP Exam Prep books from Rita Mulcahy, Andy Crowe and Kim Heldman. But not many PMP aspirants are familiar with The AMA Handbook. And what if I tell you that you can get it for free. Would you be interested to know more? Read on.
Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  Progressive Elaboration vs Rolling Wave Planning and Prototyping

Progressive Elaboration and Rolling Wave Planning in Project Management (PMP) Some PMP aspirants get confused with the difference between Progressive Elaboration and Rolling Wave Planning. The concepts are so similar that the confusion is legitimate. So, let's understand these concepts and look at the differences (or similarities). We'll look at a third concept - Prototyping - while we are at it, all with the help of some easy to understand examples to reinforce the concepts.
Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  Project Management Acronyms for the PMP Exam

The PMBOK Guide Fourth Edition contains nearly 100 acronyms. It even has a separate section for Acronyms in the Glossary. But this section provides a list of only about 50 acronyms used in the Guide. Apart from these acronyms, there are many standard Project Management acronyms that all PMP aspirants should know. On top of this, a lot of jargon has been developed around the PMP Exam like ITTO and LL. I've compiled a list of about 125 acronyms collected from various sources, such as the PMBOK Guide Fourth Edition, PMP Exam Prep books and resources, and online forums.

AcronymFull formRemarks
ACActual Cost 
ACWPActual Cost of Work PerformedOld term for AC
ADMArrow Diagramming MethodRarely used now
ADRAlternative Dispute Resolution 
AEApportioned Effort 
AOAActivity-on-ArrowRarely used now
ARMAAutoregressive Moving Average 
BACBudget at Completion 
BARFBought-into, Approved, Realistic, Formalfrom Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep
BCRBenefit Cost Ratio 
BCWPBudgeted Cost of Work PerformedOld term for EV
BCWSBudgeted Cost of Work ScheduledOld term for PV
CAControl Account 
CBRCost Benefit Ratio 
CBTComputer-Based Test 
CCBChange Control Board 
CCSChange Control SystemNon-standard
CHContact HoursNon-standard
CMMI®Capability Maturity Model Integrated 
COCCost of Conformance 
CONCCost of Non-Conformance 
COQCost of Quality 
CPAFCost Plus Award Fee 
CPFCost Plus Fee 
CPFFCost Plus Fixed Fee 
CPICost Performance Index 
CPIFCost Plus Incentive Fee 
CPMCritical Path Methodology 
CRChange Request 
CVCost Variance 
DFDData Flow Diagram 
DOEDesign of Experiments 
EACEstimate at Completion 
EEFEnterprise Environmental FactorsNon-standard
EFEarly Finish 
EMVExpected Monetary Value 
EPVExpected Present Value 
ESEarly Start 
ETCEstimate to Complete 
EVEarned Value 
EVAEarned Value Analysis 
Economic Value Add 
EVMEarned Value Management 
EVTEarned Value Technique 
FFPFirm Fixed Price 
FMEAFailure Mode and Effect Analysis 
FP-EPAFixed Price with Economic Price Adjustment 
FPIFFixed Price Incentive Fee 
FVFuture Value 
HRHuman Resource 
IFBInvitation for Bid 
IOInputs and OutputsJargon
IRRInternal Rate of Return 
ISOInternational Organization for Standardization 
ITTOInputs, Tools, Techniques and OutputsJargon
JADJoint Application Development (or Design) 
JITJust in Time 
KAKnowledge AreaNon-standard
LFLate Finish 
LLLessons Learned (or Learnt)Jargon
LOELevel of Effort 
LSLate Start 
NPVNet Present Value 
OBSOrganizational Breakdown Structure 
OPAOrganizational Process AssetsNon-standard
OPM3®Organizational Project Management Maturity Model 
PBTPaper-Based Test 
PDCAPlan Do Check Act 
PDMPrecedence Diagramming Method 
PERTProgram Evaluation and Review Technique 
PMProject Manager 
Project Management 
PMBPerformance Measurement Baseline 
PMBOK®Project Management Body of Knowledge 
PMI®Project Management Institute 
PMISProject Management Information System 
PMOProject Management Office 
PMP®Project Management Professional 
PTAPoint of Total Assumption 
PVPlanned Value 
Present Value 
QAQuality Assurance 
QCQuality Control 
QFDQuality Function Deployment 
QPQuality PlanningNon-standard
RACIResponsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform 
RAMResponsibility Assignment Matrix 
RBSResource Breakdown StructureNon-standard
Risk Breakdown StructureStandard
RFIRequest for Information 
RFPRequest for Proposal 
RFQRequest for Quotation 
ROIReturn on Investment 
ROMRough Order of Magnitude 
SMESubject Matter Expert 
SOWStatement of Work 
SPISchedule Performance Index 
SVSchedule Variance 
SWOTStrengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats 
T&MTime and Material 
TCPITo-Complete Performance Index 
TQMTotal Quality Management 
TTTools and TechniquesJargon
VACVariance at Completion 
VEValue Engineering 
VOCVoice of the Customer 
WASWork Authorization System 
WBSWork Breakdown Structure 
WPIWork Performance InformationNon-standard
9x59 Knowledge Areas x 5 Process GroupsJargon

Acronyms related to PMP Re-certification (for certified PMPs)

AcronymFull form
CCRContinuing Certification Requirements
CEUContinuing Education Unit
PDUProfessional Development Unit
SDLSelf-Directed Learning
SIGSpecific Interest Group

Acronyms related to other PMI certifications

AcronymFull form
CAPM®Certified Associate in Project Management
PgMP®Program Management Professional
PMI-REP®PMI Registered Education Provider
PMI-RMP®PMI Risk Management Professional
PMI-SP®PMI Scheduling Professional

Click here to download the entire table as a PDF file.

If you know of other acronyms (related to PMP) that should be on this list, please let me know.
Deep Fried Brain PMP CAPM PMI-ACP Certification Blog

  New Anti-Piracy Features in the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition PDF

I downloaded the PMBOK Guide Fourth edition again (lost my previous copy) and found something very interesting.

PMI has embedded 2 new anti-piracy features in the PDF Version of PMBOK Guide 4th Edition to prevent illegal distribution of the standard.