process group and knowledge area pmbok guide

When I started my PMP exam preparation and read the PMBOK Guide for the first time, I did not fully understand knowledge areas and process groups in project management. I had difficulty grasping the distinction between the two. 

In fact, every PMP aspirant gets confused about this initially, and many also wonder why the PMBOK is not organized according to process groups.

These questions bothered me as well, but I promise that after you read this post, you will be able to untangle PMBOK process groups and PMBOK knowledge areas.

Let’s get started.

PMBOK Process Groups and PMBOK Knowledge Areas

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

Let’s first delve into PMBOK process groups.

PMBOK Process Groups

Project management process groups are logical categorization activities that are organized according to the sequence 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 executing the project. You will spend most of your time and money in this step.
  • 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 same way real-life activities take place. These five process groups of project management are: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing. You will work through each of these process groups to complete the project.

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

Let’s discuss them as well.

PMBOK Knowledge Areas

PMBOK knowledge areas categorize processes with similar knowledge characteristics.

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

First, 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 of controlling the project costs.

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

The first two processes 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?

Exactly, they are all concerned about the cost.

Because they share common characteristics, these processes fall under the cost management knowledge area of the PMBOK Guide, even though they belong to different process groups.

Likewise, look at these processes:

  • Plan quality process
  • Perform quality assurance process
  • Perform quality control process

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, they involve the same thing—quality, right?

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

So, you can see that there is no logical relationship between the knowledge areas. Instead, they are grouped according to the skill required to manage that particular process.

Moreover, there is no relationship between knowledge areas and process groups.


The PMI has organized the PMBOK Guide according to the knowledge areas to simplify the process of learning new concepts. Processes are grouped according to their similarities, sequential arrangements of processes in how a project moves from initiation to closing.

This distinction is complicated, and it may take a while to fully understand.

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