Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Understanding Qualitative Risk Analysis

1999. October 29. A super cyclone measuring 160 mph hit Gopalpur in Odisha, a coastal state of India, with horrifying fury. It resulted over 10,000 people losing their lives and over $US4 billion in damages. The devastation caused was barely reported. In fact, little is known about the event, but it changed the way India braces itself for natural calamities.

2013. October 13. Another super cyclone, named Phailin, running at 160 mph landed on the same state and also at the same place just around midnight. This time, the loss of lives was less than 50 – little to none due to the cyclone, but more due to flooding. This time, the estimated cost of damages (mostly loss of property) was around $US400 million.

Two events occurred, but each one had entirely different outcomes. What was the difference? Risk Management.

A cyclone doesn’t come alone. First, it blows away everything in its path like an uncontrolled train rampaging through, in this case, a densely populated area. Then, about two weeks later, another natural calamity strikes – flooding driven by the river Mahanadi (meaning “Great River”) running across the heartlands of the state. A third calamity strikes in another couple of weeks. Water-borne diseases grow uncontrolled as public works systems are in disarray. Are the calamities over? Not yet. Two other issues arise, which cause the longest-term impact. These are that food and shelter become scare. Food scarcity because the fertile land in the river delta becomes saturated with salt water pouring up the shore and is no longer cultivable, and a shelter crisis because homes destroyed often take years to rebuild. Perhaps no other event demands risk management with such high urgency! A cyclone and its cousin disasters create a highly volatile situation and risk in a short timeframe (three to four weeks). Despite this short timeframe, the impact continues on for decades. Obviously, an event such as this can severely cripple growth, if not managed well.

Of course, we can all see that a cyclone causes quite a disaster, but every one of us takes up risks. Just driving on a road, or even getting out of bed in the morning can pose risk. You might stub your toe in the dark on the way to the light switch or trip over a wire lying next to your bed. These events don’t usually happen, but the possibility exists. 

Individual Project Risks

Project Management Institute (PMI) defines an individual project risk as:

An uncertain event or condition, if it occurs, will have a positive or negative impact on one or more objectives of the project.

As noted in the above definition, there are two characteristics for an event to be defined as a risk:

  • Risk occurs from elements of uncertainty (probability). Other descriptors, in place of ‘uncertainty’ can be ‘likelihood’ or ‘chances.’
  • Risk might have negative or positive effects on meeting the project objectives. Other descriptors of ‘effect’ can be ‘impact’ or ‘consequences.’

But, why are we looking at both the characteristics? I’d like to suggest it is because we don’t really manage all the risks we face. We have to look at both the likelihood or probability, as well as the impact or consequences.

Consider the earlier example of the cyclone(s). Here, taking steps to reduce the risk doesn’t change the likelihood of such events occurring. Can we change the course of nature? No. However, we can definitely mitigate the impact. On the other hand, removing the cord which lies on your path to the light switch (our second example), removes the likelihood of you tripping over it, but does not change the impact, (i.e., that if you do over it, you will get hurt).

Note that the definition of risk says that it must positively or negatively impact or effect at least one project objective such as scope, schedule, or cost. If it doesn’t, then it is not a risk. If the risk negatively impacts the objectives, then it is called a threat and if the impact is positive, it is called an opportunity.

For many, the term “risk” typically comes with a negative connotation. Hence, negative impact is quickly understood. But, what about the positive risks? Say you have a good team member working on your project, or that you can reuse an existing design framework. In those cases, you can enhance the chances of your project being completed early. These are examples of positive risks or opportunities. 

Risk Score, Risk Appetite, and Risk Threshold

Once we have the probability and impact values, we multiply them. This gives us the Risk Score. Putting it into a formula, it will look like this:

The higher the risk score, the higher the priority to take these prioritized risks into account and plan responses accordingly. This is what actually happens in qualitative risk analysis.

The probability scale can be numeric (1, 2, 5, etc.), textual (high, low, medium), color coded (red, amber, green), or a combination of factors. A possible probability scale is shown in the table below:

While building the impact scale you can consider various traditional objectives (i.e. scope, time, cost, and/or quality). A possible impact scale is shown in the table below: 

As we have seen before, when you combine the probability and impact, you get the risk score. It can also be numeric, textual, color coded, or a combination of those factors. This is represented in a matrix format, which is known as the Probability and Impact matrix/grid, or simply the PI matrix.

A possible PI matrix is shown below. In this case, I’ve considered both the probability and impact scales from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high). This is to keep things simple. It is possible that you can individually consider the impacts on the objectives, such as scope, schedule, cost, quality, etc. as noted in the earlier impact scale table, and then determine the score by applying mathematical formulas.

While calculating the risk score in the above table, I’ve multiplied the probability and impact values. The color coding in the above PI matrix is based on the risk appetite level of the stakeholders. You may wonder what I mean by “Risk Appetite.” Let’s define it.

