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Posted by on Apr 13, 2016

What Changes are Ahead with the new PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition?

What Changes are Ahead with the new PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition?

PMBOK GuideIt’s that time again for PMI® to update the PMBOK® Guide and release the next edition. You may or may not be aware, but since the PMBOK® Guide is recognized as a standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American National Standard, with the current 5th edition being BSR/PMI 99-001-2013. As a result, the PMBOK® Guide must be updated about every four years to reflect the latest in industry best practices.

In March, PMI® released the exposure draft of the PMBOK® Guide 6th edition for review and comment. The 6th edition is scheduled for release something during the January – March 2017 timeframe. This blog will address some of the proposed changes to the next edition. Remember, this is the exposure draft and may not fully reflect the final version we will see next year.

PMI® has finally done what many in the field have been requesting for years – structure the PMBOK® Guide by process group and not by knowledge area. Not only have they done that in the 6th edition, it looks like they have also done a good job of ensuring that the PMBOK® Guide better aligns with the most recent Role Delineation Study released in 2015, on which the current exam is based as was represented by Table 3-1 – Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping on page 61 of the 5th edition. You’ll find basically the same processes, they are just organized differently.

This is both good news and bad news. Good news for project management practitioners and those studying to become PMPs® in that the knowledge areas will now be presented in the PMBOK® Guide the way they are tested on the exam and used in practice. However, this is bad news for all the project management training companies that have their course materials structured and packaged by knowledge area in that they may have to repackage their courses to align with the process groups.

Another big change is that the 6th edition is basically six chapters and not 13. If the exposure draft is any indication, the 6th edition should also be much smaller. Looking only at the content chapters and not including the table of contents, appendices, glossary, and index, the 5th edition had 13 chapters and 415 pages. The 6th edition has 10 chapters and may only contain 84 pages. Much of the page reduction is because the 6th edition does not go into detail on all of the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. The focus throughout the new edition is on project plan components, project document examples, and project document updates. Inputs and outputs are presented in a table for each process, but not discussed individually as they were in the 5th edition; and, tools and techniques are no longer specifically identified in the process tables or discussed in detail.

Chapters one, two, and three have been combined. Instead of providing detailed information on project manager interpersonal skills and organizational structures, these chapters have been integrated and many of the concepts have been summarized into a single paragraph instead of several pages. Also, the discussion on the Project Life Cycle has been simplified and the Life Cycle graphic has been changed to better illustrate the integration of the process groups and knowledge areas within the Life Cycle phases. Section one also includes more direct emphasis on tailoring the project management plan and project documents.

Now let’s look at the numbers and some specific changes:

  • There are still five process groups and 10 knowledge areas
  • There are now 49 processes, instead of 47. Three new processes have been added and one has been deleted.
    • Under The Executing Process Group (Section 4), 4.2 Manage Project Knowledge and 4.8 Implement Risk Responses have been added.
    • Under the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group (Section 5), 5.8 Control Resources has been added.
    • Close Procurements, section 12.4 in the 5th edition has been deleted from the 6th Much of this content is addressed in the new section 6.1, Close Project or Phase, which was moved to here from section 4, Integration Management, and takes a much broader but more simplistic view of project closure.
  • Human Resource Management is now called Resource Management. This broader view recognizes that resources also include material and equipment resources, not just human resource planning.
  • “Monitor” is used for many processes instead of “control”, especially those that rely on leadership or people skills such as communication and stakeholder engagement.
    • Control Communications is now called Monitor Communications
    • Control Risks in now Monitor Risks
    • Control Stakeholder Engagement is now called Monitor Stakeholder Engagement. (From a practical standpoint, project managers have been able to monitor these areas, but had very little control. Control comes through the use of other processes.)
  • Time Management has been renamed to Schedule Management

I have been a PMP since 1992 and have been through all of the PMBOK® Guide and exam changes. Initially, this edition appears to be one of the best things that PMI® has done to make the PMBOK® Guide a better tool for PM practitioners and those studying to become a PMP®. I have talked with several PMPs® who have been in the industry for a long time and those who have reviewed the exposure draft like what they see.

Although the review period ended on April 6th, if you are a PMP®, I encourage you to take a look at PMI’s overview of the process. We’ll see what happens when all the comments are received and the final version is released. As I get more information on the changes, I’ll continue to update on the blog.






    • Richard,
      Thank you for the post.

  1. Could it be that you were only looking at “The Standard for Project Management of a project” section of edition 6? I have also examined edition 6, and much of what you mention is true. It appears that you might have been looking at the Annex A1 of the upcoming PMBOK® Guide edition.

    • Philip,

      Thank you for your comment. My review, posted on April 13, 2016 was based on the exposure draft “The Standard for Project Management (Exposure Draft)” released in March, 2016.

