Project Management Institute

Extending the PMBOK guide

Since its publication, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) has met with wide acceptance across industries, nations and cultures as the preeminent compilation of generally accepted project management knowledge and practices. Along with this acceptance, there has been a developing interest in adapting the PMBOK Guide to address variances in approach, terminology, or tools and techniques as they are used in different areas of application. The PMI Standards Committee recognized this interest and made provision for application area extensions in Appendix E to the PMBOK Guide. This article provides a summary of the background, development and current status of the implementation of application area extensions to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Your input is solicited regarding the draft process (following this article) for developing and maintaining such extensions.

Genesis of the Concept

The concept of extensions emerged from several sources. The efforts of several PMI members at the U.S. Defense Systems Management College (DSMC) and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) are illustrative. In 1990, the DSMC and PMI agreed to conduct an experiment involving the selection of a cross-section of recent graduates of the DSMC Program Management Course to take the PMI professional certification examination with only very minimal additional preparation. The exceptionally high pass rate (80 percent first time, and all others with one retake) convinced managers in both institutions that the competencies underlying the DSMC curriculum and the knowledge areas in the PMI’s 1987 Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) are generally applicable in both arenas. The only significant differences lie in the Department of Defense (DOD) peculiar requirements and practices. This led two members of the DSMC faculty to the idea that codifying the defense-peculiar material along the lines of PMI’s 1987 PMBOK would be a useful tool for DOD and defense industry project managers. They initiated a formal research project to support definition and development of such a tool. Simultaneously a PMI student member at AFIT was conducting a research project to define a defense-specific project management body of knowledge. That research concluded that there was a need in the U.S. DOD for such a body of knowledge and that there was broad overlap of the PMI and DOD knowledge areas. (See Kobylarz, K., “Establishing a Department of Defense Program Management Body of Knowledge,” Proceedings, 1991 PMI Seminar/Symposium, Dallas, Texas, Sep.—Oct. 1991,275–279.)

Development of the Concept

At the 1992 PMI symposium, a paper on the developing qualification requirements for project managers in the U.S. Department of Defense (see Ayer, F.L., and Cook, C.R., “Program Management in the U.S. Department of Defense: Acquisition Workforce Improvement,” Proceedings, 1992 PMI Seminar/Symposium Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 1992, 485-489) led to discussions which revealed that there was also impetus in other, non-defense, application areas for application-specific sections of the PMI’s 1987 PMBOK. The 1987 PMBOK was then undergoing a rigorous update, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to determine how best to address this perceived issue.

After much discussion and member input, over a period of more than a year, the PMI Standards Committee adopted the concept of a generic document called A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, with application area extensions. Appendix E was included in the PMBOK Guide to accommodate such extensions. (See A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Project Management Institute, Upper Darby Pa., 1996). Any members desiring to develop an extension must acquire the sponsorship of a PMI organization (i.e., a Specific interest Group [SIG] or a local chapter or other recognized sub-unit of PMI). Before inclusion, the proposed extension will be required to undergo a review and approval process equally as rigorous as that applied to the PMBOK Guide. The intent is that an extension will parallel the form of the PMBOK Guide, and will not duplicate material in the basic document, but will add only the application-area-peculiar aspects of each of the PMBOK Guide knowledge areas. Some areas of PMI membership are interested in modifying the PMI Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification to include, as a further refinement, the additional opportunity to certify in specific application areas based on approved extensions. This may help address the concerns expressed by some corporate members as to the specific value of PMP Certification to their businesses. (See Ayer, F.L., and Bahnmaier, W., “Toward a Defense Extension to the Project Management Body of Knowledge,” International Journal of Project Management, Apr. 1995, 125-128.)

Process for Development and Maintenance of Extensions

In February 1996, the PMI Standards Committee initiated a project to develop the process to implement the provision for extensions. Three members of the committee sought volunteers from the SIG Council to join them on a subcommittee to write the process. This source was solicited because it seems likely that some SIGs will be sponsors of extensions for their areas of PM application. Indeed, several SIGs have extension projects under way. The subcommittee members were Dan Green and Roy Ross, Information Systems SIG; Bill Moylan, Manufacturing SIG; Charlie Waligura, Oil, Gas, Petrochemicals SIG; Doug Tryloff, Brian Fletcher and Fred Ayer, Standards Committee. The subcommittee produced the first draft of the process in October 1996, and the process was presented for discussion at both the SIG Council meeting and the Standards Committee meeting, during the Seminars & Symposium in Boston. Comments received were processed and the revised draft was again reviewed at the Standards Committee meeting in Chicago in December 1996. The final report and proposed process were formally transmitted to the PMI Director of Standards in March 1997. At that time, the subcommittee chair was asked to write this article to introduce the proposed process to the membership as a whole. In September 1997, the Standards Committee recommended that the Exposure Draft, required for all PMI Standards Documents, be published in the PM Network, and that this article be used to introduce it to the membership and invite comments.

