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Key Differences Between PMBOK 7 vs PMBOK 6: PMBOK 7th Edition Insights Incl.

Updated: Mar 30

While the PMP exam isn't only based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®), it has been consistently used as a primary reference guide for PMP® certification. Throughout its existence, the PMBOK® Guide has undergone multiple updates, and in this article, I am going to outline the critical differences between PMBOK 7 and PMBOK 6 and how this might impact your PMP exam preparation. Moreover, I've included significant insights into the PMBOK Guide 7th edition and its potential impact on your PMP exam preparation.

As an increasing number of Project Managers attain the PMP designation, the PMBOK® has firmly established itself as a standard for project management across various industries and sectors. Further, empirical data suggests that properly grasping PMBOK® content is closely linked to PMP exam success. Therefore, students who fail to understand and absorb the PMBOK® material have a greater chance of exam failure than those who understand it thoroughly.

What is the PMBOK Guide?

The Project Management Body of Knowledge, commonly referred to as the PMBOK® Guide, is a comprehensive and in-depth manual produced by the Project Management Institute (PMI) that provides project management practitioners with deep insights and understanding of the best practices in project management. The PMBOK® guide describes a series of processes, knowledge areas, tools, and techniques that a project manager can apply throughout the project to govern, direct, and manage it. PMI updates the PMBOK Guide every few years to ensure it reflects the changing landscape of project management.

In essence, the PMBOK® Guide is meant to equip project managers with useful practices to attain superior organizational results.

Evolution and history of the PMBOK Guide from its inception to the latest edition.
Evolution and history of the PMBOK® Guide

Differences between the PMBOK 7 and 6

While several things have changed in the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition, I will provide a short and long answer to what has changed. The short answer will highlight the key changes made to the guide, while the long answer will provide a comprehensive list of differences between PMBOK 7 and 6.

PMBOK Guide 7 vs 6: Quick Overview of Major Changes

The latest update to the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition, in 2021, marks one of the most significant structural changes in its revision history because it represents PMI's shift from a process-based project management approach to a principle-based one. As a result of this change, a major difference between PMBOK 7 and 6 is that PMBOK 7 has become much shorter and more readable than PMBOK 6.

Further, The PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition no longer prescribes specific step-by-step processes or tools to be used in a specific sequence. 

Instead, the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition provides overarching principles to help you achieve desired outcomes, regardless of your industry or role. It's designed to be entirely universal and applicable across the entire spectrum of project management. The PMBOK 7 also covers agile practices, knowledge, and techniques more comprehensively than its predecessor.

Here is an image below, which briefly summarizes the changes between PMBOK Guide 6th vs 7th edition.

Major differences between PMBOK 7 vs PMBOK 6
Major differences between PMBOK 7 vs PMBOK 6

Why did PMI make this change to the PMBOK 7?

Before making any changes to the PMBOK®, PMI usually conducts extensive customer surveys and engages with focus groups worldwide, including project management practitioners, training organizations, academicians, and organizational project and program leader communities. 

Based on PMI's research, it was evident that organizations employ diverse approaches to execute projects within their portfolios. Some use traditional practices; others opt for hybrid (traditional and agile) practices, and some exclusively follow agile practices. As part of their efforts to enhance the content of PMBOK 7, PMI incorporated valuable information on these areas to provide a more comprehensive guide for project management professionals.

Additionally, feedback from the project management community enabled PMI to identify three main goals they wanted to achieve for the PMBOK 7th edition.

1. Maintain and enhance the credibility and relevance of the PMBOK® guide: Make sure the PMBOK® guide stays a trustworthy source of project management education by showing what most people in product management think is the best way to deliver projects and products.
2. Improve readability of the PMBOK® Guide: Don't make PMBOK 7 longer than the 6th edition, which is already 800 pages, by expanding it to 1000 or 2000 pages. Instead, find a way to cover the main points clearly and consider expressing the information in a more concise way.
3. Provide supplemental content to support PMBOK® theory: Explain how theoretical information can be applied practically. Given that project management practices are constantly evolving, it's essential to have a mechanism to stay aware of developments within the profession. Ensure that content aids in applying new practices, approaches, and ways of thinking about projects in practical situations.

