PMBOK Guideline vs PM Standard

PMBoK Guide and Standards for Project Management

Guidelines, Methodologies and Standards in Project Environment

As part of our discussion on how to apply PMBoK Guide to the Construction Industry as Construction Project Management Professionals (CPMP), we need to understand the importance of setting Standard of Project Management for our organizations.

In order to set high-quality standards and expectations, adopting an international or national standard is critical for the success of any organization. For project management, many organizations adopt a general project management framework and interpret it as their own corporate methodology. There is an important discussion on understanding what Frameworks, Methodologies, Guidelines, and Standards are before understanding why PMBoK 7.0 is a Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge rather than the “Project Management Body of Knowledge” itself!

An organization’s culture and unique Enterprise Environmental Factors affect its Organizational Process characteristics which dictate how frameworks are used to apply methodologies and generate their Way of Work. A bit more on this topic will be available in later posts, however, part of this article does a good job in explaining the difference between Methodologies and Standards.

Methodologies and Standards in Project Environment

The role of project management standards and methodologies in an organization’s processes is to support project management in delivering the project products and achieving the project objectives.

Consequently, the choice of an appropriate project management standard is a strategic decision that should be taken with careful attention due to the significant influence it has on project success. The various approaches supporting project management orientation are classified into standards accepted by international standardization organizations (e.g., PMBoK Guide, ISO 21500, DIN 69901, BS 6079:2019), and methodologies (e.g., PRINCE2) that are sophisticated at a similar level and play precisely the same role in the management of organizational projects (Wideman, 2002; Matos and Lopes, 2013).

De jure and De facto, and Specialized Standards

PMBoK Guide 6th Ed with Standard for PM 2017

However, the standardizing organizations do not consider their official standards. The difference between de jure (official) and de facto standards is their official recognition by standardizing organizations. De facto standards exist in practice and are applied successfully in projects (e.g., company standards), even though they have not undergone any formal process, and are not officially recognized by institutions (Campbell et al., 2012).

Hübner et al. (2018) provided a comprehensive classification system based on whether the standard is recognized by the appropriate standardization organizations or applied only as a standard without formal accreditation. Also, they investigate whether the standard is general or industry-specific and serve as a maturity model.

The official standardizing associations publish de jure standards, which can be the basis of formal project management (Hübner et al., 2018). At the international level, there are several examples such as the International Standards Organization (ISO), the British Standards Institute (BSI), and the German National Standards Institute (Deutsches Institut für Normung, DIN).

These associations published general guidance in project management that can be used by any organization like DIN 69901, ISO 10006, IEC 62198, and ISO 21500. Additionally, the professional communities produce the second type of project management standard, which is called de facto standards (Garel, 2013; Grau, 2013). These standards are mainly based on experience. Typically, the information and experience are collected and structured in the Body of Knowledge (Hübner et al., 2018; Project Management Institute, 2017).

The knowledge is published in books or on the web by the community of project managers (see home pages of Project Management Institute (PMI, 2021), Association for Project Management (APM, 2021), or International Project Management Association (IPMA, 2021)). Usually, it constitutes essential elements in a complex preparation system for training and certification, for example, The International Competence Baseline (ICB 3.0), PMBOK, PRINCE 2, PM-Kanon, Project Manager, PM3. For instance, the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) has initially entered the profession’s circulation as a de facto standard and later became an official one, accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI adopts PMI’s PMBoK (ANSI/PMI 99-001-2017) as the only PM standard in the United States.