Risk Appetite, as the name itself suggests, is an indication of how much hunger or appetite exists for taking risks. Let’s consider another example. When you take on an investment or mutual fund, the fund manager will ask, “What is your risk appetite?” If you are a risk seeking person (i.e. a risk seeker or one with high risk appetite), the fund manager may present equity related financial products. However, if you are a person who avoids risks (i.e. risk averse or with low risk appetite), then the fund manager may, instead, present debt related financial products.

In project risk management for projects, similar things happen. Risk appetite informs what you as an individual (or an organization) are willing to accept in anticipation of a reward. A related term to risk appetite is Risk Threshold. Risk threshold informs the level of risk exposure above which risks are addressed and below which risks may not be actively pursued (or even accepted).

The risk appetite level of the stakeholders can be represented with risk score ranges. For this article, I’ve included three categories for risk appetite level – low (green), medium (yellow), and high (red). They each have associated risk score ranges. This is noted in the table below:

The probability scale, the impact scale with considerations around chosen objectives, the stakeholders’ risk appetite levels, and risk threshold are all defined in the Risk Management Plan, which is created during the planning stage of a project. 

Qualitative Risk Analysis – What Happens?

Now that we know about the fundamentals on various risk attributes, let’s get deeper into qualitative risk analysis.

PMI calls qualitative risk analysis the process of Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis (QLRA), and says it is:

The process of prioritizing individual project risks for further analysis or action by assessing their probability of occurrence and impact as well as other characteristics.

In other words, we consider the probability and impact values of the individual project risks to conduct qualitative risks analysis. We also consider other risk characteristics. The simplified flow for qualitative risk analysis is shown in the following figure:

The salient points about the above flow diagram are noted below.

  • The risk management plan is prepared in Plan Risk Management process. It has the information on probability and impact scales, PI matrix, and stakeholder risk appetite levels.
  • The risk management plan then acts as input to Identify Risks process to create a project document named risk register, which has information on the possible individual risks identified.
  • At this stage, you can have various risk attributes documented in the risk register such as risk identifier (ID), risk title, risk type, risk category, possible risk trigger date, potential risk owners, potential risk responses, etc.
  • Next, the risk register and the risk management plan act as inputs to the Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis (Perform QLRA) process. The stakeholder register is also acting as an input as the final risk owners are nominated in the process of Perform QLRA.
  • Post qualitative analysis, the risk register will be updated as an output of Perform QLRA process. It will be updated with information for individual project risks such as probability and impact values, risk score, nominated risk owner, and other risk characteristics. We already know that the higher the score the higher the priority. Hence, prioritization of individual project risks happens in this process. Risks with low priorities are moved into a list called Watch-List. This watch-list is not a separate project document, but part of the risk register.
  • The updated risk register can act as input to Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis (Perform QTRA) providing further analysis or can directly act as an input to Plan Risk Responses process to develop risk response strategies for the risks. This is because the process of Perform QTRA is optional, represented with a dotted line above. 

Qualitative Risk Analysis – An Example

To understand further qualitative risk analysis, let’s consider the risk register shown below. There can be many possible fields in the register during qualitative risk analysis. In order to keep things simple, I’ve kept the number of fields to a minimum here.

Going by our above risk register, we have five risks. These are shown in the Risk ID column of the register.

While calculating the risk score, I’ve considered the highest impact across various objectives multiplied with the probability value. For example, Risk 001 has a schedule impact that is high (H), cost impact that is medium (M), a scope impact that is very high (VH), and a quality impact that is high (H). The overall impact is taken to be very high (VH). It has a probability value of very high (VH), as well. The overall score of the first risk is 25.

Shall we act on all the risks with high scores? Not necessarily. Rather, we will act on a risk if it crosses the risk threshold.

Let’s say our risk threshold value is 9. If the score of the risk is greater than or equal to 9, then the risk will be prioritized. Otherwise we will move it to the watch-list.

Considering the above risk register, the prioritized risks will be Risk 001, Risk 002, and Risk 004, because their scores are above the accepted level of 9. Risk 003 and Risk 005 will be moved into the watch-list, which is less frequently monitored. 

Other Impacting Risk Parameters

In our earlier definition for the process of Perform QLRA, I mentioned that other characteristics considered beyond probability and impact. These impact the score and hence, priority of the risk in question. Some of these risk characteristics or parameters, as documented in the PMBOK guide, are noted in the below table.

Quite a list, right? Although long, the concepts are not complicated. Let’s take one parameter, Risk Urgency, to understand how it impacts the score of the risk.

Say a risk is about to occur tomorrow, and another risk will happen in next week. Which risk are you going to take up first for analysis and subsequent change implementation? Obviously, it will be the risk happening tomorrow. A risk requiring a near term response is considered more urgent.

Risk urgency can be put in textual form with a weighting factor combined as shown in the below table.

Say a risk has a score of 16 and it is expected to happen in next couple of days. As the risk is imminent, we multiply it by 1.1 and increase the score. The result will be 18 (16 * 1.1 = 17.6 and then rounded up to the nearest value of 18). Similarly, if you consider other risk parameters, the score may change.

