The PMBOK Project Management Process Groups Explained


Project Management Process Groups

The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) methodology by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a process-based approach that is structured to analyze the requirements, resources, and schedules of a project in order to optimize project management. The effectiveness and the exhaustion of the project management and other methods that follow are achieved through these key components.

The PMBOK comprises of guidelines, recommended practices, standard principles, and terminologies used in project management. It subdivides project management into 49 processes that are grouped into the PMBOK process groups and areas of knowledge.

What are the Process Groups of the PMBOK?

There are five process groups of the PMBOK. These are:

  1. Initiating process group: These are processes needed to kick start a new project or a new phase of a project.
  2. Planning process group: These are processes that define and layout a plan of how to go about the project, as well as how to execute it.
  3. Executing process group: These are processes that are in relation to the real completion of the activities and tasks of a project.
  4. Monitoring and controlling process group: These are processes that touch on project tracking and monitoring, report generation, and control of project performance and progress.
  5. Closing process group: These are processes necessary for the finalization and completion of a project or a phase of a project. 

PMBOK Knowledge Areas

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam consists of ten areas of knowledge, one of them being project management. These areas of knowledge are key for successful project management. They include:

  1. Project integration management
  2. Project scope management
  3. Project time management
  4. Project cost management
  5. Project quality management
  6. Project human resource management
  7. Project communications management
  8. Project risk management
  9. Project procurement management
  10. Project stakeholder management

Initiating Process Group

The initiating process group comprises of processes that define a new project or a new project phase where authorization is obtained to launch the project or phase. This is therefore the point at which the project is officially approved and a project manager assigned.

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The initiating process group entails:

  1. Definition of the initial scope of the project.
  2. Commission of the initial monetary resources.
  3. Identification of both the internal and the external stakeholders that are likely to interact with or influence results or the outcome of the project. 
  4. Assigning a project manager to the project.

This process group consists of two main processes:

  • Development of a Project Charter

The aim of the project charter development is to formalize the project by documenting the various elements of the project such as the objectives, constraints, stakeholders, risks involved, and budget estimations for the implementation of the project. The project charter lays the foundation of the definition of the decisions made in the project, to make sure that they correspond with the company’s goals and objectives. The project manager establishes what’s contained in the project charter. These may include:

  • The title
  • A brief description of the project
  • The project scope
  • The project’s impact on other business divisions and systems
  • The key stakeholders of the project
  • Roles and responsibilities of the various personnel involved in the project
  • Milestones
  • The financial budget estimations of the project
  • The constraints, assumptions, dependencies, and risks involved
  • The project’s measures of success and the ROI
  • Project approval

The result of the development of a project charter process is the project charter document.

  • Identification of the stakeholders’ process

In this process, the stakeholders are established, both internal and external. These are persons that are likely to be directly or indirectly affected by the implementation of the project, while also establishing their influence and possible contribution to the success of the project.



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The project manager should make an analysis of the stakeholders by learning the interests, characters, habits, and motivations so as to determine their key roles in the project as well as their possible level of involvement. The stakeholder register is the outcome of this process, and it lays out the project stakeholders as well as their roles in the project. 

Planning Process Group

The planning process group aims at laying out a master plan for the whole project in detail, touching on the scope, timelines, financial budgets, as well as the management of the key stakeholders. The project management plan (PMP) is established, clearly defining the expectations of the stakeholders, and how to manage the project.

Planning is a very important aspect of project management, and lack of proper planning can lead to both time and financial overruns, which may lead to major losses. They can also have a negative impact on both the project manager and the project sponsors.

Planning gives the project management team a chance to think through the entire project in advance. They, therefore, have a chance to come up with various plans for the implementation of the project, as well as to consider all the possible risks involved. This allows them to chart responses to the risks and all possible solutions. They also get a chance to tap and exploit all the opportunities that may arise during the implementation of the project.

Baselines for the project scope, timeline, and costs are created so as to help in tracking the progress of the project. A plan on how to manage the stakeholders involved and how to engage them in the entire lifecycle of the project is also laid out.

At the end of the planning process group, the project management team should have a clear idea of what is expected of them, as well as what it takes to execute the project within the stipulated time and budget.

Other documents established during planning may include the scope boundaries document, the list of the requirements document, costs and time estimates document, schedules document, and quality, communications, risks, and procurement plan document.

