ISO 21500 PM Guidance

ISO 21500: Guidance for Project Management is Published

In September 2012 the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) published a standard entitled ISO 21500: Guidance on Project Management. ProjectPro’s Terry Deacon, a member of the Technical Committee develo The target readership for the standard includes:

· senior managers and project sponsors so that they may better understand the principles and practice of project management to provide appropriate support and guidance to their project managers and the project teams

· project managers and project team members so that they may have a common base of comparison of their project standards and practices with those of others;

· developers of national or organizational standards for use in developing project management standards, which are consistent at a core level with those of others.

The standard can be used by any type of organisation, including public, private or community organisations , and for any type of project irrespective of duration, size or complexity. It provides a high-level description of the concepts and processes that are considered to form good practice in project management. ISO 21500 is not intended to replace a national standard or be used as such, or be used in any way for certification or regulatory purposes.

There are striking similarities between the ISO 21500: Guidance on Project Management and the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)TM 4th Edition which is published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) based in the USA.

ISO 21500 has 39 project management processes while the PMBOK has 42. Of these, 32 are the same processes while some of the ISO 21500 processes incorporate two of the PMBOK processes. For example the ISO 21500 process Administer Procurements includes two PMBOK processes: Administer Procurements and Close Procurements. ISO 21500 has a process Collect Lessons Learned to emphasise this important aspect.

Another similarity is the PMBOK’s knowledge areas and ISO’s subject groups. PMBOK has 9 knowledge areas while ISO 21500 has 10 subject groups namely: Integration, Stakeholder, Scope, Resource, Time, Cost, Risk, Quality, Procurement and Communication. The PMBOK includes stakeholders under its Communication area. However, the PMBOK 5th Edition, which is due for publication at the end of December 2012, will add a 10th knowledge area called Stakeholder Management.

The PMBOK 5th Edition will correct an anomaly in previous editions, in that discrete processes will be included for Plan Scope, Plan Time and Plan Cost. Previously the management plans for these aspects were included in the Develop Project Management Plan process in the Integration knowledge area. This was inconsistent with the Quality, HR, Communications, Risk and Procurement knowledge areas which had discrete processes with management plans as outputs. However, ISO 21500 still has this anomaly.

PMI has for a long time claimed that their PMBOK is the de facto global project management standard. How will ISO 21500 impact on the status of the PMBOK? The two documents should complement each other in that the ISO 21500 is a high-level document suitable for guiding executives, whereas the PMBOK goes into more detail for the practitioner.

The ISO 21500 document can be purchased from:

or The price is R1 213 incl VAT

ping ISO 21500, reports on the objectives and features of the published document.

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