You can also combine these parameters to rank the order in which risks should be addressed. For example, if you combine risk urgency with risk manageability, you will first address the risks with high urgency and high manageability, whereas for the risks with low manageability and low urgency, you will avoid (or look at last). This is represented below:

Risk Bubble Chart

If you want to combine more than two risk parameters, you can plot them in a 3-dimesional (3D) chart, which can be represented as a Bubble Chart. The risks are presented as bubbles in the chart.

Taking the risks from our earlier risk register, a possible bubble chart is shown below:


In this case, we are considering three parameters – risk manageability (X-axis), risk detectability (Y-axis), and risk impact (bubble size). The bigger the size of the bubble, the higher the impact. Analyzing the above bubble chart, Risk 001, Risk 002, and Risk 004 will be of higher priority because they have high manageability, high detectability, and high impact.

I do hope this article gives you a deeper understanding on qualitative risk analysis. For aspiring Project Management Professionals (PMP), Risk Management Professionals (RMP), or Certified Associates in Project Management (CAPM), qualitative risk analysis is a key topic to understand. In the real world, too, this analysis usually happens on identified risks, because qualitative analysis is mandatory to prioritize the risks of a project or a natural disaster, such as a cyclone.

This article is dedicated to the memory of those people who passed away in the super cyclone of 1999, cyclone Phailin, and recent cyclone Titli, which impacted India, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Today, Odisha, which has been most impacted by these natural catastrophes, is known to be one of the best prepared states to face cyclones and related calamities. It’s a tribute to her peoples’ perseverance, resiliency, and tenacity.


* This article was first published by on 11th June, 2018.


[1] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[2] I Want To Be A RMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A RMP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] I Want To Be A PMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A PMP, 2nd edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] Practice Standard for Project Risk Management, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[5] 1999 Odisha cyclone:

[6] Cyclone Phailin:

Monday, October 11, 2021

What Should You Know about the PMP Exam Changes in 2021 and Beyond? (Part 2)


The Impact of the Changes

Obviously, as the exam has changed, there have been quite a few impacts. Let’s look at them one by one.

Impact #1: Exam Complexity

Many have been saying the new exam is more difficult, which I don’t agree with because the needed experience level to appear for the exam has not changed. It still is either of the following:

For four-year bachelor’s degree or global equivalent: Minimum 36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience,

– or –

For secondary degree (high school diploma or global equivalent): Minimum 60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience

As the experience level is relatively low and remains unchanged, I don’t expect the exam questions to be tougher. That said, the exam is more complex now because of the new addition of tasks within the new domains, along with the Agile content increased the scope of coverage. If you are an aspiring PMP, you will need to expand your horizon in the project management landscape.

Impact #2: First Score Report

The first examination score report are changed now. This is the report exam takers get immediately after the exam at the exam center. It's based on the three domains and the report will come as shown below.

The proficiency levels, nevertheless, remains unchanged, in that the score will continue to have four performance rating categories (Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement).

Impact #3: Detailed Score Analysis *** NEW ***

For each domain in the new ECO, there are number of enablers, and for each enabler, there are a number of tasks. These are spread across the three domains – Process and Business Environment.

More explanation on it has been given towards the later part of this article. Your evaluation will be on these domains, tasks and enablers. 

Impact #4: Questions in Agile/Hybrid Approaches *** NEW ***

As noted earlier, there is equal distribution of questions with respect to predictive and adaptive (Agile) or hybrid approaches.

These are spread across all of the domains, People, Process, and Business Environment. 

Important Note:

While Agile is 50% of the questions, many confuse Hybrid questions as part of the Agile. As per PMI, this is the definition of hybrid model:

A hybrid model is a combination of two or more agile and non-agile elements, having a non-agile end result. 

In other words, you can say that Hybrid ones will have a combination of Agile and Traditional/Waterfall approaches. 

Hence, combing Agile and Hybrid questions you can expect  more than 50% questions! In fact, many successful PMPs in this year have informed so. Some of the questions with Agile related concepts will be part of a traditional/waterfall project. These questions will fall under Hybrid type. It’s not explicitly Agile/Adaptive. 

PMI Talent Triangle and the New ECO Triangle

If you look closely, you can find that the three domains in the ECO are aligning closely with the three arms of PMI’s Talent Triangle. The PMI Talent Triangle was introduced in 2015 because technical project management skills for a practicing project manager were found to be insufficient to succeed in the real world with real life practices. Hence, two new areas were added (leadership capabilities and strategic and business management proficiency). The PMI Talent Triangle is depicted on the left side of the diagram below.


Similarly, the new ECO of 2020/2021 has three domains, which are aligned with real-world project management practices. I’ve put these three domains as the arms of the “New ECO Triangle” for easier correlation – shown on the right side of above diagram. Comparing these two triangles, you could say that:

  • The Leadership arm maps to People domain,
  • The Technical Project Management arm maps to Process domain, and
  • The Strategic and Business Management arm maps to Business Environment domain.

This is significant because in the new PMP exam, you need to evaluate your understanding in these contexts.

