Understanding Project Management Knowledge Areas

In project management, a project manager applies knowledge, skills, and tools and techniques to project activities in order to meet the project objectives. The project management is conducted by performing required processes at various stages of the project; these processes are part of the knowledge needed to manage projects. Each aspect of a project is managed by using the corresponding knowledge area. According to Dr. Paul Sanghera, the author of PMP In Depth: Project Management Professional Study Guide for PMP and CAPM Exams (2006),  there are nine knowledge areas required for project managers to deal with each process in project management.

1. Project Scope Management

Each project has a scope that needs to be managed, and the knowledge required to manage scope is in the knowledge area called project scope management.  The primary purpose of the project scope management is to ensure that all the required work (and only the required work) is performed to complete the project successfully. This is accomplished by defining and controlling what is included in the project and what is not. To be specific, the project scope management includes the following:

  • Scope plan. Develop the project scope management plan, which describes how the project scope will be defined and controlled, and how all the work within the scope will be verified as complete at the end of the project.
  • Scope definition. Develop the detailed project scope statement, which is the basis for the project scope.
  • Work breakdown structure (WBS). Decompose the project deliverables into smaller, more manageable work components. The outcome of this exercise is called the work breakdown structure.
  • Scope control. Control changes to the project scope—only the approved changes to the scope should be implemented.
  • Scope verification. Plan how the completed deliverables of the project will be accepted.

Obviously, these components are performed by using the corresponding processes. So, the project scope management, in part, defines the work required to complete the project. It’s a finite amount of work and will require a finite amount of time, which needs to be managed as well.

2. Project Time Management

The primary purpose of the project time management is to develop and control the project schedule. This is accomplished by performing the following components:

  • Activity definition. Identify all the work activities that need to be scheduled to produce the project deliverables.
  • Activity sequencing. Identify the dependencies among the activities that need to be scheduled (that is, the schedule activity) so that they can be scheduled in the right order.
  • Activity resource estimating. For each schedule activity, estimate the types of resources needed and the quantity for each type.
  • Activity duration. Estimate the time needed to complete each schedule activity.
  • Schedule development. Analyze the data created in the previous steps to develop the schedule.
  • Schedule control. Control changes to the project schedule. You perform these tasks by using the corresponding processes. It will cost you to get the activities in the schedule completed, and the cost needs to be managed too.

3. Project Cost Management.

The primary goal of the project cost management is to estimate the cost and to complete the project within the approved budget. Accordingly, cost management includes the following components:

  • Cost estimate. Develop the cost of the resources needed to complete the project, which includes schedule activities and outsourced work.
  • Cost budgeting. Aggregate the costs of individual activities to establish a cost baseline.
  • Cost control. Monitor and control the cost variance in the project execution—that is, the difference between the planned cost and actual cost during execution, as well as changes to the project budget.

You will use the appropriate processes to accomplish these tasks. The resources needed to complete the project activities include human resources, which need to be managed as well.

4. Project Human Resource Management

A work for a project needs human resources, which need to be managed; the knowledge used to manage human resources is called human resource management. The primary purpose of the project human resource management is to obtain, develop, and manage the project team that will perform the project work. To be specific, the project human resource management includes the following components:

  • Planning human resources. Identify project roles, responsibilities for each role, and reporting relationships among the roles. Also, create the staff management plan that describes when and how the resource requirements will be met.
  • Acquiring the project team. Obtain the human resources.
  • Developing the project team. Improve the competencies of the team members and the interaction among members to optimize the team performance.
  • Managing the project team. Track the performance of team members, provide them with feedback, and resolve issues and conflicts. This should all be done with the goal to enhance performance—that is, to complete the project on time and within the planned cost and scope.

These components are performed by using the corresponding processes. There will be situations in which your organization does not have the expertise to perform certain schedule activities in-house. For this or other reasons, you might want to acquire some items or services from an outside vendor. This kind of acquisition is called procurement, which also needs to be managed.

5. Project Procurement Management

The primary purpose of the procurement management is to manage acquiring products (that is products, services, or results) from outside the project team in order to complete the project. The external vendor who offers the service is called the seller. The procurement management includes planning acquisitions, planning contracts with sellers, selecting sellers, administering contracts with sellers, and closing contracts. You use the corresponding processes to accomplish these tasks.

Be it the procured or the in-house work, there are always some uncertainties that give rise to project risks, which need to be managed.

6. Project Risk Management

A project risk is an event that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on meeting the project objectives. The primary purpose of project risk management is to identify the risks and respond to them should they occur. To be specific, the project risk management includes the following:

  • Plan the risk management—that is, determine how to plan and execute the risk management tasks.
  • Identify the risks.
  • Perform risk analysis.
  • Develop a risk response plan—that is, what action to take should a risk occur.
  • Monitor and control risks—that is, track the identified risks, identify new risks, and implement the risk response plan.

These tasks related to risk management are performed by using the corresponding processes. The goal of the risk management is to help meet the project objectives. The degree to which the project objectives and requirements are met is called quality, which needs to be managed.

7. Project Quality Management

Project quality is defined as the degree to which a project satisfies
its objectives and requirements. For example, a high-quality project is a project that is
completed on time and with all the work in the project scope completed within the planned
budget. The project quality management includes the following:

  • Perform quality planning—that is, determine which quality standards are relevant to the project at hand and how to apply them.
  • Perform quality assurance—that is, ensure the planned quality standards are applied.
  • Perform quality control—that is, monitor specific project results to ensure they comply with the planned quality standards, and recommend actions to eliminate the causes of unsatisfactory progress.

These tasks of project quality management are performed by using the corresponding processes. In order to unify different pieces into a whole project, the different project management activities need to be integrated.

8. Project Integration Management

The project is planned and executed in pieces, and all those pieces are related to each other and need to come together. That is where integration management comes in. For example, integrating different subsidiary plans into the project management plan needs to be managed. The project integration management includes developing the project management plan, directing and managing project execution, monitoring and controlling the project work, and closing the project.

So, while managing all the aspects of the project, you, the project manager, will need to coordinate different activities and groups, and for that you need to communicate.

9. Project Communication Management

It is absolutely imperative for the success of the project that the project information is generated and distributed in a timely fashion. Some would say communication is the most important aspect of a project and the most important skill for a project manager to have. But without a doubt, it is certainly a critically important component of project management. The communication management includes the following:

  • Plan communication—that is, determine the information and communication needs of the project at hand.
  • Distribute needed information to the project stakeholders in a timely fashion.
  • Report the project performance, including the project status.
  • Communicate to resolve issues among the stakeholders.

As you have seen, managing a project largely means performing a set of processes at various stages of the project, such as initiating and planning. Accordingly, processes are grouped corresponding to these stages, and the groups are called process groups. Processes are part of the knowledge required to manage projects. Each of these processes belongs to one of the nine knowledge areas identified in the PMBOK. So a process has a dual membership—one in a process group, indicating at what stage of the project the process is performed, and the other in a knowledge area, indicating what aspect of the project is managed by using the process.


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