PMBOK Guide 7 vs. 6: Detailed list of changes 

Transition from a process-oriented approach to a principle-based approach

As explained earlier, one of the most significant changes in the PMBOK Guide 7th Edition is a stronger focus on project outcomes instead of outputs or deliverables.

In the past, there was a significant focus on process-based definitions, ITTOs (Inputs, Tools and Techniques, Outputs), and a highly prescriptive approach. This involved outlining specific processes in a step-by-step manner to guide project management. This emphasis was clearly seen in the PMBOK Guide 6th Edition, where numerous process groups were categorized under each of the 10 knowledge areas for project management (see example below)

PMBOK 6 process groups and knowledge area mapping
PMBOK 6 process groups and knowledge area mapping: from the PMBOK 6

The PMBOK Guide 7th Edition has improved by adopting a principles-based approach. It recommends a set of 12 overarching project management principles that can aid in achieving desired outcomes rather than being prescriptive. The good news is that these principles are universally applicable across all project management scenarios. 

The downside is that some project management practitioners might find the PMBOK 7 content very lean and incomplete and feel that it doesn't provide enough guidance on the practical steps or procedures needed to manage projects effectively. Consequently, these projects may suffer from a lack of project management direction, which can impact the outcomes.

PMBOK 7 12 Project management principles

As stated earlier, PMI introduced project management principles in this current version of the PMBOK. The 12 PMBOK 7 project management principles provide broad parameters within which project teams can operate and serve as foundational guidelines for strategy, decision-making, and problem-solving. These principles are not prescriptive in nature but are rather meant to guide the behaviour of people involved in projects.

12 principles of project management PMBOK 7
12 Project Management Principles from PMBOK 7

As you can see from the list above, these principles are universally applicable and relevant across all project scenarios, regardless of their size, type, industry or nature.

Introduction of the concept of a value delivery system

The other significant change introduced in the PMBOK Guide 7th edition is the system for delivering value to organizations through projects. Projects not only produce outcomes but also contribute value to the organization. Also, not only does your organization deliver value through regular operations, but they also deliver value through projects, programs and portfolios. In a way, projects are both a system in and of themselves and a part of a larger system, such as the organizational system.

To use an example, consider your industry, whether it's construction, oil and gas, or pharmacy. Each industry operates within its own system of regulations and practices. Similarly, your geographical location also forms a system with its unique set of factors and conditions.

Therefore, instead of solely focusing on managing individual projects, programs, and portfolios, the PMBOK Guide 7th edition shifts its focus to the entire value delivery chain that aligns with the organization's strategy and business goals. 

This shift in thinking explains why the PMBOK Guide 7th edition no longer emphasizes the 12 knowledge areas but concentrates on eight performance domains. The topic of the value delivery system can be found in the second chapter of the project management standard from Pages 7 to 11. 

Tailoring of the PMBOK 7 content

The other significant change in PMBOK 7 is that there's an entire chapter that explains how to tailor your project, given your organization and the context in which you work. Compared to PMBOK 6, more detailed guidance on this crucial aspect is provided in a separate chapter. In the sixth edition, the tailoring content was included near the beginning of the Knowledge Area chapter, and tailoring considerations for all types of project environments were provided.

However, in PMBOK 7, the guidance or instructions given are not biased towards either predictive (traditional) or agile methodologies and focus solely on providing relevant considerations. It's important to note that if you already have a PMO or existing guidelines on tailoring, this content is not meant to replace them but rather to serve as a supplement. The content on tailoring can serve as valuable information for project management practitioners or people applying the PMBOK knowledge to their work.

