Process Group and Knowledge Area in the PMBOK Guide

process-group-and-knowledge-areaWhat are the Process Groups and Knowledge Areas? This was one of few doubts that came to my mind when I started preparing for my PMP Certification Exam and I referred the PMP reference books and the PMBOK Guide for the first time. Many questions regarding the process groups and knowledge areas started to bothering me. For example:

  • Why is the PMBOK Guide not organized as per the Process Group instead of Knowledge Areas?
  • How did this Knowledge Area thing come up? and
  • Why are the Knowledge Areas needed at all?

I believe that there will be many professionals who have just started the PMP Exam preparation may have the same doubts, and are struggling to find the relationship between the process groups and the knowledge areas.

Therefore, in this blog post I’ll try to clear those doubts regarding the process groups and knowledge areas.

Okay, let’s get started…

(Please Open Page-43 on the PMBOK Guide fourth edition, if you’ve access to it. It will help you to visualize the concepts discussed here in this blog post.)

The Project Management process groups are a logical categorization of tasks or activities in a way that the projects are being performed.

For example, first you initiate the project, and then you make a plan for it. Once the plan completes, you will execute it. Monitoring & controlling process shall be performed throughout the project and at the end, when the project completes, it is closing.

Therefore, you have seen that process groups are arranged in way that the projects are taken from Initiating to Closing, and in all projects, all of these five process groups ( Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing) are required to complete the projects.

Now, you may be thinking –

  • What about the Knowledge Areas?
  • How they are grouped?
  • Do they also have any logical relation?
  • What is the relationship between the knowledge areas and the process groups?


First of all, knowledge areas are designed to group those areas which have common knowledge characteristics. This means, knowledge areas are divided to keep the same type of skill set (or knowledge) into one group.

For example:
Let’s say that you are in a planning process group, developing the plan for your project. In this process, to calculate the budget you will use two processes; Estimate Costs and Determine Budget.

Now, come to the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group. In this process you have to monitor the project activities to keep control on them. Here, Control Cost is the process that is used to control the project costs.

Now, look at these processes
1.    Estimate Costs
2.    Determine Budget
3.    Control Cost.

You just saw that the first two processes belong to the Planning Process Group, and the third process belongs to the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

Now, let’s have a look on these processes again. Did you find anything similar among them?

Yes, they are talking about things related to the “Cost.”

Therefore, they are grouped together and named the “Project Cost Management” knowledge area in the PMBOK Guide.

In the same manner, if you look at these three processes:
1.    Plan Quality Process
2.    Perform Quality Assurance Process, and
3.    Perform Quality Control Process

You will notice that Plan Quality is a Planning Process Group’s member, Perform Quality Assurance is a member of the Executing Process Group and Perform Quality Control is a member of the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group.

Now, look these processes again. Don’t they talk about the same thing – Quality? Although, they belong to different process groups, they are  talking about the things related to the “Quality.”

Therefore, these three process groups are collected together under the one knowledge area and named “Project Quality Management.”

Now, you have seen how the Knowledge Areas are designed. They are designed to keep the same knowledge in one group.

Answers to rest of your doubts are as follows:

  • There is no logical relationship among the knowledge areas.
  • And, also there is no relationship between the knowledge areas and the process group.

Let’s have a quick summary on the process groups and knowledge areas:

  • Process Groups are logical categorization of the project management processes in a way that the project moved from initiation to closing.
  • In Project Management Knowledge Areas, project processes are grouped as per their similarities on the subject.
  • The PMBOK Guide is organized as per the Knowledge Areas to ease the process of acquiring the skills for the project professionals.

Here, the discussion about the project management process group and knowledge area finishes. I have tried my best to clear the cloud; however, if you have any suggestions to improve this blog post or you need to discuss further – you are welcome to do so in comments section.

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  1. Hi,

    Your Blog is very nice and easy to understand the complex. The way you write the articles in simple english is highly appriciated. Keep going…. Thanks…

  2. “…all these five process groups (e.g. Initiating, Planning, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing)…”

    Executing is missing (just to improve the quality of this content… pls delete this comment)

  3. Ahmad Huzri says:

    Project Management process groups are logical categorization of tasks or activities…

    Can you explain what do you mean by logical categorization?

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Initiation process group contains the processes relating to Initiating of the project and planning process group has the processes which will help the project manager to build the plan for the project.

  4. Ahmed Giwa says:

    I had issues with “Process Group and Knowledge Area” while preparing for the PMP exam too.
    You did a good job in breaking it down, and using the Table 3-1 of PMBOK Guide 4th Edition.

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Not only you, I also had the same issue and more interestingly I did not find solution of it in any book referred by me. I think that this is the one of basic question that any new PMP aspirant may have…

  5. I loved this explanation. I just started out preparing for PMP, and was very confused. You have no idea how you have removed that one mental block I had stuck in my head.

  6. Great!. It helped me to understand the concept. Excellent Explanation!.


  7. I love your blog – its really easy to read and understand. Im currently reviewing Capter 3- Project Management Processes for a Project and I have a question .
    Does each Process group have Input tools and techniques and outputs. because the same thing is also listed in chapter 4 and its confusing me.

