Do you know what the most common question every new PMP aspirant thinks about is?
I am sure that you had the same question when you started preparing for the PMP exam, or you may be thinking of it now if you just started your exam preparation.
Yes, this is about the process group and knowledge area.
In fact, when any PMP aspirant starts his or her exam preparation, probably the first question that comes to his mind is: What are the process group and knowledge area, and what is the difference between these two?
I also had the same doubt, and many questions came into my mind such as:
- What are the process group and knowledge area?
- What is the difference between these two?
- Why is the PMBOK not organized as per the process group instead of knowledge area?
- Why is the knowledge area needed and how did it come up?
These questions bothered me a lot in the beginning.
I believe that there will be many of you having the same doubts as me, and are struggling to understand the relationship between process group and knowledge area. Since I have now passed the exam and understand the difference between them, I am writing this blog post to explain my understanding to you. I hope it will help you understand the difference between the knowledge area and process groups.
Okay, let’s get started.
(Please open page 61 of the PMBOK Guide fifth edition if you have access to it. It will help you follow this blog post.)
The project management process groups are a logical categorization of tasks or activities that are organized in the way that the projects are being performed.
For example, to complete the project you go through the following processes:
- First, you initiate the project, which includes developing and approving the project charter.
- The second step is to create the project management plan which helps you execute various project activities.
- The third stage is to execute the project. Here is where the real work is done and most of the time and money are spent.
- Monitoring and controlling is a continuous process which happens throughout the project life cycle until it ends.
- The last step is to close the project. Here, you close all procurement contracts, update the lessons learned, and release the team.
So, you see the process groups are arranged in the way that the project activities happen, and the order is: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing. All these five process groups are required to complete the project.
Now, you may be thinking that:
- What about the knowledge area?
- How are they grouped?
- Do they also have any logical relationship?
- What is the relationship between knowledge area and process group?
Okay, let’s discuss them as well.
Knowledge areas are designed to group processes which have common knowledge characteristics. This means that knowledge areas are divided to keep the same type of skill set (or knowledge) in one group.
For example, let’s say that you are in the planning process and are developing the plan for your project. In this process, to calculate the budget you will use two processes: “estimate costs” and “determine budget”.
Next, you come to the monitoring & controlling process. In this process, you have to monitor the project activities to keep control of them. Here, control cost is the process to control the project costs.
Now, look at these processes: estimate costs, determine budget, and control cost.
The first two processes belong to the planning process group, and the third process belongs to the monitoring & controlling process group.
Now, let’s take a look at these processes again. Did you find anything common among them?
Yes, they are talking about things related to the “cost”.
Therefore, these processes are grouped together and are named the project “cost management” knowledge area in the PMBOK Guide, even though they belong to different process groups.
Likewise, if you look at these three processes:
- Plan quality process
- Perform quality assurance process
- Perform quality control process
You will notice that plan quality is a member of the planning process group, 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 tell me, don’t they talk about the same thing—quality? Although they belong to different process groups, they all have to do with quality. Therefore, these three process groups are collected together and named the “project quality management” knowledge area.
So, you can see that there is no logical relationship among the knowledge areas. Knowledge areas are grouped according to the skill required to manage that particular process. Moreover, there is no relationship between knowledge area and process group.
Before I end this blog post, let’s take a quick look at the key points:
- Process groups are logical categorizations of the project management processes in the way that the project moves from initiation to closing.
- In knowledge areas, 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 project professionals.
The PMBOK Guide is written based on knowledge areas. For the PMP exam, it is important for you to know the processes in each process group, as well as their itto. Although most of the reference books available for the PMP exam are written based on the knowledge area, Kim Heldmen’s book is based on process group.
So, I would suggest you keep one reference book based on the knowledge area and one based on process group. It will help you prepare well and understand the logical relationship among processes.
If you have something to discuss further, you are welcome to do so in the comments section.