PMBOK 7 Models, methods and artifacts

In the current version of the PMBOK Guide, a new section on models, methods, and artifacts has been introduced, which provides a high-level grouping of models, methods, and artifacts that support project management. In the PMBOK 6th edition, these models, methods and artifacts were shown as inputs, tools and techniques and outputs (also known as ITTOs) of each process within a knowledge area. However, in the 7th edition, there are separate sections on models, methods and artifacts. 

Therefore, there is now a shift towards organizing methods and artifacts based on their purpose or intended outcome rather than just listing them as part of the ITTOs. 

In conclusion, this section maintains connections to tools, techniques, and outcomes from previous editions that support project management without prescribing when, how, or which tools teams should use. 

PMBOK 6 knowledge areas vs. PMBOK 7 Performance domains

Another standout change we've seen in PMBOK 7 is the introduction of performance domains, which is a major shift from the 10 PMBOK6 knowledge areas.

According to PMI, the adoption of a systems view has led to the shift from knowledge areas to performance domains. PMI further defines a performance domain as a group of related activities critical for the effective delivery of project outcomes. Collectively, the performance domains represent a project management system of interactive, interrelated, and interdependent management capabilities that work in unison to achieve desired project outcomes. In summary, instead of following specific processes, it's all about how you can achieve your desired outcomes by tailoring your processes, plans, and the artifacts you're using.


Does the PMBOK Guide 7th edition replace PMBOK 6 for the PMP certification exam?

No, the PMBOK 7 content does not completely replace the PMBOK 6 content. Key learnings and concepts from the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition still remain valid for the PMP certification exam since PMI recognizes that many project managers have used specific elements like the Process Groups and ITTOs very successfully in their own project environments and will continue to do so. For example, the process domain of the PMP exam heavily relies on content from the PMBOK 6 knowledge areas.

Is the current exam based on PMBOK 6 or 7?

In reality, the PMP exam is based on the exam content outline, which serves as the syllabus for the PMP exam. However, most students are able to pass the exam by properly studying the content of the PMBOK 6 and reviewing the content from the PMBOK 7, as this approach has proven to be effective so far.

Should I study PMBOK 7 or 6 for the PMP exam in 2023?

According to PMI, the PMBOK 7 is a reference book for the PMP exam, along with other books. However, since the exam also tests you on PMBOK 6 content, you must go through the PMBOK 6 content too. 

The advantage of reading PMBOK 6 is that it covers the exam content much more extensively than PMBOK 7. It helps you develop an in-depth understanding of PMI's approach to project management, which can help you grasp PMI's mindset and build a solid foundational understanding of project management.

I don't enjoy reading. Do I really need to read the PMBOK 7 for the PMP exam? 

If you don't enjoy reading, then you do not read the PMBOK 7 for the exam. Rather, you can invest in a PMBOK 7 online course, which explains the content of the PMBOK 7 succinctly using videos and practice exams. This would diminish the pain of reading the PMBOK 7 cover to cover while helping you learn the essential points you need to know for the PMP exam.

Is the PMBOK 7th edition free for PMI members?

PMI members can digitally download a PDF of the PMBOK Guide 7th edition for free, along with other standards and guides published by PMI. If you wish to buy a physical copy of the book, you can do so on Amazon.

When was PMBOK 7 released?

The PMBOK Guide's latest version, the PMBOK 7, was released in August 2021. The PMBOK guide undergoes regular updates to stay abreast of evolving project management practices and integrate new insights and best practices. These updates reflect global perspectives and changing approaches to maximizing benefits and value from project outcomes. Therefore, PMBOK's evolution hasn't only resulted in increasing page count but has also led to substantial changes in its content and nature.

I cannot memorize the ITTOs in PMBOK 6. Does the PMBOK 7 contain inputs, tools and techniques like the PMBOK 6? 

No, the PMBOK 7 does not contain inputs, tools and techniques like the PMBOK 6. Instead, the seventh edition includes a separate section of models, methods, and artifacts akin to the ITTOs in PMBOK 6. Moreover, you do not need to memorize these methods, models and artifacts for the PMP certification; rather, you must focus on understanding them.