We now know what are the changes and impacts. Next, let’s dive a bit deeper into the domains and associated concepts of the new exam.

Domains, Tasks, and Enablers

Each domain in the new ECO is empowered by a set of tasks and enablers. In fact, in the new 2020/2021 ECO, the format of Domains, Tasks, and Enables is used throughout. I’ve depicted it in the below figure.

As shown, every domain has a set of tasks, and each task is associated with a set of enablers. Let’s look at some examples.

Domain: A domain is defined as the high-level knowledge area that is essential to the practice of project management.

  • An example of this is People.

Tasks: A task informs about the underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain area.

  • Examples (for the People domain) are: 
    • Task 1: Manage conflict
    • Task 2: Lead a team
    • Task 3: Support team performance

Enablers: Enablers are illustrative examples of the work associated with a task. For example, for Task 2 (Lead a team) under the “People” domain, we have these enablers:

  • Enabler 1: Set a clear vision and mission
  • Enabler 2: Support diversity and inclusion
  • Enabler 3: Value servant leadership
  • Enabler 4: Determine an appropriate leadership style

In simpler words, you can say that each answers a different question, as shown below.

I’ve received a number of questions from aspiring PMPs who are using PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass35 Contact Hours PMP Program, and/or the I Want To Be A PMP book to prep for the exam. I’ll address a few of the most common in this article.

Many aspiring PMPs in fact have followed the above courses and/or book clear the exam in 2021. You can read their success stories below.

PMP Success Stories for Year 2021

As we reach the end of this article, let see the frequently asked questions (FAQs). It's a detailed one. This list is prepared based on my interactions with aspiring PMPs. 

Frequently Asked Questions (Top 10) *** NEW ***

Question – 1: As the domains in the ECO are changing, will a new PMBOK Guide be available with these new domains? 

Answer: No. The PMBOK Guide for the current PMP exam has not changed in 2021. The 6th edition of the guide will remain as is with its five process groups. The PMBOK guide continues to remain as one of the most important reference guides for your exam.

A new edition of the PMBOK guide, 7th edition is available. But it's not related to the domains of the ECO. [Also see Question - 3]

Question – 2: Should I refer to the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide and/or any other resource?

Answer: You have to refer to the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide for your PMP exam preparation irrespective of taking the exam on or after January 2, 2021.

The PMBOK Guide is one of the main references that is used for PMP examination preparation. There are other references that will also be used, as noted in Part - 1 of this article. Because the questions are created by project management practitioners who are not solely bound by the PMBOK Guide. 

Question – 3: Currently a new edition of the PMBOK Guide, 7th Edition is available is available. Should I also read it?

Answer: No. The PMBOK guide, 7th edition, though released this year (July 2021), has not been enforced. There is no need to read this guide while preparing for your PMP exam.

The PMBOK guide, 6th edition is listed as a reference for your current PMP exam. 

Question – 4: When will be the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition be enforced?

Answer: There is no information available at this stage. This is as of October, 2021 when this article is posted. 

PMI will surely communicate before the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition is enforced. As and when it’s enforced for PMP exam, it will also be listed as one of the items in the Exam Reference List. 

Question – 5: Do I need to remember the new tasks and enablers of the new ECO?

Answer: No. It is not necessary that you remember them, but you have to understand what they are and how they are mapped to the contents of the PMBOK guide and other project management references to become a certified project management professional.

Question – 6: How much should I focus on the Agile aspects?

Answer: Agile is obviously 50% of the exam as mentioned earlier in this article. With 90 questions, you need to have a sound knowledge of Agile approaches.

In addition, there will be a number of questions on Hybrid mode, which will have Agile content. Hence, I’ll strongly suggest that you prepare the Agile part thoroughly. 

Question – 7: Should I read the Agile Practice Guide?

Answer: Yes. If you are going for the exam in 2021 and beyond, I would strongly suggest that you read the Agile Practice Guide, which comes bundled along with the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition.

Question – 8: Should I read all the other reference books?

Answer: There are quite a few reference books, as noted earlier in Overall Changes section. No one can read all these books and prepare for the exam. 

In this case, good preparatory courses (preferably video courses because you learn faster with videos) and books will be needed. I’ve already mentioned a number of courses and books offered by ManagementYogi. You can refer them or the course of your choice.

Question – 9: Should I practice for other types of questions?

Answer: Yes. As informed earlier in Part - 1, other question types such as Multi-response, Drag and Drop questions are coming in the exam. This has been the consistent feedback by successful PMPs who have written their success stories.

Any course material you use, must have these types of questions to give you practice. If it doesn’t have, then it’s not worth your time. Also be very careful about outdated questions, which are rampant in the marketplace. It will give you no value. 

Question – 10: As the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition has been released, will a new ECO be released now?

Answer: This is another important question. The short answer is this: Another ECO is unlikely to come this year or next. 

The ECO’s development follows a different path compared to the PMBOK Guide’s development. You can consider ECO’s development and PMBOK’s development as two separate release trains. 

new ECO, as mentioned in Part – 1 of this article, is released every three to five years. PMI has released a new ECO last year (2020, though actually first released in 2019). Hence, it’s unlikely that another ECO will be coming in 2021 or 2022.