Executing Process Group

The executing process group is where the actual work of the implementation of the project occurs. The project management plan keeps in check the whole project execution and implementation. The project management team works on the establishment of the deliverables of the project, while the project manager works on the resources required. This process group focusses on the management of project tasks and activities to ensure: 

  1. Progress on the project
  2. Smooth and steady communication between various divisions of the project team personnel
  3. Proper management of potential risks and issues that may come up 
  4. A proper engagement of the stakeholders involved in the project.

The project manager plays a significant role in this process group by directing and managing the tasks and activities of the project, as well as the project knowledge (documentation of the requirements, minutes for the meetings held, important lessons learned). Other key responsibilities of the project manager are the acquisition of the project requirements, establishment and management of the project team, and communications management.

The project team plays a big role in the success of the execution of a project; thus, a project manager needs to inspire them through exercises that promote team building. A big portion of the finances budgeted for the project is injected during execution while the project’s deliverables are produced. The stakeholders are also likely to change their demands, but their implementation can only be approved by the change control board, despite the project team being flexible enough to accommodate changes. During execution, the project manager should ensure that the project maintains its scope.

Controlling and Monitoring Process Group

The project manager should always control and monitor the project tasks and activities to ensure that the deliverables of the project are achieved within the stipulated timeframe and budget, and are of standard quality. The project manager should also ensure the satisfaction of the project’s stakeholders while maintaining coherence and motivation in the project team.

The controlling and monitoring process group simultaneously occurs with the execution process group to ensure enough oversight. This means that the two occur at the same time, though in parallel. In this process group, key aspects of the project such as the scope, deadlines, milestones, and costs are closely tracked in order to send a warning in time in the areas with deviations. Other areas that require close monitoring are the quality of the project’s deliverables, communication to the stakeholders, and high-risk potential issues. Control and monitoring can possibly lead to major changes in a project.

In case of any changes are required to any part of the project, in relation to the project management plan, they should be documented in the plan and consecutively update project management plan. The changes may include timelines, cost estimates, or the project’s deliverables. The controlling and monitoring process group is very crucial as it limits overruns in project resources, as well as project errors. In most cases, the project management software is used in monitoring and reporting the project’s progress. It is therefore important to maintain constant monitoring, tracking, and reporting of the project’s progress in order to ensure that the project meets its objective.

Closing Process Group

The closing process group entails formally closing the project. There are various tasks involved in the closing of a project, and they are very important to both the executives and the project sponsors. They are the face of the whole project, and they say a lot in regards to the whole team involved. The obligations regarding a contract must be finalized, and all contracts made in the course of the project closed, conclusions made and all final details forwarded while finalizing the financial requirements.

The project manager ensures that the client signs off, and accepts the deliverables of the project. The project manager should also officially close the project by archiving the project records, holding a session to discuss the lessons learned by the team, and celebrating the project’s success, and thereafter release the team from the various positions assigned on the project. In case of any loose ends in the project, they are to be tied up before finalizing.

The lessons learned from the project, as well as any other information of historical importance, should be well preserved for reference in future projects to ensure a steady flow of happenings. In most cases, people ignore meetings held in this last process or phase of the project. It is important to note that the closing process is as important as any other process of the project. The same vigor as the rest of the project should also be applied in this process.

Conclusion

It may not be easy to implement these process groups, but failure to do so will only lead to the team missing out on the realization of the goals and objectives of the project. Sometimes we tend to overlook the importance of learning a lesson from a past project. We understandably look into factors that may have led to the failure or the stalling of a project but fail to scrutinize what may have led to a successful project. We tend to celebrate our successful projects and never talk about what led to the success. It is good to celebrate the success of a project, not forgetting to throw weight on finding out what contributed to the success in order to uncover important insights, that can be very useful in future projects.

After closing the project, the team should convene for an agenda-based meeting, not to discuss the simple lessons learned, but to ask the hard question. The project team should try to figure out what went well in the cause of the project, and what it is that did not. Looking into matters about the success or failure of a project with an open and clear mind could turn out to be very important and worth all the time, energy, and monetary funds invested. Easy and open communication between the various persons in the project team is also equally important, as well as the relationship between the project manager and the rest of the project team.

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