On July 2, 2021, PMI released the much anticipated seventh edition of the PMBOK® Guide. I believe the seventh edition of the PMBOK® Guide is the most significant change in the Guide since 1996. In 1996, PMI published the first edition of the PMBOK® Guide that introduced process groups and knowledge areas. In the sixth edition, there was an attempt to add in more about agile, but I would say this was a force fit as the structure in the PMBOK® Guide was based on systems thinking associated with the predictive or waterfall approach to doing projects. With the growing use of agile, iterative, incremental, and continuous improvement approaches to project delivery, the PMBOK® Guide had to change.
The result, in the seventh edition of the PMBOK® Guide, is the introduction of 12 principles and eight performance domains. This moves the PMBOK® Guide to a higher knowledge level and allows various approaches and methodologies to get more visibility through the PMBOK® Guide structure. The other major change is a border discussion of how projects fit into the business environment, specifically that projects are a delivery mechanism for organizations to create or enhance products and services.
This larger discussion on how projects fit into an organization is something I have been discussing for a number of years, projects deliver products and products delivery strategy. One of the keys is the inclusion of the Delivery performance domain which starts with the delivery of value to the business, customer, or other stakeholders. This recognizes a change that started over ten years ago, where PMI started talking about project managers needing to understand why projects are needed, asking ourselves why we are doing projects and what is the actual benefit. In fact, the focus on value started even before, with the introduction of the Program Management Standard and the inclusion of benefits realization in 2006.
In addition to the discussion in the Delivery Performance Domain, the PMBOK® Guide includes an appendix on Product. Appendix X.4 provides an in-depth discussion of the relationship between project management, program management, and product management. The Appendix discusses the changes in today's business environment, in the Global Market Shifts section, and the need for organizations to move from serving products to serving the needs of the customers.. This leads to the discussion of creating a product environment that allows for continuous delivery, or as I have discussed before, practicing an iterative product development approach. The Appendix ends with a comparison of Projects, Programs, and Products on the following topics: duration, scope, change, success, and funding, topics that are fundamental for product delivery.
The final item I am grateful for is the digital version of the seventh edition of the PMBOK® Guide from the PMI website is 370 pages, down from 976 pages for the digital version of the sixth edition!
I believe the seventh edition of the PMBOK® Guide is a positive step forward in helping project managers understand how projects support organizations and are part of a larger ecosystem within organizations to deliver value to customers and benefits to their organization. Is it though an ‘enough’ step? I am looking forward to continuing to participate in the discussion of how project management and product management can work together.