Thursday, October 07, 2021

What Should You Know about the PMP Exam Changes in 2021 and Beyond? (Part 1)

The Project Management Professional (PMP®) examination offered by Project Management Institute (PMI) has changed this year on 2nd January. PMI first made this announcement earlier and has made the new Examination Content Outline (ECO) available for aspiring PMPs.

Many PMP aspirants don't know on these changes. In fact, many even don't know the importance of the ECO, which is actually the blueprint of the exam! As I interact with PMPs - aspiring and successful, this information gap is striking. This article tries to address this information gap.

The first version of this article was published by MPUG. This is a refined and latest version of the article as of 2021 and beyond. This article will be covered in two part series, because of its size. 

I've also taken a number of questions which I face from aspiring PMPs during my interactions and a detailed FAQ will be available in part-2 of the article.

Why the Change?

Project management as a profession is increasing in complexity. It is evolving to meet new challenges of this century—rapid technological changes, expectations and aspirations of a new generation of workers, and of course, new methodologies and practices pertaining to Agile and/or DevOps, which are now mainstream.

PMI understands the shifts taking place in project management. In fact, every three to five years, PMI conducts a Role Delineation Study (RDS) or Job Task Analysis (JTA), which checks the knowledge, skills, and tasks required to perform the role of a project manager. This RDS or JTA, in turn, impacts the creation of the ECO due to the RDS providing the blueprint for the exam. PMP exam questions obviously link to the role of the project manager, so shifts are unavoidable. The final blueprint for the exam is documented in the ECO. This is depicted in the below figure.

The ECO is crucial because questions in the PMP exam are mapped against the ECO. The ECO mentions the domains on which exam takers will be evaluated, the tasks that are supposed to be performed in these domains, and also the knowledge and skills that are needed for project managers performing these tasks. The expected percentage of questions that will come from each domain is also outlined in the ECO, so that the right number of questions are in place for a valid PMP exam.

The last time such a study was conducted was in 2015. It resulted in changes to the exam in 2016. The recent years’ study has resulted in the new ECO, and hence the PMP exam has changed from January 2, 2021.

Important Dates *** NEW ***

If you are an aspiring PMP, you should be aware of the following dates.

Looking at the above dates, you have to follow the new ECO, which is effective from January 2, 2021. This new ECO will continue to be there in Year 2022, too.

Overall Changes

Now that we know the change process for the PMP examination and we’ve covered the important dates, let’s get to what the changes actually are.

Change #1: Domains

The old PMP exam was based on five domains, which are outlined in the old ECO. The domains are:

  • Initiating: Outlines the processes to define a new project or a new phase of an existing project and have the needed authorization to start off.
  • Planning: Outlines the processes to establish the scope of the project, refine objectives on scope, time, cost, quality, etc. and informs on how these objectives will be achieved.
  • Executing: Outlines the processes to complete the work defined in the project management plan, which is created in the Planning domain.
  • Monitoring and Controlling: Outlines the processes to track, review, and control the progress and performance of the project and manage corresponding changes.
  • Closing: Outlines the processes to finalize all activities across all process groups to formally close the project or phase or contract.

The new PMP exam is based on three domains, which are outlined in the new ECO. They are:

  • People: Emphasizes the skills and activities associated to effectively lead a project team (conflict management, team building, mentoring, etc.).
  • Process: Reinforces the technical aspects of managing a project (scope management, schedule management, cost management, etc.).
  • Business Environment: Highlights the connection between projects and organization strategy (benefits delivery and management, organizational change management, etc.).

You could say that the new PMP Exam will be standing on these three legs or (performance) domains. 

Change #2 Percentage of Questions *** NEW ***

The percentage of questions coming from each domain in the old exam is shown below.

In the new ECO of 2020/2021, there is more of a focus on the Process domain, followed by People, and finally Business Environment.

The distribution of questions across domains is significant, as it impacts exam preparation and time that exam takers will be spending on each domain. 

However, do note that the actual number of questions in the PMP exam can change with some variations in percentages.

Change # 3: Tasks

Each domain in the ECO is associated with a set of tasks. In the 2015 ECO, the Initiating domain had eight tasks and the Planning domain thirteen. In the new ECO, too, each domain is associated with a set of tasks. The People domain has fourteen tasks, the Process domain has seventeen tasks and so on. The differences are noted in the below table.

The tasks are important because exam evaluation will be on these tasks on three scales. The score from each of these tasks will, in turn, be rolled-up to give the rating earned in each domain. This will be explained further in "The Impact of the Changes" section of this article (in the second part).

Change # 4: Exam Duration, Number of Questions and Breaks *** NEW ***

These new changes were introduced just before January 02, 2021 (sometime in late December, 2020) and enforced for the new exam. This continues till date. 

These changes are with respect to the number of questions, exam duration and number of breaks. 