What are the standards for project management in the PMBOK 7?

The Standard for Project Management serves as a fundamental reference for both PMI's project management professional development programs and the implementation of project management practices in various projects. Until PMBOK 6, The Standard for Project Management included in the PMBOK® Guide aligned the project management discipline and function around a collection of business processes. 

In PMBOK 7, there has been a shift to a principles-based standard to support effective project management and to focus more on intended outcomes rather than deliverables. In PMBOK 7, the standard section contains three chapters: Introduction, A System for Value Delivery, and the 12 Project Management Principles.

Are agile and hybrid approaches covered in the PMBOK 7?

The PMBOK 7 incorporates agile and hybrid concepts, terms, tools, and techniques throughout all chapters. Each of the 8 performance domain chapters contains relevant information regarding agile practices, culture, and techniques.


What are PMBOK 6 knowledge areas?

The PMBOK Guide 6th edition contained 10 knowledge areas. A knowledge area is an aspect of the project that the project manager must manage. It refers to a specific area of project management practice that encompasses a set of related processes, concepts, and techniques. Each knowledge area in PMP contains processes that align with one of the five process groups: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing a project.

What are PMBOK 6 process groups?

The PMBOK 6th edition contains 5 process groups that refer to a collection of related processes that are performed together to achieve a specific project objective. The Project Management Process Groups include Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. Each process group consists of a set of interrelated processes that are carried out sequentially or iteratively throughout the project's duration. According to PMI, process groups are not project phases.

Can I pass the PMP exam just by studying the PMBOK 6?

You will need to study PMBOK 6 knowledge combined with the Agile Practice guide to solidify your concepts for the PMP exam. You can skip PMBOK 7, as much of its content repeats what you'll learn in PMBOK 6.

Is PMBOK 6th edition as effective as 7th edition?

PMBOK 6 explains project management from the eyes of PMI, and it is still an indispensable book for the PMP certification exam. It's vital to grasp the knowledge areas and process groups discussed in the 6th edition as a foundational framework upon which to build.

We would not recommend discarding the 6th edition, especially since it came with the Agile practice guide, which is indispensable for this exam.

Has PMI sunsetted PMBOK 6 since the introduction of PMBOK 7?

PMI sunsetted the PMBOK Guide 6th edition on March 31st, 2022 and subsequently, in the following months, stopped offering the PDF version of the guide on their website. In October 2022, PMI released the "Process Groups: A Practice Guide" as the successor to PMBOK 6, indicating that PMBOK 7 is not a replacement for PMBOK 6 entirely. The Process Groups: A Practice Guide incorporates Knowledge Area guidance along with prescriptive content for Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs.

This book also utilizes the Process Groups model outlined in PMBOK 6, such as Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing a project.

From PMBOK 6 to Process Groups: A practice guide

Do I need to memorize the 5 process groups to pass the PMP exam?

While you do not need to memorize the 5 process groups in the PMBOK, you do need to understand them well. Mastering the five PMBOK process groups enables PMP exam candidates to understand the flow of a project, which helps them tackle PMP situational questions.

Do I need to write my PMP application using the 5 PMBOK process groups?

It is recommended to use the language of the PMBOK processes while drafting your PMP application project descriptions. PMI expects to see that you've worked across all 5 process groups while managing projects, and applicants who cannot demonstrate their involvement across the 5 process groups risk having their PMP application rejected.

If you need help with writing PMP project descriptions to meet PMI standards, you may consider using our PMP application review and rewrite service, which can ensure that your application successfully passes the PMI review stage.

If you are looking for PMP Coaching and mentorship, which includes personalized coaching+ text, WhatsApp, email, zoom support from a trainer + personalized study plan+ help with PMP application approval+ classroom training (2-3 times a month), then you can check out our PMP Blended Programme. 


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