What is PMBOK for Project Managers?

Planning and Control using Microsoft Project and PMBOK GuideIn general, a “body of knowledge” would usually refer to gathered knowledge from different sources that is about one idea or topic.

For project managers, there is PMBOK, which refers to all the standards they need to adapt and practice. Just by the scope of knowledge required to manage projects, this particular guide covers a much broader spectrum of content than you might expect to find in other bodies of knowledge publications.

The acronym stands for “Product Management Body of Knowledge”.

This is not a system, per se, but rather a guide published by the Project Management Institute and for project managers to practice and master.  It is also a qualification that can be acquired via the testing and exams provided by PMI, and available from Prometric testing centres around the world.

PMBOK Guide

This guide got its debut in 1987 and was published as a collection of the “body of knowledge” that project managers could follow; thus, a guide. Its formal book launching was on 1996, and now, it is in its 4th edition.

The guide is a compilation for standards that every project manager worldwide considers the ultimate source of essential information and practices. It is not a “how-to” guide that gives step-by-step instructions as to what should be done. Rather, it is a handbook that explains the five basic process and knowledge areas involved in managing a project.

Five Processes & Nine Knowledge Areas

The five processes discussed in PMBOK are the following:

  1. Initiating – It involves the discussion of how to successfully initiate a project; usually, this is the brainstorming phase in project management
  2. Planning – This process is a crucial part of a project. This includes everything that has to be taken care of to make a project successful. In PMBOK, this phase is discussed thoroughly.
  3. Executing – As the term may imply, it is the execution of the plan.
  4. Controlling and Monitoring – This is the phase where project managers are starting to feel if the project is winning or losing. If it should be stopped, revised, continued, etc.
  5. Closing – This serves as the finale – whether the project was a success or a failure.

The nine knowledge areas discussed in the same guide are the following:

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management

These nine knowledge areas are very insightful in making a successful project.

For PMI, being able to know these areas can have a great impact in the projects that project managers are handling.  As project managers, they need to have knowledge about these areas so that they will be able to execute projects with ease, confidence, and pride.

The PMBOK® Guide is now considered to be the sole resource for project managers when it comes to handling projects. Organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the International Organization for Standardization Technical Report refer to PMBOK for all of their projects.

For project managers who have been in the profession for quite some time, the PMBOK serves as their Bible – an ultimate guide. Perhaps, smaller organisations and simple projects, handled by less experienced project managers, should also study this guide to help improve their knowledge and skills about project management.

Eastwood Harris has published a number of books related to using project management software, like Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project, to design and manage the project within the PMBOK framework.

Basic Principles of Project Management – Eastwood Harris

Project Planning and Control Using Oracle Primavera P6 - Version 8.2 EPPM Web

Project Planning and Control Using Oracle Primavera P6 - Version 8.2 EPPM Web

For any endeavour to succeed there must be a solid foundation upon which it is based.

However, in the case of project management, there is little research focusing on its basic principles. Without theoretical conclusions and evidence generated by research, project management can be a big inconvenient hassle and the success of that project may be questionable.

This particular issue has been tackled by R. Max Wideman in his work, which is entitled ‘First Principles of Project Management’. In his paper, he defines the difference between project management practices and project management principles. He has also proposed seven principles of project management.

1. Success

The end goal of a project should be more than just finishing timely and without going over budget. When undertaking any sort of project, you should always aim for the success of your product. Success is hard to measure without any concrete terms. Therefore, before starting a project, you and your team must come up with key deliverables that can indicate success. This could include the scope, quality, relevance and so on.

2. Commitment

The sponsor and the team must be mutually committed to the project before it comes into existence. There must be an acceptable level of commitment. This means that an agreement exists between the two parties regarding the goals, scope, quality, time frame and the cost of the project.

3. Tetrad-Tradeoff

This principle simply means that scope, quality, time, and cost must be achievable and they must exist in a balanced state for a project to succeed. One cannot be changed without affecting the others. The implications for the project manager include regular checks of the four pillars to make sure that they are working together.

4. Primary Communication Channel

This means that the project must be governed through a single communication channel. Although the owner can be represented by several individuals, it is a must that he or she must speak with a single voice. This is the same for the team. One person must be the sole point of responsibility. This person should have the attributes necessary for a successful project.

5. Cultural Suitability

The method of management must match the type of project and the current status of the project. The team must be managed in a way that enables and empowers them. This makes it possible for the team to do their best jobs.

6. Process

For any project to succeed, procedures and policies must be clearly stated and documented. This also means very detailed planning, which usually leads to policy development. The roles, responsibilities and delegations must be included in policies. These policies serve as guides throughout the lifespan of the project.

7. Life-cycle

This principle entails the planning and the implementation phases of the project. Fundamentally, planning comes before implementation. This ensures a clear path and determines significant milestones in the project. By carrying out this principle, you can easily determine when your project starts and when it should end.

Eastwood Harris Supplies Project Management Training Manuals, Project Management Training Presentations and Consulting on Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project 2010 across Australia.

How to Set the In-Progress Task Finish Date Calculation – MS Project Tips

ms project 2010 training manual - spiral editionIn-Progress Task Finish Date Calculation in Microsoft Project

Many planning and scheduling packages calculate a task Finish Date from the Data Date plus the Remaining Duration over the Task or Resource Calendar, whichever is applicable.

Unlike most planning and scheduling software packages, Microsoft Project ignores the Current Date and Status date when calculating an in-progress schedule. Instead it calculates the Finish date from the Actual Start Date plus the Duration and effectively ignores the Remaining Duration for normal calculation.