There was one 10-minutes break initially and it was increase to two later. You will get this break after 60 questions.

Change # 5: Type of Questions

In the new exam, half of the questions will be in the predictive project management approaches and the other half in Agile/hybrid approaches. In the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide, these approaches are clearly defined and used across the process groups and knowledge areas.

Change # 6: Varieties of Questions *** NEW ***

In the earlier exam, you had only multi-choice questions. Every question has four choices, out of which one choice will be correct. In the current version of the exam, along with the multi-choice questions, you will also have other types, which are explained in the below table.

Change # 7: Multiple Reference Guides and Books *** NEW ***

In the earlier PMP exam, you clearly had one reference guide, i.e., the PMBOK guide, 6th edition.

In the new PMP exam, you have:

  • Agile Practice Guide, First edition  
  • PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition (not the 7th edition)
  • Eight other reference books

You can see the list of books in this linked page: PMP Exam Reference List

Hence, for your new PMP exam, you have together 10 guides and books to refer.

Continued to Part - 2


[1] PMP Live Lessons Course, Guaranteed Pass or Your Money Back, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] PMP 35 Contact Hours Online Course with Full MoneyBack Guarantee, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] I Want To Be A PMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A PMP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] Article - What Should You Know about the PMP Exam 2020 Changes, by MPUG on September 3, 2019

Monday, October 04, 2021

Transitioning from PMBOK 5th Edition to PMBOK 6th Edition in 2021 and 2022

The current edition of the PMBOK Guide for the PMP exam is the 6th edition. However, you will many find many providers still have contents and questions with respect to the PMBOK 5th edition. This I came to know recently, as I interact with aspiring and successful PMPs, who have earned their credentials in recent months. It’s a real struggle for PMPs when you refer the old content and give the exam with new content! As providers don’t change the content or change improperly, PMP candidates struggle with wrong or outdated content. 

There have been professionals who have studied and prepared with the PMBOK Guide 5th edition. Due to personal or professional reasons, they could not sit for the exam in the earlier edition, and they may struggle to find the differences with respect to the new edition. 

Also, there are professionals who hold the PMP credential (in earlier editions), but want to know about the new changes that have come in. This article will address exactly that – the differences between the 5th and 6th editions of the PMBOK Guide.

This article addresses the above needs of PMPs – aspiring or certified. The first version of this article was published by MPUG. This is a refined and latest version of the article as of 2021. 

Though the PMBOK Guide 7th edition is currently available, the PMBOK Guide 6th edition will remain enforced in this year for the latest PMP exam and early part of next year.

Now let's go through the changes one by one. 

1. Overall Changes – Process Groups, Knowledge Areas, and Processes

The PMBOK Guide consists primarily of process groups, knowledge areas, and the processes along with the associated inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs (ITTOs). At a high-level, the changes are as follows.

Process Groups

There are no changes to the process groups. There are still five Process Groups.

Knowledge Areas

There are two changes in the naming of knowledge areas.

  • “Project Time Management” has been renamed as “Project Schedule Management.”
  • “Project Human Resource Management” has been renamed as “Project Resource Management.”

In total, there are still 10 knowledge areas, which are shown below. The new ones are in bold.

Process Changes

Three new processes have been added. They are:

  • “Manage Project Knowledge” in Project Integration Management knowledge area and under Executing process group.
  • “Implement Risk Responses” in Project Risk Management knowledge area and
  • under Executing process group.
  • “Control Resources” in Project Resource Management and under Monitoring and Controlling process group.

One process has been removed.

  • The “Close Procurements” process is removed. It was operating under Project Procurement Management knowledge area and the Closing process group.

One process has been moved across knowledge areas.

  • The “Estimate Activity Resources” process operating under Planning process group has been moved from Project Schedule Management knowledge area to Project Resource Management knowledge area.

Nine processes, across knowledge areas and process groups, have been renamed. They are noted in the below table. 

2. Changes – Process Groups

As noted earlier, the process groups are unchanged. You may consider this to be good news. This is important for the exam taker, because your performance evaluation happens with respect to the Process Groups.

The number of project management processes (or simply processes) for the process groups are as noted below.

Now, let’s look at the key changes for the individual process groups.

2.1 Changes – Initiating Process Group

The salient points for changes in the Initiating process group are noted below.

  • Added processes: None
  • Removed processes: None
  • Moved processes: None
  • Renamed processes: None
  • Total number of processes remain as they were earlier (total 2).
  • More elaboration has given with respect to “Business Documents.”
    • Business documents are documents outside the boundaries of the project. Hence the project manager does not create or control them.
    • There are two business documents – Business Case and Benefits Management Plan.
    • The focus on “Business Case” is consistent with the PMI Talent Triangle, and so also the focus on Benefits Measurement/Management in a project.
    • Business documents are significant because they act as inputs to some project management processes, including both the processes of initiating process group.

2.2 Changes – Planning Process Group

The salient points for changes in the Planning process group are noted below.

