Over the past several decades, the art of project management has experienced increased attention as formal management models have been rapidly adopted and utilised. The achievements accomplished speak for the effectiveness of formal project management, which can be attributed to results such as putting man on the moon, building skyscrapers one hundred stories high, and arming military personnel with cutting-edge machines and weaponry.
There are several project management models used widely which can provide structure and governance to successfully achieve project objectives. The two most common models are the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK), and PRINCE2 (Projects in a Controlled Environment).
The PMBoK is essentially a collection of best practices which are generally accepted as the sum of knowledge within the project management profession. Much like a dictionary or encyclopaedia, the PMBoK can be thought of as a collection of knowledge and vocabulary relating to project management.
The PMBoK details a framework which consist of 10 different knowledge fields spread across 5 different stages of the project life cycle. The 10 areas of knowledge outline key competencies which would define an effective project manager, categorised as either core or facilitative, and provide the foundation for project management education.
As well as the core area of project management, the PMBoK also covers ‘soft’ areas of knowledge, such as communication and human resource management, setting it apart from other methodologies which tend to focus on the core fundamentals. By including these areas of competence, it sets the standard that project managers should develop strong interpersonal skills which enhance their abilities to influence and provide leadership, ultimately adding to their toolkit of skills.
While the PMBoK is a thorough resource, its descriptive nature means that a project manager is not simply provided with a checklist of processes to step through to successfully achieve the desired outcomes.
PMBoK Knowledge Areas
PRINCE2 is a prescriptive methodology in that it describes how the different tools and techniques of project management should be applied. It consists of 8 components, which are set out in a structure aligning to the project life cycle, and details the interconnection between each stage and the different methods to be utilised to progress the project to completion. PRINCE2 is based on the foundations outlined in the PMBoK, however it highlights the elements it defines as the most vital, and focuses on the tools which can be applied in those areas.
Essentially, PRINCE2 tells a project manager what they should be doing at each stage, and that using particular elements in a prescribed way will be the most effective way to organise, manage and control the project. The common-sense style of PRINCE2 makes it a popular project management model, providing a focus for project managers from a different perspective to that of the PMBoK. However, PRINCE2 is not intended to be a standalone resource, and due to its specific focus, still relies on the PMBoK to define the full extent of project management concepts.
The project management models of the PMBoK and PRINCE2 should not be considered in direct competition with one another. They should both be utilised to build a complete understanding of project management, as a body of knowledge and the tools and techniques to be applied. An effective project manager should be educated in both, with an understanding and the experience to be able to tailor and optimise the processes, depending on the scale and scope of the project being delivered. Both approaches provide a well-rounded base of knowledge and processes, and are together, a valuable resource for the project management profession.
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