    Why do they list ITTO in both chapter under the Knowledge and the process groups. I dont know the difference. do you mind explaining it to me please.

  8. I love your blog, its really easy to read and understand. Im currently reviewing Chapter three and Im a bit confused to when it comes to the ITTO of the process groups and later on in chapter 4 they do ITTO for knowledge groups. I dont understand the difference. can you explain it to me please

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Hello Maha, thanks for visiting and liking my blog.

      I have gone through all your three comments and I can say that I understand your problem very well.

      You have two doubts, first one is about the difference between process group and knowledge area and second one is difference between process groups and phases.

      Regarding the difference between knowledge area and process group, please read my this blog post about it again.

      Regarding your second doubt – A project has five phases and each phase has several processes and each process has input, tool & technique and output.

      PMI has divided the PMBOK in nine knowledge areas and each knowledge area contains the relevant process in it.

      Chapter three of PMBOK guide gives you a general idea about all processes in short and then all remaining chapters talk it in details; therefore, you are seeing processes from chapter three repeating in other places.

      I also advice you to first read any good PMP exam reference book then go to the PMBOK guide. It will help you a lot to understand the PMBOK guide better.

  9. Thank you so much Fahad! youve been of great help!
    Can you recommend a good book for me?


  10. Hi Fahad,

    I visited your blog while searching meaning for PMP process. The way you explain concept is really amazing. Since then I become regular visitor of your blog. Can you explain what are we doing in integration knowledge area with process group wise?

    As per my knowledge in Planning process group under integration, we are integrating all the knowledge area plans into one cohesive whole. But I don’t have idea what we are doing under integration in Initiating, Execution, Monitor & Control & Closing. Please help

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Hello Sathish,

      Direct and Manage Project Execution process is about exercising the work defined in planning group,

      Monitor and Control Project Work &Perform Integrated Change Control are about the monitoring the change and approving/rejecting the change request. Finally, Close Project or Phase is about the activities related to formally closing of phase or the project.

  11. Hi Fahad,

    Thanks your explanation. It gives general idea of what we are doing in each process group. Can you further explain what we are doing under Integration management for each process group.

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Sathish, I would recommend you to refer chapter four of the PMBOK Guide, i.e. project integration management to find in-depth detail of each process..

      I believe that after reading it you will have better understanding about each process.

  12. Hi Fahad,

    Your clarification on the uncertainties is very helpful. I have referred to your writing to aid me with a report I am compiling for students of mine. I am in the the Civil Engineering field. I however would like to know if you have insight into project management in the field of Construction. I am trying to depict the relationship between the process groups and knowledge areas from the point of view of a contractor, in the form of a matrix chart as in page 43 of the PMBOK.

    Have you got any publication in this regard?


    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Tools & Techniques describes in the PMBOK Guide applies equally to contractor and the client.

      Let me know if you have any specific query, I’ll try to find answer for you.

  13. Sanjay Kumar says:

    Hi Fahad,

    What is the best book/source to begin with PMP study?
    And later how do I proceed ?

  14. So is it worthwhile reading the PMBOK in process group or knowledge area like the it is set up?

  15. Praveen Devadiga says:

    Hi Fahad,

    I got through your blog through google while i was looking out for the ITTOs understanding.
    Your blog is really excellent and easy to understand.
    Actually i am planning for my PMP exam by May 2014 for which i have started my studies.
    I have started by studying from Head First PMP and PMBOK simultaneously.
    A word of advise from you would be really helpful as to whether i am following the right way.

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      You are going in good direction. Try to refer one more reference book, and practice some sample questions.

      Read the PMBOK guide as many times as you can.

  16. Praveen Devadiga says:

    Hi Fahad,

    While going through the Scope Management chapter i came across a term Project Management Information system in which configuration system is there.Could you please explain this.

  17. Praveen Devadiga says:

    Hi Fahad,

    From the exam point what are the topics in Scope Management chapter to be concentrated more on.

  18. Fahad Usmani says:

    Hello Praveen,

    Your aim should not be only pass the exam. This is an opportunity for you to excel yourself in project management framework.

    All project management processes are connected to each other and if you miss any of these, you may not get a full picture of it.

    You must concentrate on all knowledge areas and processes.

  19. Praveen Devadiga says:

    Sure Fahad, i am going through each and every processes to understand the concept of Project Management.

    Can you please explain Activity Attributes process in Time Management .

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Activity attributes are properties of the activity. For example, when it will start, how much cost this activity will take to complete, what kind of resource this activity will use, name of successor activity, predecessor activity etc.

  20. Praveen Devadiga says:

    Thanks Fahad,

    In Cost Management , Determine budget process what does ” Rolling estimates to Control accounts”

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Generally in rolling wave planning or estimate, near term planning or estimate is performed with every detail while the future plan performed at higher level.

  21. Praveen Devadiga says:

    Thanks Fahad,

    Sorry to bother you with my queries.Just want to understand the terms as i am studying.

    What do you mean by Requirements Traceability Matrix .

    • Fahad Usmani says:

      Requirements Traceability Matrix connects each project requirements to its origin, defines its objective, business needs, etc.

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