  • Added processes: None
  • Removed processes: None
  • Moved processes:
    • The “Estimate Activity Resources” process has been moved from Schedule Management knowledge area to Resource Management knowledge area.
  • Renamed processes: 2
    • The process of “Plan Human Resource Management” under Resource Management knowledge area is now “Plan Resource Management,” as both team (human) and physical (non-human) resources are considered.
    • The process of “Plan Stakeholder Management” Stakeholder Management knowledge area is now “Plan Stakeholder Engagement,” as you don’t directly manage the stakeholders, rather manage the engagement with the stakeholders.
  • Total number of processes remain as they were earlier (total 24).
    • In the Resource Management knowledge area, as both team and physical resources can be managed, the process “Estimate Activity Resources” is an apt fit in Resource Management knowledge area in place of Schedule Management knowledge area.

2.3 Changes – Executing Process Group

The salient points for changes in the Executing process group are noted below.

  • Added process: 2
    • The process “Manage Project Knowledge” has been added to Project Integration Management knowledge area.
    • The processes “Implement Risk Responses” has been added to Project Risk Management knowledge area.
  • Removed processes: None
  • Moved processes: None
  • Renamed processes: 4
    • The “Perform Quality Assurance” process has been renamed as “Manage Quality” in Project Quality Management knowledge area.
    • The “Acquire Project Team” process has been renamed as “Acquire Resources” in Project Resource Management knowledge area.
    • The “Manage Project Team” is now just “Manage Team” in Project Resource Management knowledge area. The term ‘project’ is implicit here.
    • The “Develop Project Team” is now just “Develop Team” in Project Resource Management knowledge area. The term ‘project’ is implicit here.
  • Total number of processes has now increased by 2 (total 10).
  • A significant addition to Integration Management knowledge area is the “Manage Project Knowledge” process.
    • A key output here is the “Lessons Learned Register.”
    • This process also emphasizes the importance of managing knowledge throughout the life cycle of the project.
  • The “Implement Risk Responses” process has been added to Risk Management knowledge area because the risk response plan has to be implemented. Earlier it was happening in the “Control Risks” process, which was really a difficult point while trying to understand the content.
  • The naming of Resource Management processes are changed, as both team and physical resources are now considered together. For example, in place of “Acquire Project Team” process, it is now plainly called as “Acquire Resources.”
  • The naming of “Perform Quality Assurance” is changed to “Manage Quality” because project management as a profession is more focused on managing quality through a quality management plan. The “Manage Quality” process is also expanded in scope to include product design aspects, process improvement aspects, and the previous aspect of quality assurance.

2.4 Changes – Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

The salient points for changes in the Monitoring and Controlling process group are noted below:

  • Added processes: 1
    • The process “Control Resources” has been added to Project Resource Management knowledge area.
  • Removed processes: None
  • Moved processes: None
  • Renamed processes: 3
    • The process “Control Communications” has been renamed as “Monitor Communications” in the Project Communications Management knowledge area.
    • The process “Control Risks” has been renamed as “Monitor Risks” in the Project Risk Management knowledge area.
    • The process “Control Stakeholder Engagement” is now “Monitor Stakeholder Engagement” in the Project Stakeholder Management knowledge area.
  • Total number of processes has increased by 1 (total 12).
    • The “Control Resources” process has been added because now physical resources are also considered (in addition to human or team resources).
    • You will be controlling these physical resources.
  • The “Control Communications,” “Control Risks,” and “Control Stakeholder Engagement” processes in the earlier edition are renamed as these are mostly monitored rather than controlled.

2.5 Changes – Closing Process Group

The salient points for changes in the Closing process group are noted below.

  • Added processes: None
  • Removed processes: 1
    • “Close Procurements” has been removed from Procurement Management knowledge area.
  • Moved processes: None
  • Renamed processes: none
  • Total number of processes now has been reduced by 1 (total 1). With just one process, it is still called as a Process Group because organizations may have their own additional processes for closing projects or phases, or for contract closure.
  • Procurement closure happens in “Control Procurements” process of Procurement Management knowledge area, but formal completion of contracts happens in “Close Project or Phase” process of Integration Management knowledge area.
  • Confusion can occur with respect to closing. Hence, few important notes on “Close Procurements” have been removed.
    • It was found that globally PMs typically don’t close, rather someone from the contract/procurement or legal team does it. Hence its removal.
    • The closure of contracts can happen many times in the life cycle of a project or in a project having multiple phases. However, the closure of project or phase happens once at the end.
    • Other than administration, information about communication and records also have moved to the “Close Project or Phase” process!

2.6 Changes Summary – Process Groups

I’ve put the summary of these changes for the processes in the process groups in the below. This will help you quickly get the information in one snapshot.

3. Changes – Knowledge Areas

As noted earlier, two knowledge area are renamed.

  • “Project Time Management” has been renamed as “Project Schedule Management” knowledge area. According to PMI, “Project Time Management” was changed to “Project Schedule Management” to reflect that the project schedule is defined and managed during the project, whereas time is not managed.”
  • “Project Human Resource Management” has been renamed as “Project Resource Management.” According to the PMI, “Both team resources and physical resources are addressed. Hence, Project Human Resource Management was changed to Project Resource Management.”