      I did not post a review of the Guide section that was available for review from June 26 – July 26, 2016.
      I have not seen too many reviews of the Guide Section.

      Since you have reviewed the Guide Section, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the changes and the revised format.


  2. Hi,
    Can you tell currently which version can be used for PMP preparation?

    Arun Joseph

    • Arun,

      The exam will continue to align with the currrent PMBOK Guide 5th edition and the latest role delineation study until after the new PMBOK Guide is officially approved and released.

      If history is any guide, even after the new version is released, it typically takes several weeks to months before the exam changes.

      I hope this helps.


  3. Thanks. Great information to know. Do you think I should go ahead and take the exam in 2017 or after the change? In other words, what would be the pros and cons of both?

    • Hi Alonda! Thanks for the comment and questions. Below is the response from one of our PM experts, Lowell Dye:


      Great question! The classic project management answer? It depends. How close are you to being ready to sit for the exam? What is your timeline and level of urgency? How much studying have you already completed?

      Let’s talk about some of the reasons for taking the exam this year. The PMBOK Guide 6th edition is planned to be released in the third quarter (June – August) 2017. Using history as a guide, it generally takes about six months to release the final exam based on the updated PMBOK Guide; so we are looking at the first quarter of 2018 for the updated exam to be released. Until the revised exam is released, there is really no clear way to fully grasp how the next exam questions will be written or the structure of the exam. Remember the PMBOK Guide 6th edition format is changing to a process orientation which could affect the exam questions and format.

      In addition, PMP Exam study materials for the current exam are stable and readily available. Study materials for the new exam will need to be created, or existing materials will need to be updated. Some training companies are starting to update their materials now based on the draft release of the PMBOK 6th edition, but the materials cannot be finalized until after the final release of the PMBOK Guide. As a result, the draft-release study materials are not likely to fully reflect the exam.

      The biggest pro for waiting until the next exam comes out: it delays your testing anxiety another year.

      You asked for my recommendation – unless you have a compelling reason for waiting, take the exam now. It will provide your best opportunity to use clearly validated exam questions, use proven study materials based on a PMBOK Guide that has been around for several years, and have access to resources that are familiar with the current exam.

      Whenever you decide to take the exam, I wish you all the best on it.


  4. Hello,

    What is the recommendation for students who are just starting the coursework?

    I like the idea of having access to real time questions, but there are 7 classes in PMBOK5 coursework versus 4 in PMBOK6 from the school that I am planning to complete my coursework.

    *Level of urgency – medium
    *exam prep – none


    • Swetta,

      Good question, especially because we don’t know exactly when the new edition PMBOK® Guide will be released. PMI is saying sometime in the 4th quarter of this year, with the new exam being released in early 2018.

      I see your question as having 2 parts – 1) courses being in alignment with the 5th or 6th editions of the PMBOK® Guide, and 2) how the courses are packaged into a curriculum.

      I’ll start with question one first. Honestly, at this point it really does not matter whether courses are aligned with the 5th or 6th edition. You will find virtually no one who has totally modified their courses based on the pre-release version. Because it will still be several months before the 6th edition is officially released, companies are just now evaluating their materials against it to determine how much content needs to be changed. More than likely, almost all providers are starting to make changes to the materials, but are keeping them on the shelf until the PMBOK® Guide is officially released just in case something changes in the final version.

      Regarding the second part – four courses verses seven courses – is a much more difficult question to answer. Without seeing the curriculum, it is hard to say. It may simply be a matter of repackaging course content to streamline the curriculum. You used the term, “school.” Is this an academic program or through a commercial training provider? Each would have its own reasons for reducing the number of courses. The best way for you to determine whether or not the courses offered by the new school addresses the same content as the seven courses is to review the course outlines and map each set of courses against the knowledge areas, and do a side-by-side comparison of both sets of courses.

      There are some significant changes, such as an emphasis on Agile, Business Value, and taking more of a project-level focus versus a task-level-only focus, but I don’t see anything so significant that it would prevent you from taking courses now to learn the PM content. Then, when the new PMBOK® Guide is released, approach your exam preparation the same as if you were using any PMBOK® Guide – read the text, identify strengths and weaknesses based on the courses you have taken, and develop a study plan to cover areas where you feel that you need improvement.

      Your level of urgency is medium, which tells me that you have some time and are not rushed to get your certification. I still believe that if you can sit for the exam this year before the new exam is released (for reasons stated in previous blog posts), it is probably to your benefit to do so using the enormous number of exam prep and study materials for the current exam. If you decide to wait until the new exam is released, the only course that I would wait to take and ensure 100% alignment with the 6th edition is a PMP Exam Preparation Bootcamp course.

      I hope this helps and I wish you all the best on your course work and exam.

      Best Regards,

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