There is an in-built proportional link between Duration, Actual Duration, Remaining Duration and % Complete. It is not possible to unlink these fields (as in other scheduling software) and therefore not possible to enter the Remaining Duration independently of the % Complete.

setting the in progess schedule date in ms project

Thus % Complete reflects the % of Duration of a task.

Current Date and Status Date

Microsoft Project has two project data date fields that may be displayed as vertical lines on the schedule. These dates may be edited from the Project, Project Information… form:

  • Current Date – This date is set to the computer’s date each time a project file is opened. It is used for calculating Earned Value data when a Status Date has not been set. The time of the Current Date is set by default to the start time of a day, see the picture below.
  • Status Date – This field is blank by default with a value of NA. The Status Date will not change when the project is saved and reopened at a later date. It overrides the Current Date for calculating Earned Value data and is set by default to the finish time of a day, see the picture below.

setting current date status dates in microsoft project

I recommend that the Status Date is set and displayed as a vertical line on a progressed schedule and the Current Date not displayed, because the Current Date represents the date today and does not normally represent any scheduling significance.

Paul Harris writes training manuals for MS Project and Primavera P6 and Delivers Project Management Training Courses Throughout Australia and the world.  His books are available on Amazon and Kindle.

How to Use Constraints in Primavera P6 V 8.2 Software

Project Planning and Control Using Oracle Primavera P6 - Version 8.2 EPPM Web

Using Constraints in P6 Version 8.2

Constraints are used to impose logic on activities that may not be realistically scheduled with logic links. This article will deal with the following constraints in detail:

  • Start On or After
  • Finish On or Before

These are the minimum number of constraints that are required to effectively schedule a project.

Start On or After (also known as an “Early Start” or “Start No Earlier Than” constraint as it only affects the Early dates calculation) is used when the start date of an activity is known and does not have a predecessor. Primavera will not calculate the activity early start date prior to this date.

Finish On or Before (also known as “Late Finish” or “Finish No Later Than” constraint as it only affects the Late dates calculation) is used when the latest finish date is stipulated. Primavera will not calculate the activity’s late finish date after this date.

The following table summarizes the methods used to assign Constraints to Activities or how to add notes to activities:

Topic Notes for Creating a Constraint
  • Setting a Primary and Secondary constraint with the Activity Details form.
Open the Status tab on the Activity Details form.
  • Setting Constraints using columns.
The following columns may be displayed and the constraints assigned or edited:

  • Primary Constraint
  • Primary Constraint Date
  • Secondary Constraint
  • Secondary Constraint Date
  • Expected Finish Date
  • Dragging an Activity in the Gantt Chart.
  • Dragging an Activity in the Gantt Chart.
Dragging an Activity in the Gantt Chart will open the Confirmation form where the user is able to confirm the setting of a Start On or After constraint.
  • Adding Notes, these could be about constraints or other activity information.
The Activity Details form has a Notebook tab, which enables Notes to be assigned to Notebook Topics.

Primavera P6 software will permit two constraints to be assigned to each activity. Asta Powerproject, P3, and SureTrak also allow two constraints but Microsoft Project only permits one except when a Deadline constraint is applied.

A full list of constraints available in Primavera:

  • <None>
This is the default for a new activity. An activity by default is scheduled to occur As Soon As Possible and does not have a Constraint.
  • Start On
Also known as Must Start On and sets a date on which the activity will start. Therefore, the activity has no float. The early start and the late start dates are set to be the same as the Constraint Date.
  • Start On or Before
Also known as Start No Later Than or Late Start, this constraint sets the late date after which the activity will not start.
  • Start On or After
Also known as Start No Earlier Than or Early Start, this constraint sets the early date before which the activity will not start.
  • Finish On
Also known as Must Finish On, this constraint sets a date on which the activity will finish and therefore has no float. The early finish and the late finish dates are set to be the same as the Constraint Date.
  • Finish On or Before
Also known as Finish No Later Than or Late Finish, this sets the late date after which the activity will not finish.
  • Finish On or After
Also known as Finish No Earlier Than or Early Finish, this sets the early date before which the activity will not finish.
  • As Late As Possible
Also known as Zero Free Float. An activity will be scheduled to occur as late as possible. It consumes Free Float only and does not have any particular Constraint Date. The Early and Late dates have the same date.
  • Mandatory Start
This relationship prevents float being calculated through this activity and effectively breaks a schedule into two parts. This is also sometimes called a Hard Constraint.
  • Mandatory Finish
This relationship prevents float being calculated through this activity and effectively breaks a schedule into two parts. This is also sometimes called a Hard Constraint.
  • Expected Finish
An Expected Finish sets the Early Finish to the Expected Finish constraint date and calculates the Remaining Duration from the Early Start date for an un-started activity, or Data Date if the activity is in-progress to the Expected Finish date.

Earlier Than constraints operate on the Early Dates, and Later Than constraints operate on Late Dates. The following picture demonstrates how constraints calculate Total Float of activities (without predecessors or successors) against the first activity of 10 days’ duration:

An activity assigned an As Late as Possible constraint in Primavera P6, Primavera Contractor, Primavera P3, and SureTrak software will schedule the activity so it absorbs only Free Float and will not delay the start of any successor activities, this is normally called a Zero Free Float constraint. In Microsoft Project, an activity assigned with an As Late as Possible constraint will be delayed to absorb the Total Float and delay all its successor activities which have float, not just the activity with the constraint.

Eastwood Harris Supplies Project Management Training Manuals, Project Management Training Presentations and Consulting on Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project 2010 across Australia.