The most significant changes have happened in the beginning part of each knowledge area. Four new sections have been added to every Knowledge Area. They are:

  • Key Concepts: Many of these concepts were there earlier. However, in 6th edition, they have been consolidated. In many cases, they have enhanced and, in some cases, modified.
  • Trends and Emerging Practices: As the project management profession continues to evolve, so also the associated trends and practices evolve. This section tries to address them.
  • Tailoring Considerations: As every project is unique, the demand or requirements for every project, from project management perspective, is unique. You need not follow all the processes, all the ITTOs, enterprise environmental factors (EEFs), or organizational process assets (OPAs). Rather, you customize what works best for your project. This is tailoring. It has been added for every knowledge area.
  • Consideration for Agile/Adaptive Environments: Agile or Adaptive approaches are now mainstream in many industry verticals. Hence, the PMBOK guide has included what will happen if you working with adaptive approaches.

4. Changes – Tools and Techniques

Most of the tools and techniques are now grouped. There are six possible groups. The grouping is done based on the intent (i.e. what the tool or technique is supposed to accomplish). The tools and techniques that cannot be grouped are mentioned individually in the processes.

The groups tools and techniques are:

  • Data gathering: The intent here is to gather data from a variety of sources. Examples are Brainstorming, Interviews, and Benchmarking, which you would have seen in the PMBOK 5th
  • Data analysis: The intent here is to analyze on the data which you have gathered. Examples are Cost-Benefits analysis, Earned value analysis, and Make-or-buy analysis. Most of them were already there in the PMBOK 5th
  • Data representation: The intent here is to display or present the data in various forms. Examples are Flowchart, Control chart, and PI matrix, which you would have seen in the PMBOK 5th
  • Decision-making: It is used to select a course of action from different alternatives. Examples are Multicriteria Decision analysis and Voting. This also was in the earlier edition.
  • Communication skills: This is used to transfer information between stakeholders. This is somewhat new, but was seen in the PMBOK 5th edition as feedback and/or nonverbal communication.
  • Interpersonal and team skills: This is used to effectively lead and interact with stakeholders and team members. You would have seen most of these in the earlier edition. Examples are Negotiation, Team Building, Active Listening, etc.

In addition, there are many tools and techniques which are ungrouped. Many were included in the earlier edition.

Ungrouped Tools and Techniques:

  • Known examples are prototypes, risk categorization, and rolling wave planning.
  • New are Agile release planning, Iteration Burndown charts, Prompt list, etc.

5. Impact on PMP Exam

The PMI-PMP exam is primarily based on the Exam Content Outline, popularly called ECO in short. The ECO lists the exam topics to be covered, the domains PMP aspirants will be tested upon, and the enablers that aspirants need to know. It also indicates what percentage of questions will come from which domain. 

In the 6th edition, the ECO has changed along with the domains, tasks and enablers. Hence, the percentage of questions coming from the domains have changed. The number of questions from each performance domain shows the proportions. The PMP exam remains pretty close to it, but you can expect a few variations.

6. Agile Practice Guide (APG) *** NEW ***

Many PMP aspirants ask this: what about the Agile Practice Guide? Will it be covered in the new PMP exam based on the 6th edition? Exactly, how many questions will come from it?

First and foremost, Agile Practice Guide is NOT part of the PMBOK guide, 6th edition. Rather, it is an addendum, i.e., an additional material. If you open the PMBOK guide 6th edition, in the very beginning it is noted: 

PMBOK Guide 6th edition + Agile Practice Guide (APG)

So, Agile Practice Guide is a separate guide. However, the exam has changed from January 2, 2021 and APG will be one of the main reference guides, along with the PMBOK Guide.

The reason is simple. The new PMP exam from Jan 2, 2021, will have 50% questions in Agile/Adaptive or Hybrid approaches. While the PMBOK guide contains sections for Adaptive/Agile environments for each knowledge area, APG gives further information from a practitioner perspective. It also contains information on a number of Agile approaches such as Scrum, XP, Kanban. 

Hence, you MUST read this new Agile Practice Guide, which comes together with the PMBOK guide.

Also, do remember this: though PMBOK guide and the APG are the main reference sources, the exam question patterns, i.e., number of questions, types of questions etc. are governed by the Exam Content Outline (ECO). 


If you are preparing for the PMP exam, refer the ECO and simultaneously the PMBOK Guide 6th edition along with the Agile Practice Guide and other reference books/material covering the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide.

If you are a PMP, you will be able to quickly understand the changes as compared to the PMBOK Guide 5th edition by going through this article. More importantly, if you are transitioning from the earlier edition of the PMBOK guide to the new edition, I hope this article will help and guide you in your preparation.



[1] Article - Transitioning from PMBOK 5th Edition to PMBOK 6th Edition, published by MPUG on 25th September, 2018

[2] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[3] I Want To Be A PMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A PMP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 5th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[5] I Want To Be A PMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A PMP, 1st Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash