In 2009, I did a series of posts on Work Performance Information, Work Performance Measurements and Performance Reports, highlighting how the PMBOK® Guide, Fourth Edition was utterly confusing and inadequate in defining and explaining these terms. The posts resonated well with the readers and till date are among the most popular posts on this blog. Some copy-cat bloggers also latched on to the idea and churned out similar posts. But more importantly, the people behind the PMBOK® Guide took notice, and made significant improvements to redefine and clarify these terms. The good news is that these terms are much more simplified now, and the folks preparing for PMP and CAPM certifications need not pull their hair out. In this post, we’ll review how these terms have changed and fill in some of the gaps that still remain.
UPDATE (Oct 2018): This post was originally written for PMBOK Guide, 5th Edition, but it aligns well with the 6th Edition also.
What has changed in the PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition
The following table highlights the changes.
|Old term - PMBOK® Guide, 4th Ed||New term - PMBOK® Guide, 5th Ed|
|Work Performance Information||Work Performance Data|
|Work Performance Measurements||Work Performance Information|
|Performance Reports||Work Performance Reports|
As you can see, the terms have been completely overhauled in PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition.
Data vs Information
Before we go further, let’s clarify the basic terms - data and information. These terms are usually used interchangeably, but the PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition, makes a clear attempt to distinguish them. According to Diffen:
Data is raw, unorganized facts that need to be processed. Data can be something simple and seemingly random and useless until it is organized. When Data is processed, organized, structured or presented in a given context so as to make it useful, it is called Information.
The New Definitions in PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition
Following definitions are quoted from the PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition.
Work Performance Data
The raw observations and measurements identified during activities performed to carry out the project work. Examples include reported percent of work physically completed, quality and technical performance measures, start and finish dates of schedule activities, number of change requests, number of defects, actual costs, actual durations, etc.
Work Performance Information
The performance data collected from various controlling processes, analyzed in context and integrated based on relationships across areas. Examples of performance information are status of deliverables, implementation status for change requests, and forecasted estimates to complete.
Work Performance Reports
The physical or electronic representation of work performance information compiled in project documents, intended to generate decisions or raise issues, actions, or awareness. Examples include status reports, memos, justifications, information notes, electronic dashboards, recommendations, and updates.
Having wasted countless hours trying to make sense of these concepts from the Fourth Edition of the Guide, I can assure you that the new definitions (in the Fifth Edition) are much more clearer, though still not perfect (and I’ll explain that later in the post). It’s interesting to note that back in 2009, I used the term raw data to describe Work Performance Information. Fast forward 4 years, and PMI renamed Work Performance Information to Work Performance “Data” and used the term “raw observations and measurements” in its definition. Interesting coincidence :)
So what’s wrong now?
The new definitions are much more clearer, but still not perfect. Here are some of the examples.
First, the definition of Work Performance Information reads “The performance data collected from various controlling processes …”. I think it should say executing instead of controlling because the performance data is collected in the executing processes, not in the controlling processes.
Second, many other statements are loosely worded and confusing. For example, section 184.108.40.206 says “Work performance information is circulated through communication processes.” Going by the definitions and the analysis of process inputs and outputs, Work Performance Reports (not Work Performance Information) are circulated through the communication processes.
Another example is in section 220.127.116.11 where it says that Work Performance Data includes “Planned vs. Actual” performance. This does not seem right either. The measurement against baselines happen in the Monitoring and Controlling processes and not Executing processes. So, the “Planned vs. Actual” performance should be part of Work Performance Information, and not Work Performance Data.
Figure 3.5 in the PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition nicely illustrates the difference between the three terms. Let’s summarize the main points:
- Work Performance Data is the "raw data" which is collected as the project is being executed (output of Executing processes).
- Work Performance Data is measured against the baselines in the Monitoring and Controlling processes to determine project progress and performance, which is termed as Work Performance Information.
- Work Performance Information is compiled in the form of reports, memos, notes, dashboards, etc. in the Monitor and Control Project Work process to generate Work Performance Reports, which are used to drive project decisions and generate awareness about project issues. These reports are disseminated to project stakeholders through project communication processes.
Work Performance Data
- Scope: work physically completed (20 out of the 50 work packages have been completed), number of change requests (8 new change requests were raised last month).
- Schedule: actual durations (Activity A took 5 days to complete and Activity B took 8 days to complete), start and finish dates of schedule activities (Activity A started on Jan 2, 2014, and completed on Jan 14, 2014).
- Cost: actual costs (till date $233,942 have been spent on the project).
- Quality: quality and technical performance measures (the website loads in 2.3 seconds; the application passed 95% of the test cases), number of defects (5 defects were found in the first round of functional testing).
- Communication: list of communications that have been sent out, the feedback received, the results of surveys conducted.
- Risk: a missed milestone or cost overrun (these could be indicators of risks that have occurred).
- Procurement: invoices that have been paid, costs incurred on procurements, quality measurements of seller's deliverables, etc.
Work Performance Information
- Scope: scope variances identified, their causes and impact on time, cost, quality, etc., status of deliverables (three deliverables have been accepted, two are complete, work is in progress on two, three are stuck, etc.), implementation status for change requests (four change requests were implemented, one is under implementation, two have been rejected, and one has been sent back to the requester for more information).
- Schedule: schedule performance indicators such as SV and SPI.
- Cost: cost performance indicators such as CV, CPI, TCPI, VAC, and forecasted estimates to complete such as VAC, ETC and EAC.
- Quality: causes for rejections, rework required, and the need for process adjustments.
- Risk: effectiveness of risk response plans.
- Procurements: compliance to contracts.
I hope this post helps clarify these concepts further, particularly for the folks who previously studied from the PMBOK® Guide, Fourth Edition but were not able to take or pass the exam. I’m also interested to hear other opinions on this topic, as I could have misinterpreted the information. So please post your comments below and let me know your thoughts.
Image credit: Flickr / CollegeDegrees360