The Exposure Draft

The process for approving PMI Standards Documents is included in Appendix A of the PMBOK Guide. The exposure draft of the process for developing and maintaining application area extensions follows this article. The new extensions process would be published as a revised Appendix E to the PMBOK Guide. It includes a discussion of the need and criteria for extensions and requirements for format and publishing. It then describes the extensions development and maintenance process, both in narrative form and in a deployment flow chart.

Comments are invited from all interested readers. To assist in the formulation of your thoughts on extensions, it may be useful to assure a common understanding of what an extension is. As a start, let's mention what an extension is not. It is not a “how to” document or a “practice standard.” Such documents may be published as PMI Standards Documents but they are not what are intended as extensions of the PMBOK Guide. Similarly, extensions are not a lower level of detail than is addressed in the PMBOK Guide. That may be addressed in handbooks or guidebooks and may be published by PMI or others; but, again, it is not what is intended for extensions. Rather, application area extensions are additions to the core material of the PMBOK Guide but not substitutes for it. Extensions will be organized in a fashion similar to the PMBOK Guides; i.e., by identifying and describing the project management processes unique to that application area. In different application areas, there may be a need to identify additional processes, to subdivide common processes, to define different sequences or process interactions, or to add elements to the common process definitions. Extensions will match the PMBOK Guide in style and content and they will use the paragraph and subparagraph numbers of the PMBOK Guide material that has been extended. Sections and paragraphs of the PMBOK Guide that are not extended will not be repeated in extensions.

For example, the draft Defense Extension includes the different terminology that defense projects use to describe the elements of project risk management and a presentation of the regulatory restrictions on contracting in defense project procurement management. It will also include the U.S. DOD Planning, Programming and Budgeting process in the chapter on project cost management and the use of earned value management, probably in project integration management. In addition, it will of necessity identify additional application-area-peculiar processes that must be formally managed by defense project managers, including systems engineering management, test and evaluation management, logistics management, and acquisition strategy management. Since many of these topics are treated and applied across the knowledge “pie” at different angles than those selected for the PMBOK Guide knowledge areas, this extension will have to integrate these processes into the existing structure of the PMBOK Guide in the most appropriate places. Similar considerations will almost certainly exist for all extensions that may be proposed.

Those contemplating developing an extension should pay particular attention to the requirements for an up-front proposal, which includes the justification (need) for the extension, identification of resources required and sources available, and a commitment to the PMI procedures for extension development and maintenance.

Specific Comments Solicited

Comments are welcome from all readers on any aspect of the draft process. However, there are some specific areas where the Standards Committee would particularly appreciate your input.

1. It has been suggested that PMI should consider proposals for extensions from sources other than PMI sub-organizations, e.g., from other professional or industry associations. Considering the requirements for maintaining and updating extensions, would this be a desirable change to the proposed process? Why or why not?

2. The proposed process covers extensions that are developed at the initiative of groups of individual members—a grassroots approach. There have been suggestions that the PMI Board should consider sponsoring extensions for which a market need is perceived, and contract for their development and maintenance. Would this be a desirable change? Why or why not?

3. The draft process calls for each extension to be a separate document that would be used in conjunction with the PMBOK Guide. There have been suggestions for other ways of publishing and binding extensions. For example, PMI could decide to start with the PMBOK Guide and integrate it with the application-area-specific material into a complete application-area-specific version of the PMBOK Guide. Considering both utility of use and complexity of maintenance and updates, would this, or any other way of providing the extensions, be a desirable change? Why or why not?

4. The draft process requires coordination at several points with the SIG Council. Is this a good idea? Why or why not? What specific inputs should be asked of the SIG Council? Is there any other coordination that should be required? What and with whom?

5. Other comments or questions, with full explanations, are welcome.


Comments will be accepted for six months from the publication date of this issue. Please send them to Lewis M. Gedansky, Ph.D., Technical Research and Standards Manager, at the PMI Executive Office, e-mail r& ■

Frederick L. Ayer, PMP, is retired from active duty with the U.S. Air Force, and is an executive-in-residence on the faculty of the Defense Systems Management College in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the PMI Standards Committee and chair of the Aerospace and Defense SIG.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network • November 1997



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