Moreover, PMBoK carries the characteristics of the two categories (standards and methodologies) (Hübner et al., 2018; Project Management Institute, 2017). [Correction: PMI insists that PMBoK is a Framework that could utilize a variety of tools and techniques that could create an organization’s methodology to manage projects in a certain way.] The third type of standards is the specialized standards, which are developed for specific industries and must be adopted by prospective big organizational customers. These standards are specific regulations, norms, and best practices (e.g., V-Modell XT, Scrum, VDA 4.3, HOAI, VOB/FIDIC). Finally, the technical standards are between the official and the de facto standard sets based on their industrial application. The closely related maturity models must be mentioned as well, which evaluate project excellence (for example, the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3) published by PMI, PM-Delta, and the project excellence model published by IPMA, CMMI, and SPICE) (Grau, 2013; Hübner et al., 2018). These models are not official standards, but they can play a fundamental role in corporate project management culture. Moreover, project management standards should be placed and interpreted in this system. Due to this diversity in standards types, organizations have a challenging task in selecting and implementing the appropriate project management standards. Generally, the major issues in implementing standards comprise administrative overheads and excessive expenditures, as well as a lack of acceptability among project management practitioners.

Project Performance and Project Management Methodologies

Generally, the weak performance of a project does not necessarily arise from the weak implementation of project management methodologies. At the strategic and organizational level, the perceived contribution of project management methodologies differs from the project’s perceived benefits and operational levels. Therefore, organizations should be aware that project management standards are experienced as beneficial but do not lead alone to the expected results per se. Wells (2012) stated that project management methodologies do not guarantee positive project results. Therefore, the expected benefits are often not realized even when the standards are implemented effectively. Undoubtedly, there are many other factors that influence a project’s result, but if a suitable, relevant project-oriented standard is chosen, the probability of success is also higher. The application of project-oriented standards positively increases the chances of success compared to comprehensive ones (Abdulla and Al-Hashimi, 2020). On the one hand, their application is not trivial in any of the organizations. On the other hand, their various positive effects are evident.

Apply PMBoK to Construction (CPMP)
PMBoK Guide 7th Ed with Standard for PM 2021

Despite the anomalies mentioned above, the advantages of project management standards are evident, as presented in the literature. Hübner et al. (2018) claimed that project management standards incorporated into the organizational guidelines have a positive impact on project success. Moreover, the well-developed and improved standards are more common and applied more often than underdeveloped and less widely spread standards (Grau, 2013). In addition, the project management standards have an advantage over general standards in a complex environment containing projects because comprehensive standards focus
essentially on technical aspects, e.g., the project-oriented PMBoK concentrates on the project aspects of the substantially identical processes or activities (Xue et al., 2016).

Rapid assessment methods for project management

The project assessment process has become an essential activity in managing any project and is indirectly necessary to the owner. Pre-evaluation determines the project’s main expected parameters (e.g., profitability, success) before execution. There are several business processes in which not only the preciseness of the preparation of the decision is important, but also its speed and immediacy. Anker et al. (1993) defined the rapid assessment method as ‘a need for a quick, accurate, and economical method of evaluating facilities and client satisfaction. The rapid assessment methods are designed to develop and guide programs or projects and provide an overall evaluation of the value of programs or projects at the critical decision points to enhance the decision-making quality, reflecting on the effectiveness of
future actions (Harris et al., 1997; McNall and Foster-Fishman, 2007).

Therefore, many project owners, decision-makers, and project financiers emphasize the importance of the role that the rapid project assessment process plays in project success, its continuity, and the achievement of its objectives. Clearly, rapid assessment is helpful because of its speed, and it has its place and function in corporate processes, but it must always be used at the earliest project stages. It also helps to predict the amount of effort involved in the assessment process, and it will exclude some of the many ill-conceived plans. The rapid assessment methods are easier to incorporate in organizations with low disagreement or conflict among
stakeholders (Bridger, 1986; McNall and Foster-Fishman, 2007). The contribution of rapid assessments to a well-prepared decision is critical. However, rapid procedures may not sufficiently resolve the potentially crucial elements entirely for an in-depth and final evaluation.

Final Thought on Standards

The reason why standards are developed is to ensure Quality Excellence. To assure quality, standards must be acceptable by national and international organizations that are recognized as the entity to accredited those standards as best practices. The Project Management Body of Knowledge is so vast and complex that it cannot be collected in one book. Therefore, a guide would help by providing the right framework to collect all the needed knowledge and apply it as a methodology as it pertains to the project or organization. A Standard sets the minimum expectation and requirement for a system that claims to be of high quality as it follows the requirements of the selected Standard!