process group and knowledge area pmbok guide

When I started my PMP exam preparation, I had difficulty understanding the difference between a process group and a knowledge area. Every PMP aspirant is confused about this in their initial stage of preparation.

You may also wonder why the PMBOK is not organized according to process groups.

These questions bothered me also.

Now, I have passed the exam and I understand these issues. Therefore, I am writing this blog post to explain my knowledge to you.

(Please refer to page 25 of the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition, if you have access to it. It will help you follow this blog post.)

Process Groups

The project management process groups are logical categorization activities that are organized in the way that projects are performed.

For example, to complete a project, you go through the following processes:

  • You initiate the project, including developing and approving the project charter.
  • The second step is creating a project management plan.
  • The third stage is to execute the project. This is where you will spend most of your time and money.
  • Monitoring and controlling is a process that happens throughout the project life cycle.
  • Closing the project is the last step. Here, you close all procurement contracts, update the lessons learned, and release the team.

So, you can see that the PMI has arranged the process groups in the way that the activities happen. The order for these activities is: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. You need all these process group to complete the project.

Now, you may wonder about the knowledge areas and how they are grouped. You might be wondering if there is any relationship between knowledge areas or between knowledge areas and process groups.

Let’s discuss them as well.

Knowledge Areas

Knowledge areas are group processes that have common knowledge characteristics.

For instance, assume that you are developing your project plan.

Here, you will use two processes to calculate the budget: estimate costs and determine the budget.

Next is the monitoring and controlling process.  Here, control cost is the process to control the project costs.

Let’s take a look at the processes of estimate costs, determine budget, and control cost.

The first two belong to the planning process group, and the third belongs to the monitoring and controlling group.

Do you see anything that these processes have in common?

Yes, they all concern the cost.

Therefore, these processes are under the cost management knowledge area of the PMBOK Guide, even though they belong to different process groups.

Likewise, if you look at these 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
  • Perform quality control is a member of the monitoring and controlling process group

Now tell me, don’t they involve the same thing—quality?

Although they belong to different process groups, they are related to the quality of the project, so they are called the project quality management knowledge area.

So, you can see that there is no logical relationship between 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.


The PMI has organized the PMBOK Guide according to the knowledge areas to ease the process of acquiring the skills. Processes are grouped according to their similarities, logical categorizations of processes in the way that a project moves from initiation to closing.

Are you still having doubts regarding process groups and knowledge areas? Please let me know through the comments section and I will try to answer you.

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Speak Your Mind

  • Can you assist me with the following information for my assignment. the Project Management Process Groups, Knowledge Areas and processes relating to each. Be able to list them in a
    table format.

  • Fahad, doesn’t the arrangement of knowledge areas from Integration to
    Stakeholder have importance ranking. If knowledge area is just “similar characteristics” of processes in different Process Group… don’t process like Develop Project Management Plan higher importance relative to some processes attached to other knowledge area? Isn’t the Integration Knowledge Area more like the CPU like one of my instructor said? Basically, I am asking if arrangement knowledge area has a pattern or characteristic if not logical reason..

    • Every process is important. There is no use of develop project management plan if there is no direct and manage the work process.

      Relationship among the processes is so complex that you can not say that it is the exact sequence of knowledge areas though the PMBOK tried to be as logical as possible.

  • During direct and manage project work process if any change is required, you will do so and update the project plan.

  • Regarding the “Direct and Manage Project Work” process, how can updates to the project plan be an output? Wouldn’t a change to the project management plan require a change request? I am thinking the plan would already be approved and would require a formal change request instead of input into the planning process. Thanks

  • Blogs like this are very helpfull and clear…It isolates other things and one can concentrate on one process/knowledge area at a time…. I appreciate your blogs Fahad.. Thanks for explaining.

  • Dear Fahad,

    Thanks for your blog. Like others it helped me also in differentiating and linking the process groups and Knowledge areas.
    I am planning to appear in the exam at the end of November 2014. Kindly let me know your opinion for the Rita book for the preparation.
    Secondly, Can you give me one practical example of any project that can help us all to link and to remember the process groups and processes.
    Third and lastly, how is primavera P8 software. Is it worth to do after completion of PMI certificate.

    Thanks again

    • Rita is good, but I will suggest you go through the head first as well.

      Read these books along with the pmbok guide, it will help you link and remember the processes.

      Primavera is good software, of course it will help you in your career growth.

  • Hi Fahad,

    I have a question regarding the studying pattern for the PMP examination

    We have process groups and the knowledge areas. The knowledge areas are categorized according to the process groups. Will it be helpful to study for the PMP exam process group wise or the knowledge area wise.


    • This is the activity ‘s flexibility. This shows how early or how late an activity can start/finish without affecting the project delay.

  • 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 .

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

  • Thanks Fahad,

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

    • 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.

  • 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 .

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hi Fahad,

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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?


    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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…

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

    Can you explain what do you mean by logical categorization?

    • 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.

  • “…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)

  • 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…

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